Keep toasty and warm, without your bills skyrocketing, with our pick of the best infrared heaters
With the ongoing energy crisis still in full swing, looking for smart ways to heat the home while saving on the cost has become a priority for many, and infrared heaters are at the forefront in this regard.
Unlike fan heaters, which heat the air by using a lot of electricity (while also blowing dust around the home), infrared heaters have no moving parts and, just like the sun, the heat they emit cuts right through the air to alight on objects in the room – be that a living thing or a solid item.
Since infrared heaters consume far less electricity than fan heaters, and even most oil-filled radiators, they’re quickly becoming a very popular – and hugely effective – choice for those trying to keep on top of their energy bills. There are several types of infrared heaters on the market, from simple panels you can hang on a wall or mount on a stand, to stone-based models that retain some heat even once they’ve been turned off.
We’ve put a variety of energy-efficient infrared heaters through their paces, to help you find the best model for you – and also offer our top picks of the best infrared heaters available to buy right now.
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How to choose the best infrared heater for you
What is an infrared heater?
If you’ve ever been to the Alps in winter, you will have experienced the sudden warmth on your body when the sun peeks through the clouds. One minute it’s freezing cold, the next you’re unzipping your skiing clothes because it almost feels like a summer’s day on the Costa del Sol. That, in a nutshell, best describes how infrared heating works.
Infrared is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. It cuts straight through the cold air around you to make you feel warm. Granted, a portable infrared heater – of the type that features on this page – is probably best placed facing the user; but given that it heats solid objects instead of the air, eventually those objects will begin to radiate the heat they’ve gathered, slowly warming the air around them.
What types of infrared heaters are currently available?
The most popular type of infrared heater is a wall or ceiling infrared panel, which in position looks like a picture frame. In fact, some wall-mounted models even feature artwork across their front fascias to make them look like paintings, while others come with a pair of legs to turn them into portable floor heaters. Such models weigh next to nothing, yet produce a surprising amount of infrared heat within minutes of being turned on.
Infrared heaters made with marble are fast gaining popularity, because of this material’s remarkable heat-retaining and distribution properties, along with the ability to remain warm for quite a while after being turned off. Some portable, stand-mounted models, such as the Klarstein HeatPal we review below, use raw, unpolished marble to help radiate the heat generated by the internal coil, while companies such as Elith produce beautifully polished slabs of high-quality marble with infrared coils behind them. Polished marble panel heaters aren’t cheap to buy or install, but they’re unquestionably the most elegant way to heat a home.
Infrared bar heaters are another popular choice. These types are also usually mounted to a wall or skirting board area, but they’re not the most attractive. Finally, there’s the halogen or carbon option most often used for outdoor patio heating. These types of heaters are extremely efficient at producing direct heat, but the tubes do get extremely hot, so you will need to give thought to where you place them.
Are infrared heaters energy-efficient?
Yes, infrared heaters are very energy-efficient, generally costing less to run than conventional fan heaters, most ceramic fan heaters, and even oil-filled radiators. In fact, very few infrared heaters draw more than 1.3kW, while some models such as the portable Princess model featured below are as low as 350 watts. Many professionally installed wall and ceiling-mounted models consume even less electricity – as low as 160 watts.
For instance, where a typical 1.2kW fan heater could cost upwards of 50p per hour to run, an infrared heater will typically cost a fraction of that sum, around 15p at today’s higher energy prices.
However, it should be noted that very few electric heating systems are capable of beating the lower running costs of heating a whole home using a gas central heating system, so we’re still quite some time away from discovering the Holy Grail.
Can you really feel the warmth emitted by an infrared heater?
