For area heating, convection and radiant heaters are both common options. They can even use similar components, like finned tubular heating elements. But which is best? We take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each heater type to determine which is best for different uses.
To start, an overview of how each heater works:
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.
Radiant heaters offer more direct heating. Infrared rays radiate heat out directly to the air in range. These heaters are more directional than convection heaters, covering less area but providing more targeted heating.
The target area being heated is among the biggest differentiators in picking between these heaters. Convection heating is ideal for enclosed spaces. Since it heats circulating air, it’s able to heat an entire room. But this 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 continues to offer effective heating to objects and people within the range of the infrared rays. A radiant heater is also a good choice for heating a more specific area, rather than an entire room.
Another consideration is the timing of the heating. A convection heater performs best when providing heating over a long period of time. It takes more time and energy for a convection heater to achieve target temperature than for a radiant heater to do so. However, once the heat is achieved it’s easy to maintain it.
A radiant heater is better for more intermittent heating. Because the heating is direct, it can reach temperature quickly with minimal energy use. As well, the heat loss is faster when it is turned off, allowing for quicker heat dissipation. This is better for areas that are not frequently in use or that have more variable temperature needs.
Heating the stands in a hockey stadium is a good example of appropriate radiant heat use. The stands really only need the heating during games. As well, the area is too large to heat effectively with a convection heater.
The most energy efficient heater really depends on the heater’s use. 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 be energy efficient as well. When heating an area for an extended period of time the convection heater shines. The heater doesn’t have to run continuously to maintain heat, like a radiant heater.
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 below.
If there are concerns of allergens or contaminants, an infrared radiant heater is generally the better option. Since it doesn’t circulate air like, the heater won’t spread dust or other allergens around the room. As well, it will not spread contaminants around a working facility.
Wattco manufactures and supplies custom-engineered heating solutions for all major industries. Our expertise will help you pick the right heater for your specific application. Contact us today for a quote or more information.
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