Is infrared heating here to stay?

Infrared heating has struggled to find its market – that is, until late last year. Having been all but dismissed as a viable alternative to LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) infrared heating has since pivoted to great success. Infrared saunas are the latest craze gripping the famously fickle attention of the health industry – but is it just another fad that will stick around for a matter of months before exiting as unceremoniously as it entered, or is it built to last long-term?

The history of infrared heaters  

It wasn’t for another 150 years after the discovery of infra-red radiation that it was properly adapted for the purpose of heating. During World War Two, infrared heating started to prosper more. Banks and banks of infrared lamps were constructed to dry paints and lacquers on military equipment. After the war ended, infrared heating failed to go from strength-to-strength, with its use floundering rather than flourishing.

Fit for use in the home?

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Infra-red heating models itself as an alternative to the gas heaters that have a stranglehold on the heating market. Better for the environment and better for your bank balance apparently. Whilst the former can be true (if the source of electricity is renewable in origin) the latter certainly isn’t. At 14p per kWh (kilowatt hour) infrared heating is the most expensive heating fuel available. And it is perhaps for this reason that infrared heating has failed to cut into LPG’s sizeable market share in domestic heating – especially as LPG costs a meagre 6p per kWh. With tech like the Grundfos selectric ensuring maximum efficiency, the price battle between LPG and infrared becomes a complete mismatch.

The revival of infrared heating?

Infrared heating has experienced a resurgence as of late, mostly thanks to the infrared sauna and the growing roster of famous clientele that swear by its effects. Unlike many other health fads that fail to expand beyond the trend-setting hub of Los Angeles, infrared saunas have successfully breached the proverbial ceiling – and for that reason, they look set to stay -at least for a while anyway.

What are infrared saunas?

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As you can probably guess from the name, an infrared sauna replaces the heat that is typically generated through traditional means (hot rocks and water or something of that ilk) with radiant heat from infrared light. Because the infrared rays heat the body directly, rather than the surrounding air, a lower temperature of around 70°C (normal sauna temperature is around 90°C) is required to achieve the same cardiovascular exertion.

Does the science back up the reported effects?

What infrared saunas haven’t escaped is the absolute scarcity of scientific evidence backing their extensive list of miraculous effects. Improvements in cardiovascular health, weight loss, detoxification, and even euphoria are just a few of many supposed benefits.  The cardiovascular benefits are well-documented, but the rest, not so much. The weight loss claim is dubious at best – water weight is lost through sweat but is quickly replaced when rehydration takes place. As for the detoxifying effect, there is no evidence that any heavy metals or radiation are wiped from your body as many ‘experts’ have claimed. The purpose of sweat is to cool your body, not to expel toxins.

In spite of the controversy, infrared saunas are enjoying a period of popularity at the moment and the future of infrared heating seems to rest firmly in the niche of saunas, rather than central heating.

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