Most manufacturers will say that their heaters produce immediate warmth, but that isn’t strictly true; it will take about five minutes for most panel heaters to reach optimum temperature, and several minutes for the infrared heat to traverse a room. If you sit a few feet away from a panel, you will definitely feel noticeably warmer – a bit like sitting in direct sunlight. This is the reason infrared heaters are best sited close to the user – under a desk or facing a chair, for example. Nevertheless, even if you’re sitting several metres away from a typical wall- or ceiling-mounted panel, you will eventually feel a subtle sense of direct heat; but it will take possibly an hour or so for the whole room to start feeling warmer, which is rather like a standard household radiator.
On the other hand, halogen-equipped infrared heaters are much better at producing noticeable warmth almost immediately, since the halogen tubes glow red hot the moment you turn them on. This is the reason halogen is one of the most popular choices for patio heating.
How we test infrared heaters
First, we examine each product’s overall design, its build quality and any special features such as app connectivity and thermostat controls.
We then test the heaters in various rooms and locations around our home – a home office, a living room and a cold, poorly insulated room. For the panel and bar heaters, we put them behind a work desk to see how well they warm the legs and waist area. We then move the products to a typical sitting room position – the panels are positioned a couple of metres from our seating position, and we time how long it took for the infrared rays to reach us. We also time how long it takes for the heaters to reach full heating capacity. Finally, we also test each unit in a small but very cold room to see how effective they are at projecting heat across an exceedingly cold environment.
Since integrated wall panels require full installation by an electrician and lots of channelling in the brickwork, it wasn’t possible to provide the same level of evaluation for the Herschel Select XLS Infrared Towel Heater, although we did manage to see one in action – and feel its effects – at a local showroom.
If we find any major problems with how well the products function, they don’t make it onto our list.
READ NEXT: The best ways to save energy
The best infrared heaters you can buy in 2024
1. Klarstein HeatPal Marble Infrared Heater: Best infrared heater for extended use
Price: £125 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re after an infrared heater that retains and emits a certain amount of heat once it’s been turned off, try the Klarstein HeatPal for size. The HeatPal works just like an oil-filled model, only it’s much more energy-efficient – and, in many ways, more effective. This is because it has a very heavy slab of unpolished Mongolian marble sitting behind the grille, which is heated by the element behind it to produce an amazing amount of heat that’s pushed outward and upward.
The HeatPal feels warm near the top about four minutes after turning it on, taking a further ten minutes or so for the marble to emit a small amount of infrared warmth. However, about 30 minutes after having been switched on, the marble reaches full temperature and you can really feel the effects from several feet away.
Given all that marble, the Klarstein HeatPal is heavy to carry – it weighs 11.3kg – although its strong handle is useful for taking the heater from room to room. Design-wise, the jury is still out on the look of the visible marble behind the grille. In addition, there are also two ugly electrical connections that can clearly be seen behind the grille, plus the heater’s controls – on/off switch and simple thermostat dial – are positioned near the floor at the back, which isn’t the most convenient place to reach. Finally, it comes with a horrible black euro converter that doesn’t really fit the plug, we advise using a standard Euro-to-UK plug instead.
Foibles aside, this is an exceptional heater that’s marginally more energy-efficient and much more capable of distributing heat than an oil-filled model. Therefore, we have no compunction in giving it a solid recommendation.
Key details – Type: Marble; Heat output: 1,300W; Dimensions: 48 x 67 x 25cm
2. Princess Smart Infrared Panel Heater 350: Best infrared panel heater
Price: £124 | Buy now from Toolstation
If you want to keep to a budget and fancy a standard picture frame-style infrared panel heater, the Princess is as good a bet as any. Yes, its design is remarkably simple – and you may even wonder how it works at all given the feel of its cardboard-like white surface and the fact you can lift it up with just two fingers (it weighs just 3.7kg). However, against all odds, this model punches out a very decent amount of infrared heat that penetrates the air to alight on any solid objects in the room, including you.
Measuring 59.5 x 59.5 x 1.8cm, the heater is perfect for wall-mounting (the brackets are already fitted to the back) or placed on the floor on the supplied legs that you can easily fit yourself. It’s best positioned facing the user and is also a perfect model for placing behind a desk so you can fully appreciate just how effective infrared is as a heating system. This model heats up very quickly and becomes almost too hot to touch after just five minutes.
