Technology has made considerable advancements in so many areas, and heating is no exception. While you may be familiar with the convection space heaters that have been used for decades, infrared space heaters are the latest innovation that can save you money by supplementing your home’s primary heating system efficiently and effectively by providing focused warmth. Choosing the infrared heater that’s right for you will depend largely on the space you want to heat, but budget, portability, safety features, and mounting will come into the decision as well. So read on to learn about the features and functions of infrared heaters and why the following models are considered some of the best in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Dr Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater, 1500-Watt
- RUNNER UP: LIFE SMART LifeSmart 6 Element Quartz w/Wood Cabinet
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: COSTWAY Portable Quartz Heater, 600W/1200W
- BEST STYLISH: Duraflame DFI030ARU Infrared Quartz Set Heater
- BEST FOR GARAGE: Dr. Infrared Heater DR-988A Garage Shop 208/240V
- BEST FOR OUTDOORS: Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W carbon infrared heater
- BEST WALL MOUNT: Heat Storm Deluxe Mounted Space Infrared Wall Heater
- BEST OSCILLATING: Duraflame 5HM8000-O142 Portable Electric Infrared
- BEST PORTABLE: Space Heater, 1500W Portable Heater, Up to 200sq
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Infrared Heater
Infrared rays are uniquely capable of cutting through empty space and bringing warmth to the objects they strike—in fact, that’s how the sun heats the earth. Today’s infrared heaters bring warmth to objects, like your clothes and skin, rather than the surrounding air, an efficient mechanism in stark contrast to convection heaters, which warm the surrounding air before heating objects in that space.
Although heating the air may distribute heat more uniformly throughout a room, much energy is wasted heating unoccupied space, such as high ceilings or the outdoor air. Infrared heaters use 100 percent of the heat they produce to bring focused warmth to the objects in the path of its rays, making them much more energy efficient. An infrared heater’s energy efficiency, space coverage, and various other features will vary depending on certain factors, so keep the following considerations in mind as you shop for the best infrared heater for your needs.
When determining the right size infrared heater, think about the square footage of the space you want to warm. Generally, infrared heaters are designed for small spaces, so the units are also relatively small, and usually portable. While more powerful units for bigger areas are available, they’re typically larger. Also consider how much floor space an infrared heater will take up; this will vary depending on whether the unit sits vertically (in the case of a tower heater) or horizontally (like most standard heaters).
The size of the space you want to warm will also influence how powerful your heater should be. The amount of heat generated by these devices, measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), influences the size of the space they can heat. The BTU output of an infrared heater, is generally correlated with the amount of watts the heater uses, which can range between 300 and 1500 watts. (They’re capped at 1500 watts because that’s the maximum amount a standard 110-volt household electrical outlet can handle.) With convection space heaters, 1 watt is equivalent to 3.412 BTUs, so it’s simple to determine the size of a space they can warm; it’s not so easy with infrared heaters.
Infrared heaters use different heating elements, such as quartz (the most common and most efficient), ceramic, and carbon, to produce and emit infrared rays with varying levels of energy efficiency. Supplemental fans or blowers aren’t necessary, but when they are used they provide both focused infrared heat and the more diffuse nature of convection heat, to perform like two heaters in one. (Keep in mind that a fan/blower, which requires energy to operate, will lower the efficiency of the unit.)
These factors can impact how an infrared heater’s power rating will affect its heat output and space coverage. Just because an infrared heater boasts a higher power rating doesn’t mean it produces more heat and provides greater space coverage—much depends on the individual characteristics of the heater.
One way to calculate the general amount of power your heater should generate is to multiply the space’s square footage by 10. For example, a 100 square-foot room (10-feet by 10-feet) will need a 1000-watt heater (100 X 10 = 1000).
The location of an infrared heater warrants consideration, due to its unique heating action. Generally, it’s a good idea to place an infrared heater directly in front of what you want to warm. If there are obstacles in the way of the infrared rays—like tables, chairs, or other furniture—those objects will absorb the infrared heat instead of you. Installing an infrared heater in an open space (as opposed to an alcove surrounded by walls that will absorb the heat waves) will also make it heat your intended space more efficiently.
The fact that they operate by emitting heat waves directly to objects (as opposed to surrounding air) also makes them well suited to outdoor spaces, such as patios, since the heat won’t be lost in the surrounding air. Similarly, infrared heaters are a good option for rooms with large ceilings, since you needn’t worry about heated air rising and getting trapped (and wasted) in the ceiling space.
An infrared heater needn’t be an eyesore, as there are various designs to complement different styles of home decor. You can find heaters with wood, plastic, and metal finishes, all in various colors. The shape of the heater will depend on whether it sits on the floor vertically or horizontally—which affects not only its function but its visual form as well. Most uniquely, some infrared heaters are designed to simulate the appearance of a fireplace with visual and auditory effects like flames and crackling.
