Light is not just one single entity with the same properties throughout. We’re used to thinking about the colours of the spectrum which we can see – red, green, blue, yellow and everything in between. But there are other forms of light that are not visible and cause effects like heating when they hit objects and are absorbed by them. Infrared itself consists of different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation and we are all aware of it. You are exposed to it every day.
When you go out in the summer, it’s why you feel that sudden warmth on your face.
There are three ways that heat can be transferred from one place to another:
• Conduction via something like a metal pipe or wire.
• Convection in liquids or gases that move, such as through the air around your radiator.
• Radiation from infrared that hits an object and heats it up, whatever the surrounding temperature.
Infrared is largely invisible because it has a longer wavelength than visible light. We feel it, rather than see it, in other words. At one end of the spectrum is near infrared and at the other far infrared and they have quite different but useful properties.
Near Infrared Heaters
You might consider these the old-fashioned bar heaters. When you switch them on you see the tell-tale red glow of the filament. These systems can emit heats of up to 1,300 °C. They are more often used in high intensity heating systems, particularly for household appliances such as cookers. Getting too close to these heaters can cause burning and damage to the skin. Modified infrared heaters however have long been in use that are designed to reduce muscle inflammation and are used as therapeutic devices.
Far Infrared Heaters
At the other end of the spectrum is far infrared which operates in wavelengths of over 3 microns. You don’t get any visible light and the temperature produced is much lower. Human skin is also able to absorb this part of the spectrum better, mainly because we are largely made up of water, and this is what makes it ideal for heating homes and office because of the comfort level provided.
The benefit of far infrared as a heating solution is that you feel the effect almost immediately you switch it on. This compares with traditional convection systems where you need to wait for the air around you to start warming up before you feel any affect. It also means you are less prone to draughts or cold spots because the infrared is providing warmth to your body and the objects around you rather than to the intervening air.
The fact that far infrared is invisible also gives it more scope in creating heating panels. These can be fitted unobtrusively into a room, either on the wall or on the ceiling. You can now get panels that double as mirrors or have a design or piece of artwork put on them.
If you are looking for a comfortable, lower cost way of heating your home or office, then infrared is certainly a technology you should look out for. Easy to install and with no major maintenance issues, you can be sure your space gets just the right amount of heat.