Radiant vs Infrared Heater: What’s The Difference?

When the temperatures fall outside, it is time for warm clothes and comfortable blankets. It is also the time to bring out your winter savior, your electric heater!

Now, there are two terms that often get bandied about when talking about room heaters: radiant heaters and infrared heaters. But what is the difference between the two?

Radiant vs Infrared Heater: What's The Difference

Are Radiant And Infrared Heaters The Same?

Yes, infrared heaters and radiant heaters are the same. Both use exactly the same technology – radiant heat – to warm up the room.

Radiant heaters generate heat from radiation, as the name suggests, and one of the forms of radiation is infrared rays. We can say that ‘radiant heaters’ is the umbrella term, but since infrared radiation is the technology used in almost all radiant heaters, there is practically no difference between the two. 

Why Use Infrared Heaters? Main Advantages

Powerful heating in a specific area

Infrared heaters do not heat air, they heat objects close to them. These heaters aim radiation on a specific spot in the room, heating it up very quickly. This is different from convection heaters, which try to heat the whole air around them and take time to do so. 

Let us say you have a large room to heat up. If you are in a certain area of the room, you don’t need to heat up the entire room; you just need to heat the area near you. A radiant heater will do this job almost instantly, while other heaters might take time to try and heat up the entire room.


Radiant heaters do not have moving parts, which is one of the main reasons they are durable and do not wear out over time. Other heaters have a fan and motor, which tend to wear out over time due to overuse.


Infrared heaters are silent devices. There are no fans installed to distribute the heat, which means there is no noise being generated. 

Some radiant heaters do have a fan, but the fan often does not have much utility. If you are looking for a heater that you can snuggle up and sleep off near, consider a radiant heater. 


Radiant heating systems are energy efficient. They work by transforming electric energy into heat energy. Unlike space heaters, they waste very little energy because the heat is concentrated in a certain spot.

Things To Watch Out For With Radiant Heaters

Cannot Heat a Large Area

Smaller infrared and radiant heaters are unable to distribute heat. They work well when you want the heat to be focused in a part of the room. If you want to heat up an entire room, they are not right for the job. 

Radiant heaters focus the heat in a particular spot, heating up the objects around it. This is one of the reasons why they also work well as portable heaters. 

Space heaters or other larger room heaters are more efficient at heating an entire room or a large space. 

Hot To Touch

Infrared heaters work by transferring heat from one object to another, so obviously, they themselves are hot to touch. 

Infrared heaters can be difficult to handle since you cannot move them around much once you turn them on. If you have children or pets at home, there is always a chance of accidents. 

Thankfully, modern infrared heaters usually have safety systems that allow the heat to be contained. So if you accidentally touch the hot metal area, you will not get burnt. 

Related: 14 Infrared Heater Troubleshooting Tips

How Do Radiant Heaters Work?

Imagine the sun for a moment. How does the sun heat up objects on the earth almost eight light minutes away from it? The answer is that the sun emits electromagnetic radiation, which transmits heat. When the radiation is absorbed by a body in its path, the object gets heated up.

The heat that we observe from a radiant or infrared heater works in the exact same way. Any sufficiently hot object emits infrared radiation. When an object near the heater comes in contact with this radiation, it absorbs the heat in itself. 

Radiant heaters use some form of radiation to heat up a room. Infrared heaters specifically use infrared radiation to transmit heat. Simply put, all infrared heaters are radiant heaters. 

What Are The Different Types of Infrared Heaters?

Infrared heaters mainly come in three different styles:

  • Compact heaters that have the infrared capacity, combined with multiple heating systems. 
  • Portable units with wheels that are installed with infrared heating.
  • Freestanding heaters in the form of infrared fireplaces. 

Most often, electric infrared heaters are small, portable heaters that can be put in any corner of your room and switched on to heat up the area quickly. 

Even the larger ones have wheels installed in them to carry them around safely. Many larger infrared heaters these days are aesthetically designed to look like fireplaces. 

What To Look For In A Radiant Heater?

There are a number of options and features when it comes to purchasing a heater. From a small tabletop unit to a fireplace unit, you can be creative with your budget and style.

However, there are certain basic things you should look out for when you are purchasing an infrared or radiant heater. 

  • Includes a built-in thermostat that can be easy to control.
  • The exterior does not heat up easily, which becomes easy to touch.
  • Has a fan installed as a backup heating mechanism. 
  • A quartz bulb; preferably one that has a long life makes it a value-for-money since replacement bulbs can be expensive. 
  • The stable design of the whole set-up, irrespective of the size. 
  • Swiveling wheels that can make the set-up easy to move.
  • Look for additional features like a no-sound fan, a pre-installed humidifier, and replaceable air filters.

Finally, make sure to get a heater with a reliable return and refund policy in case you run into any trouble within the warranty period. 

How Much Do Portable Infrared And Radiant Heaters Cost?

Portable Infrared and radiant heaters usually cost below $50. These are small units that can heat up an area of about 10 feet around them. 

The larger size room heaters can cost up to $1,000 and come in various sizes and designs. These are usually fancy devices that look like fireplace units. 

Tip! Check out my selection of best infared patio heaters.

Make sure you keep in mind that expensive and branded heaters do not ensure better quality. You have to look out for an infrared heater that helps with heating and energy savings at the same time. 

In infrared models, there can be variations in construction, heating technology, and overall features. The idea is to compare prices, covering all the bases and making a decision that gives you the best results within a budget. 

Related: What’s the Difference Between Infrared and Ceramic Space Heaters?


Whether you call it a radiant or an infrared heater, both work on the same basic technology.

Electric room heaters are an efficient way to keep a small area warm when the weather gets cold outside. Their biggest advantage is that they are portable, energy-efficient, durable, and noise free. 

They are perfect for heating up a corner of a room or your working space in a garage, but if you are looking to heat up a large area, they are not the best option.

Related article: Can You Run a Space Heater All Night?

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