Infrared heaters can range from highly portable to completely stationary units. The majority are designed for supplemental space heating, so they’ll usually be at least moderately portable. Some models are designed specifically with portability in mind; they’re tidily compact and include carry handles and/or caster wheels. Handles and wheels are helpful for larger, heavier units that would otherwise be difficult to move. Fully fixed units that aren’t meant to be moved can resemble larger models of supplemental heaters a well as most wall-mounted options.
Space heaters are a leading cause of house fires, so choosing an infrared heater with additional safety features is of utmost importance. This is especially true for homes with pets and/or small children that could knock the unit over. Fortunately, many manufacturers do incorporate several safety features, including:
- Automatic tip-over shut-off
- Automatic overheat shut-off
- Automatic shut-off timers that turns the heater off after a certain length of time
- Cool-touch external casings
Look for a heater with at least two of these safety features, but the more the better. For added confidence, find a heater that’s certified by a third-party inspection agency, such as Underwriter Laboratory (with a UL logo), Intertek (stamped with the letters ETL and corresponding logo/emblem), and Canadian Standards Association (stamped with a CSA logo/emblem).
Some infrared heaters boast bells and whistles to increase functionality. These may include:
- Variable heat settings. Although infrared heaters are energy efficient, you can maximize that efficiency with variable heat settings. This feature also lets you customize the heat output to make your space as comfortable as possible. This is especially valuable in a portable heater, since it allows you to use it in different rooms with different settings, all with the same level of comfort.
- Thermostat. Another way to customize heat output is with an integrated thermostat. Simply set the unit to your desired temperature and it will remain on until that temperature is reached.
- Oscillation. To truly maximize the heating efficiency, consider a unit with an oscillating base to uniformly heat your space. Instead of the heater warming the space in its immediate path, it oscillates from side-to-side to heat at a 180-degree angle.
Our Top Picks
If you’d like to add an infrared heater to your home, consider the following options, rated to be among some of the best in their respective categories.
This Dr. Infrared’s heater can warm a room up to 150 square feet quickly and efficiently with its quartz heating element and powerful blower. The 1000-watt “low” output setting and the “high” 1500-watt setting let you tailor heat output and energy consumption, so you only use as much energy as a particular space requires. A programmable thermostat allows you to set the exact temperature, from a cool 50 degrees up to a toasty 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s also equipped with four durable caster wheels for easy portability from room to room, and it includes a remote so you can operate the heater from the comfort of your chair. It’s designed for quiet operation, too. Safety features include a tip-over sensor, automatic shut-off timer, and cool-touch exterior—all of which are safety certified by Underwriter Laboratories. Dr. Infrared’s combination of power, portability, energy efficiency, and safety makes it a quality way to warm up your space.
If you want a space heater to safely and efficiently warm up different sized rooms, LifeSmart’s 1500-watt unit is worth considering. It features six quartz heating elements and three heating modes, including “low” (1000-watt output), “high” (1,500-watt output), and “eco” (500-watt output) to meet specific preferences. There’s also a thermostat to customize room temperature between 50 and 90 degrees.
Caster wheels make it easy to roll the heater from room to room, and a remote control lets you operate the heater from a distance. Safety features include a tip-over shut-off switch, cool-touch exterior, automatic overheating shut-off, and 12-hour automatic shut-off timer (unfortunately, these safety features haven’t been verified by any third-party testing agency). This model is moderately pricier than some other 1500-watt units, and its blower fan is a little louder than some others, but it comes in a wood finish cabinet.
If you need to heat small spaces—and have a small budget to boot—the COSTWAY 1200-watt infrared heater may be the best budget choice. Its small size and vertical tower design make it compact and space efficient, with enough power to comfortably heat an average-sized bedroom or office. The unit is not only affordably priced, it can save you money on electricity by letting you choose between 600-watt and 1200-watt output settings.
It doesn’t use a fan to spread the heat, so it’s virtually silent when running. Automatic overheating shut-off, tip-over shut-off, and a cool-touch exterior are notable safety features, and though it doesn’t have an automatic shut-off timer, the internal thermostat will turn the unit off when it reaches the desired temperature. While a turn-dial adjuster for setting the temperature, instead of a digital display, makes it somewhat difficult to set temperature precisely, this COSTWAY model is a safe, efficient heater at a reasonable price.
If the ambience of a wood-burning fireplace appeals to you but you don’t want the risks and mess, this Duraflame model may be a great addition to your home. It has realistic-looking faux logs and a rolling ember effect that can be adjusted with the turn of a knob. Designed as a stationary unit, its dimensions allow it to sit inside most standard fireplaces.
As a stationary unit, it doesn’t include as many safety features as is typical with a portable model, but it does have a cool-touch exterior. And for a model that only draws 1350 watts, it produces an impressive 5200 BTUs of heat, enough to warm up a 1000-square-foot space. The blower on this unit is noticeably louder than some other models, but the trade-off is its excellent heat coverage.