Use it in conjunction with the Princess app and you can control it from wherever you are, or use the built-in thermostat and the tiny onboard LCD temperature screen to set the best temperature for your room.
The Princess is a great option that won’t break the bank – and, at just 350 watts, it’s cheap to run, too.
Key details – Type: Panel; Heat output: 350W; Dimensions: 59.5 x 59.5 x 1.8cm
3. Warmlite WL42013 1KW Carbon Infrared Heater: Best affordable infrared heater
Price: £45 | Buy now from Amazon
Halogen – or, in this case, carbon – heaters are the least attractive of all infrared model styles, which is the reason they’re generally more popular for outdoor use. However, you won’t find a more direct and instantaneous method of heat than from an energy-deficient fan heater – and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know why.
Infrared heaters that use either halogen or carbon tubes are visibly hot looking – they glow red after all – and, true to form, the heat they produce travels quickly through the air to land on walls and any household objects, including you and the rest of the family.
This model comes with two heat settings, 500W and 1,000W, a thermostat with a wide temperature range up to a maximum temperature of 65°C, and oscillation to spread the warmth far and wide around a room.
The Warmlite is an exceptionally effective heater that isn’t too expensive to run – but, whatever you do, don’t dry your clothing in front of it.
Key details – Type: Carbon tube; Heat output: 500W, 1,000W; Dimensions: 22.5 x 80.5 x 17cm
4. Herschel Select XLS Infrared Towel Heater: Best installed infrared panel heater for bathrooms
Price: £449 | Buy now from Herschel
The majority of infrared heaters are panel-based models, and most of them are designed to be professionally installed against a wall or on a ceiling. Indeed, many homeowners these days are opting for infrared panels instead of standard radiators.
This plain-white, safety glass-fronted model from Herschel serves as a towel rail, too, and comes with two chromium towel holders that make it the perfect model for bathrooms. The Select XLS is IP44-rated for low-velocity water sprays, but it will need to be professionally installed.
The Herschel Select XLS is available in two size and power configurations – 500W and 700W – so check your bathroom dimensions first before placing an order. Both panel sizes come with touchscreen controls, or you can operate them via the SmartLife app.
This is a fabulous integrated option that will keep your towels warm and deliver a good amount of infrared warmth to the body from the moment you step out of the bath or shower.
Key details – Type: Glass panel; Heat output: 500W, 1,000W; Dimensions: 48 x 120cm and 60 x 130cm
5. Kiasa 1,200W Smart Wi-Fi Infrared Heater Bar: Best infrared bar heater
Price: £210 | Buy now from Kiasa
Here’s another type of infrared heater for those who don’t like the idea of a large panel on a wall or a stand. The Kiasa is a bar heater, which makes it easy to position along a skirting board or high on a wall, where heaters of this nature are usually mounted. At 94 x 15cm x 7cm, this 1,200W model is bigger than the image suggests – so finding a suitable site where it doesn’t stand out too much may be an issue.
Given that the Kiasa is often mounted out of arm’s reach, you will be pleased to learn that it comes with a remote control. Alternatively, use the excellent SmartLife app to lower or raise the temperature or set a 24-hour timer.
Like most modern heaters, this one uses a thermostat to control output, so all you need to do is set the target temperature and the Kiasa will do the rest. It also has two power bands – 600W or 1,200W – which deliver extra control when outdoor temperatures are either super-cold or just a bit chilly.
This heater comes with brackets for mounting to a wall, but if you would prefer to have it suspended from the ceiling – an ideal choice for rooms with high rafters – then you would need to select that option at checkout.
Like its panel counterparts, the Kiasa works just as well for radiating heat to where it’s needed most, and for relatively little outlay.
Key details – Type: Bar heater; Heat output: 600W, 1,200W; Dimensions: 94 x 15 x 7cm