Infrared heaters contain a quartz or carbon element that becomes very hot (up to 1800 °F) and emits infrared radiation. However, this element loses about 10% of its energy use by heating the surrounding air. A fan is used to blow this warm air into the room to both enjoy the warming radiation as well as the warm air.
Infrared heaters heat up a quartz or carbon element with the use of electricity. This element is designed to produce infrared when hot. However, since the element becomes hot and is in contact with the surrounding air, some of the heat is transferred to the air through convection.
Therefore, although 100% of the energy use is converted into heating, not all of it is infrared. Approximately 90% of the energy use is converted into infrared rays. The other 10% is converted into warm air. You can read all about infrared heating efficiency in my article: Everything I learned about infrared heating efficiency.
The fan makes sure the warm air is blown into the room.
Do all infrared heaters have a fan?
Infrared heaters typically do not have a fan. They produce infrared radiation, which provides heat in a way similar to sun rays. Since they are not designed to produce warm air, there is no need for air circulation with a fan.
Some infrared heaters, however, include a fan to distribute the small amount of hot air that is a by-product of having a hot element inside the heater. This is mostly the case with infrared heaters that come with a strong protective cover. The cover increases safety due to screening off of the hot element inside but reduces the ability of the heater to lose the warm air that is created around the element.
A fan helps distribute the bit of warm air that is created but comes with a few disadvantages.
A fan can mitigate the disadvantage of infrared
I personally own several infrared heating panels. They do not have a fan, but I do use an electric convection heater with a fan to supplement the infrared during the winter. You can read all about my experience in my article: My firsthand experience with infrared heating panels.
A powerful infrared heater, such as a common 1500 watt Dr. Infrared heater, will produce about 150 watts of warm air. Because the heater is supposed to produce infrared radiation, this is considered a loss. However, this contribution to increasing the air temperature is not necessarily unwanted, especially during the winter.
The disadvantages of a fan
When the air temperature is relatively warm already, you might want to consider using another type of infrared heater. That is because a fan also has some disadvantages. Namely:
- a fan makes the air move, increasing your exposure to indoor air pollutants
- a fan makes noise, eliminating the benefit of infrared heaters being perfectly silent
- moving parts, such as a fan, are fragile and decrease the life expectancy of a heater
A fan decreases indoor air quality
The air is moved and circulated through the room by a fan. This leads to an increase in indoor air pollutants such as dust. Because of this, your exposure to these pollutants is increased, and you are more likely to experience symptoms related to poor indoor air quality. These symptoms include headaches, dry eyes, and a general feeling of discomfort.
You can read all about indoor air quality on this website if you want to learn more. I suggest starting here: The complete indoor air quality guide for your home.
A fan makes noise, while other infrared heaters do not
One of the benefits of infrared heaters, in my mind, is that they do not make any noise. In this way, the house is much quieter.
A fan-based heater makes a continuous noise of about 40 to 60 decibels, depending on the model. This will become a background noise that you do not notice all that much when it runs continuously. However, when you are using the thermostat option, the heater turns on and off constantly, producing a clicking noise each time.
If you want to read more about which infrared heaters make noise and how much, please read my article: Do infrared heaters make noise?
If you are looking for a silent infrared heater without a fan, I highly recommend infrared heating panels. These panels do not get too hot and do not require a fan. On top of that, they are very durable and safe and look amazing.