Folks who spend lots of time in the garage all year long may want a safe, reliable infrared heater to stay comfortable. This Dr. Infrared model pumps out 5600 BTUs of heat to quickly bring a 600-square-foot garage to a toasty 95-degrees Fahrenheit. It features an adjustable thermostat that lets you set your ideal temperature, and a large fan to spread the heat evenly throughout your space. Although this fan produces more noise than most infrared units, it doesn’t exceed 45 decibels (within the noise range of an average fridge). It also has a carrying handle, so you can easily move it around your garage.
Safety features include an automatic overheating shutoff and a mesh safety screen in front of the fan. Although a few more safety measures would’ve been nice, the unit is safety certified by Underwriter Laboratories. Instead of a typical 110-volt power source, it requires a 220-volt power source that needs a dedicated 30-amp fuse. So, if your home is equipped to run it, you may find this Dr. Infrared a welcome addition to your garage for many winters to come.
If you’d like to keep the patio partying going into chilly weather, consider this Dr. Infrared model that’s rated for outdoor use. This 1500-watt infrared heater has weatherproof anodized aluminum housing that won’t degrade, and includes adjustable mounting brackets to hang it on an outdoor wall or ceiling. A carbon heating element and three heat settings let you customize the heat output, and a remote control is included so you can operate the unit from the comfort of your lounge chair.
The model is lacking in safety features unfortunately, listing only an automatic overheat shut-off. There’s no tip-over shut-off, so the unit shouldn’t be operated anywhere other than hanging on the wall or ceiling, and without an automatic shut-off timer, it should never be left on while unattended.
If you wish to warm a small area where floor space is limited, Heat Storm’s wall heater might fill the bill. At 1000 watts, it has enough power to heat a modest-sized bedroom or office, and this lower power rating, as opposed to other units that draw 1500 watts, leaves room on the power circuit to run other devices without tripping a breaker. An adjustable thermostat lets you set the temperature, which can be easily adjusted with the included remote control.
The exterior stays cool to the touch and this model features an automatic overheat shut-off, so you needn’t worry about damaging the wall it’s mounted on. For additional peace of mind, its certification by Edison Testing Laboratories which ensures it meets the highest safety standards.
All infrared heaters warm up spaces efficiently, but Duraflame’s oscillating tower heater dials it up a notch. By putting the 1500-watt infrared heater on an oscillating base, the heater will move from side to side, bringing warmth to an entire room up to a 1000-square-feet. To bring the heat in one direction only, simply switch off the oscillation capability.
This heater has an attractive wood-like finish that stays cool to the touch, an automatic tip-over shut-off, and an automatic overheating shut-off (though these safety functions haven’t been verified by a third party certification agency). The oscillating action is fairly noisy, but if you can ignore the sound, you may consider this powerful Duraflame’s oscillating tower heater a wise move for your great room or an open-plan area.
If you want an infrared heater that’s both portable and powerful, Trustech’s infrared heater is a solid option. At just 7 inches wide and 9 inches tall, this little guy packs 1500 watts of heating power to keep your small space toasty. With its light weight and integrated carrying handle, you can take and use it anywhere with a wall outlet. While it lacks an integrated thermostat for truly customized heat output, there’s a 750-watt “low” and 1500-watt “high” setting. It can even be used as a summer fan with it’s third “wind mode” setting.
Crucial to a portable unit, this model includes such safety features as a tip-over shut-off and an automatic overheat shut-off. It can only effectively heat a 200-square-foot space, but the portability of this unit is hard to beat.
The Advantages of Owning an Infrared Heater
Energy efficient infrared heaters are capable of heating the objects in a space quicker than other types of heaters, such as convection-style units that must warm the surrounding air before they can heat the objects. They’re also usually quieter than other heaters, since they don’t require fans—and those units that do have fans, are usually not too loud. The warmth infrared heaters create won’t increase humidity or dry the air in the room, so the heat is more comfortable. Other benefits include:
- Energy efficiency means a lower carbon footprint, making infrared heaters more environmentally friendly than less efficient units.
- Infrared heaters require less maintenance than forced air heaters which have more moving parts.
- Infrared heaters burn cleaner than some other heater types (particularly gas-operated varieties), so they can help preserve your indoor air quality.
FAQs About Your New Infrared Heater
If you still have questions about infrared heaters, see the answers to some common questions below for greater clarity.
Q. Do infrared heaters use a lot of electricity?
No. In fact, they can use considerably less than other heaters because of how efficiently they heat up a space.
Q. Are infrared heaters safe to leave on overnight?
While infrared heaters are intrinsically safer than most other types of heaters, they should only be left on overnight if they have integrated safety features like an automatic tip-over shut-off, an overheat shut-off, and a shut-off timer.
Q. Can I mount my infrared heater to a wall?
Infrared heaters should only be used in the locations they are designed for. Consequently, only infrared heaters designed for wall-mounting should get mounted on a wall.