January 9, 2021

How do far-infrared heat panels compare with heat pumps?

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Infrared heaters are a variation of radiant heaters and mainly heat objects and people rather than air in a room. Heat pump systems, on the other hand, lose a significant amount of heat when the room is ventilated as warm air escapes.

Here is a detailed comparison between far-infrared heating and heat pump technology.

Far-infrared heaters

Far-infrared heaters operate by heating an element which occupies a relatively large surface area, enabling the efficient release of heat and infrared light to warm occupants and surfaces within range.

Warmth stored on surfaces re-radiates gently to provide an even temperature throughout the room. The radiant heat is at the safe end of the spectrum, not to be confused with Ultraviolet which is at the other end.

Key benefits

  • Low cost
  • Long economic life (30 years)
  • Reliable operation
  • No maintenance
  • No moving parts
  • No noise
  • No draughts
  • Retains healthy level of moisture in the air (around 42% humidity)
  • Dries surfaces, eliminating the prospect of mould
  • Comfortable, even warmth to floor level with less wasted energy above head height than air- heating systems
  • Retains warmth when ventilation occurs because air (which is replaced in ventilation) is not heated directly and heat is retained in the fabric of the building
  • Programmable thermostat/timer optimises energy use, minimising waste
    Panels are relocatable if required to accommodate future building modifications

Things to be aware of:

  • Management with thermostats is an excellent way to minimise operating costs.
    The better the insulation the better the performance
  • Concrete (thermal mass) is great for storing and slowly releasing infrared energy

Heat pumps

Heat pumps operate by extracting heat from the surrounding air. They work efficiently at mild temperatures but can struggle and be expensive to run at 70C and below.

Things to be aware of:

  • Short economic life (7-10 years)
  • Space and sometimes physical protection required for external condenser unit
  • Noise due to condenser fans
  • Regular maintenance required
  • Draughty, uneven warmth
  • Dries air which can lead to discomfort and irritation
  • Hot air gathers at ceiling height which is wasted energy
  • Low temperature at floor level
  • Significant heat loss when the room is ventilated as warm air escapes
  • Circulates used air, does not import fresh air as often believed
  • If used incorrectly when for cooling, ie with doors and windows open and for extended periods, there is a significant impact on annual energy costs, on maintenance demands and on the economic life of the units.
  • The number of days per year in which cooling might be justified is very small, and Kiwis tend to spend those days with indoor/outdoor living (Ref BRANZ study).


Far-infrared heating panels are the most efficient way of using electricity to heat your home. They are available as either free-standing, wall or ceiling mounted heating panels and available in a variety of materials, including glass and mirrors.