Area Heating: Radiant Heaters Versus Convection Heaters

Last updated on March 13th, 2024 at 03:34 am


Convection VS Radiant Heating

For area heating, convection and radiant heaters are standard options. They can even use similar components, like finned tubular heating elements. But which is best? Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each heater type to determine which is best for different applications.

How convection heaters work

Convection heaters are indirect heaters. They heat the air that circulates through the target area. Air convection currents are drawn through the heating elements, usually by a fan. The air heats up and circulates throughout the room, raising the temperature of the entire room.

How radiant heaters work

Radiant heating offers more direct heating. Infrared rays radiate heat directly to the air in range. These heaters are more directional than convection heaters, covering less area but providing more targeted heating.

Considerations in choosing between convection and radiant heaters

The target environment/area

The target area being heated is among the most significant differentiators in picking between these heaters. Convection heating is ideal for enclosed spaces. Since it heats circulating air, it can heat entire rooms with ease. The reliance on circulation means it’s only effective in a closed area.

The larger the area, the more difficult it is for a convection heater to achieve and maintain temperature.

For an open environment, like the outdoors, a radiant heater is a better option. It offers effective heating to objects and people within the range of infrared rays. A radiant heater is also a good choice for heating a specific area rather than an entire room.

Intermittent versus continuous heating

Another consideration is the timing of the heating. A convection heater performs best when providing heat over a longer time. It takes more time and energy for a convection heater to achieve a target temperature than a radiant heater. However, the heat is easy to maintain once it reaches the target.

A radiant heater is better for more intermittent heating. Because the heating is direct, it can reach temperatures quickly with minimal energy use. As well, the heat loss is faster when it is turned off, allowing for quicker heat dissipation. The result is better for areas that are not frequently in use or have more variable temperature needs.

Heating the stands in a hockey stadium is a good example of appropriate radiant heat use. The stands only need heating during games. The area is also too large to heat effectively with a convection heater.

Energy expenditure & efficiency

A heater’s use determines which type is most energy-efficient. For intermittent heating, radiant heaters are much more energy-efficient. They require little time or energy to achieve target temperatures. Achieving heat with a convection heater, on the other hand, is slower and more energy-intensive.

With the right purpose and taking advantage of automated thermostat controls, convection heaters can also be energy efficient. When heating an area for an extended time, the convection heater shines. Like a radiant heater, the heater doesn’t have to run continuously to maintain heat.

Instead, the convection heater relies on a controller attached to the thermostat. Once the thermostat reads the room temperature as hitting the desired temperature, it shuts off the heater. The heater turns back on if the temperature drops.

Allergens and contaminants

If there are concerns about allergens or contaminants, an infrared radiant heater is generally the better option. Since it doesn’t circulate air like a convection heater, the heater won’t spread dust or other allergens around the room. As well, it will not spread contaminants around a working facility.

Purchase the right area heater for your application

Wattco manufactures and supplies custom-engineered heating solutions for all major industries. Our experts help you pick the right heater for your specific application. Contact us today for area heater quotes or information.


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