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Heating Solutions: Convection vs. Radiant Heater


When it comes to localized heating, both convection and radiant heaters emerge as common choices. They may share certain components, such as finned tubular heating elements. However, determining the optimal option requires a closer examination of the strengths and weaknesses inherent in each type of heater. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of a convection vs. radiant heater to identify the most suitable choice for various applications.

Which is better: a radiant or convection heater?

Convection heaters operate as indirect heating devices, focusing on elevating the temperature of the air circulating within the designated space. Typically, a fan facilitates the movement of air convection currents through the heating elements. This process results in the warming of the air, which then circulates throughout the room, contributing to an overall increase in room temperature.

On the other hand, radiant heating presents a more direct approach. In this method, infrared rays emit heat directly into the air within their range. Unlike convection heaters, radiant heaters are more focused and directional, covering a smaller area but delivering precise and targeted heating effects.

Which heats up the fastest?

Determining the effectiveness of radiant heating versus convection heating hinges on whether the goal is to warm individuals or the entire room. Convection space heaters encounter challenges in spaces with inadequate insulation, drafts, or lofty ceilings. The warmth they generate tends to dissipate into the surroundings or spreads over such a vast area that its impact becomes either imperceptible or wasteful. This is due to the fact that air, being a poor heat conductor, hinders efficient heat distribution.

In contrast, radiant heaters are efficient in areas where free movement within the space is desired. Their focused heat limits its reach, and electromagnetic waves disperse as they travel from the source. As a result, proximity to the heater is necessary to feel its warmth. While radiant heaters excel in providing targeted warmth for one or two individuals, they fall short in heating entire rooms due to their confined heat distribution. On the other hand, though less efficient, convection heaters effectively warm enclosed spaces, allowing occupants to move without experiencing cold spots. While they may take longer to warm up, convection heaters offer a consistent, long-term heating solution. Unlike radiant heaters, they are not hindered by the interaction of electromagnetic waves with the air, providing gradual warmth throughout the space.

Furthermore, radiant heaters exhibit immediate warmth for individuals and objects directly in their field of view. The heat retained by objects lasts longer than the warmth dispersed in the air, even after the heater is turned off. Remarkably, radiant heaters are suitable for outdoor use, as their infrared technology remains unaffected by winds or drafts.

Some considerations to remember when choosing between convection and radiant heaters

Looking to buy a heater? Below are the top factors to consider if you want to purchase either a convection heater or a radiant heater:

Target area

The selection between these heaters is greatly influenced by the specific space being heated. The type of heating required is a crucial factor in making this decision. For instance, you’re looking into radiant vs. convection heat in the garage.

Convection heating proves optimal for enclosed spaces. By warming the circulating air, it efficiently raises the temperature of entire rooms. However, its effectiveness is limited to closed environments due to its reliance on air circulation. The challenge for a convection heater increases with the size of the area, making it more difficult to attain and sustain the desired temperature.

On the other hand, when dealing with an open environment, such as outdoor spaces, a radiant heater emerges as the superior choice. Operating through the effective emission of infrared rays, it provides warmth to objects and individuals within its range. A radiant heater is particularly well-suited for heating specific areas rather than attempting to warm an entire room.

Intermittent or continuous heating

Consider the timing of heating as another factor in choosing between convection and radiant heaters. Convection heaters excel at providing prolonged warmth, requiring more time and energy to reach a target temperature compared to radiant heaters. However, once the desired temperature is achieved, convection heaters maintain heat effectively.

On the other hand, radiant heaters are more suitable for intermittent heating. Their direct heating allows for quick temperature attainment with minimal energy consumption, and heat loss occurs faster when turned off, facilitating rapid dissipation. This makes radiant heaters ideal for areas with sporadic use or varying temperature needs. A notable example is heating the stands in a hockey stadium, where radiant heat is well-suited for occasional use during games, especially in a large area that is not efficiently heated by a convection heater.

Efficiency and cost-effectiveness

The energy efficiency of a heater depends on its intended use. Radiant heaters are much more energy-efficient for intermittent heating, requiring minimal time and energy to reach target temperatures. In contrast, achieving heat with a convection heater is slower and more energy-intensive. However, with a specific purpose and the utilization of automated thermostat controls, convection heaters can also be energy-efficient. \

When heating an area for an extended period of time, convection heaters excel. Similar to radiant heaters, they do not need to run continuously to maintain heat. Instead, a controller connected to the thermostat regulates the convection heater. Once the thermostat detects the room temperature reaching the desired level, it shuts off the heater, turning it back on only if the temperature drops.


Opt for an infrared radiant heater if there are worries about allergens or contaminants. Unlike a convection heater, the radiant heater doesn’t circulate air, preventing the spread of dust or allergens in the room. Additionally, it avoids dispersing contaminants in a working facility.

Choose the best heating source for your comfort

Whether you prioritize targeted warmth for specific areas or efficient, continuous heating for enclosed spaces, understanding the distinctions between convection and radiant heaters is key. Consider factors such as the size of the space, the need for intermittent or continuous heating, and concerns about allergens or contaminants. Make an informed decision to ensure optimal warmth and cost-effectiveness.


  • RJ Sinclair

    RJ is our resident money guru, with a knack for keeping finances neat and organized. With previous experience as a budget manager in supply chain companies, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. Count on RJ as a trustworthy source for valuable money tips and advice to help you make the most of your financial journey.