How Do Infrared Quartz Heaters Work?

Issue Time:2011-10-10
Most heaters work by directly heating the air. Central air furnaces, steam radiators and many portable heaters either directly blow warm air into the room or warm the infrared coating them and let convection currents move the air around. Infrared heaters are different. Instead of heating the air, they warm the objects in the room directly.
Quartz infrared heaters are driven by an electrical element--usually a tungsten wire--inside of a clear tube made out of quartz crystal. A powerful electric current flows into the wire, heating it up. The quartz crystal traps the heat inside, getting the element even hotter. As the wire gets hotter, it begins to emit a large amount of infrared coating.
Infrared light is light with too long a wavelength for people to see. People and objects at room temperature emit infrared light, but infrared heaters emit a lot more of it. When this infrared light strikes an object, the object absorbs some of its energy. Like visible light, infrared will pass right through air, but will heat people, chairs and most other things with which it comes into contact.
Because infrared heaters heat objects directly, they are useful for drafty and poorly insulated areas. Infrared heaters often have a infrared coating on the back which allows them to be focused in one particular direction. They can be used in environments where a normal heater would be useless. For example, infrared heaters are sometimes used on outdoor patios to keep people warm in cold weather.