What are Radiative Heaters?

In the United Kingdom, these appliances are sometimes called electric fires, because they were originally used to replace open fires.

Radiative heaters contain a heating element that reaches a high temperature. The element is usually packaged inside a glass envelope resembling a light bulb and with a reflector to direct the energy output away from the body of the heater. Radiative heaters are ideal for basements and garages where spot heating is desired. More generally, they are an excellent choice for task-specific heating.

How do Radiative Heaters work?

The element emits infrared radiation that travels through air or space until it hits an absorbing surface, where it is partially converted to heat and partially reflected. This heat directly warms people and objects in the room, rather than warming the air. This style of heater is particularly useful in areas which unheated air flows through such as basements and garages.

The active medium of the heater, depicted at the right, is a coil of nichrome resistance wire inside a fused silica tube which is open to the atmosphere at the ends. Although models exist where the fused silica is sealed at the ends and the resistance alloy is not nichrome.


Radiative heaters operate silently and present the greatest potential danger to ignite nearby furnishings due to the focused intensity of their output and lack of overheat protection.

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