Bathroom Electric heating options

I’m currently researching the purchase of a new electric heater which uses far infrared. These are thin panel heaters which heat using the far infrared spectrum. I’ve visited a showroom and experienced them and they seem great.
Today I see that Choice has a new heaters review, and this type don’t get a mention at all.

It seems they are not a new thing. Why has no one reported on them yet? It would be good to see an evaluation of them and a comparison to reverse cycle tech.
I do expect to be buying at least one to mount to a bathroom ceiling while renovating.

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Welcome to the community @petros.

I’ll leave it for the Choice staff to respond to your testing request. My personal take is that IR heaters offer no room heating advantage compared to heat pumps - reverse cycle air conditioning. These are typically 2-3 times more energy efficient than IR devices.

IR heaters offer effectively the same heating energy output as a similar power resistive radiant style heater or oil column heater. IE they are not an energy efficient alternatives. However they can be more directive in where the heat is applied, hence the marketing spin which highlights feeling the radiated energy. They are no more or less effective at heating a room.

You may find the following of interest.
NASA - The Infrared Region

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Thanks for the welcome @mark_m. I totally agree with your comments about efficiency. However, were we to install RC aircon in a small bathroom, that would be total overkill! No opportunity for ducted aircon. No ceiling space to install standard 3 in 1 appliance. And anyway, this flat is too new (to us) to know how it performs in winter (we currently don’t live there).
So on balance, the far IR panel on the ceiling seems like the best solution in this situation.
It’s a heating option, so IMHO Choice should include it in testing.
Horses for courses!

As long as you are not paying a lot more in comparison to other resistive heaters designed for bathroom use.

If anybody is claiming that emission in one part of the IR spectrum is superior to the rest I would like to see their evidence.

One consideration that may matter (for a given power rating) is how much heat radiates down into the room and how much is lost in the ceiling. Depending on design the simple radiator that is entirely in the room could be more efficient than a more expensive flat panel in the ceiling.

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Most in bathroom heating is infrared as it heats objects the radiation hits rather than the whole of the airspace. They are more efficient as they are only used when someone is standing under them and then turned off…could be around 5 or so minutes. Airspace heaters which warm the air would need to be run some time to heat the bathroom and then maintain a warm temperature. This could be some some time compared to that of a IR heater. Time of use is where the efficiencies lie.

There are many types of IR heaters such as panel or more traditional ones which incorporate fan, light and IR lamps like this one…

The advantage of more traditional type IR heaters is they incorporate an exhaust fan and light, and the IR globes can be replaced at their end of llife (cost about $5-10 each to replace).

The disadvantage of IR lamps/panels is that they don’t heat the air and the air within the bathroom can still be cold even with the lamps on.

Choice could possibly review them as you suggested, but is may be more about their effectiveness to warm when staying under rather than efficiency, as efficiency is less relevant for such products.

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I was responding more generally and noted,

Agree that specific to a bathroom where there may be low use the 3 in 1 units are the most common solution. Assume the bathroom does not have an overhead mounted exhaust fan due to lack of ceiling space, and it is wall/window mount instead?

We find for our modest bath plus seperate shower that the 3 in 1 is not very effective at helping to dry out the shower area (old style tiled on 3 sides) in cooler or damp weather. The exhaust fan needs to drawn outside air at a high exchange rates to assist with drying. When it’s cold and wet the outside air is already at or close to saturation. The air needs heating to help it hold more water which can then be exhausted. Something IR heat lamps or panels cannot deliver effectively. Worth further thought if that is a common concern for your bathroom.

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Just to turn the conversation on its head: what about under tile heating? My bathroom ceiling is 3 meters and I don’t want my head warmed, better my feet. (Also, planning to put in portable heater for the coldest months.) Under tile heating can be put in the shower area as well: great for drying off wet areas.

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@mark_m, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I hadn’t thought of that:

I must discuss this with the importer.
However, in contrast to you, I also have a 3 in 1 which has an air exchange rate of 600 m³/hr. Does an excellent job. (Note the reno I mentioned in the OP is in a different property).

Yes @audranatalia, I agree with that, but the cost of under tile heating vs far IR is not equal. Also far IR can be mounted on a wall, not just a ceiling.
My research indicates that it’s a cost effective method of bathroom heating, but unfortunately there are few reports from actual installs.
Although my bathroom reno is at least 6 weeks away, I feel as if I want to try it.

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Interesting that it can be installed on a wall. Now that would make more sense for my high-ceiling bathroom. Many thanks. Anything you could recommend?

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My research suggests it’s a very expensive solution.

A 300W panel from one high profile brand has an Aussie $499 rrp. That’s a premium price compared to everyday 3 in 1 bathroom ceiling units, which start around $100.

An IXL branded 3 in 1 complete with 1100W (4 x 375W IR lamps) retails at $258 (current Bunnings price). That’s nearly 4 times the IR heat output compared to a flat IR panel heater and half the price. All 3 in 1’s include a light and exhaust fan. Incidentally a Herschel brand 1100W IR panel has a $1200 rrp, requires 1.55m x 0.6m of wall or ceiling space, has no light and no exhaust fan.

One of the promoted benefits of using infra red heating is that it does not dry the air out, or waste energy heating the air, walls or whole of the room. It’s a contradiction in needs for many bathrooms?

P.S.
The Herschel branded panels apparently get very hot to the touch 90C. Compares with 60-80C typical of hydronic radiators when used in general home heating.

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There are also products like this one.

They look like mini split systems but are just ceramic heaters with fans. A B&B we stayed at had one in the bathroom. It worked surprisingly well. I cannot speak about the running costs but it provided a nice comfort level while running. Note if there is a handy powerpoint it is a DIY installation.

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Hi petros, Consumer NZ did do a first look of this type of heater in 2018.

We havent included a sample in our electric heater testing because it’s a very small niche compared to the large majority of space heaters currently available in the market.

We do include an excerpt in our buying guide from their results or you can look at their original copy here:

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Thanks for the reference to the guide @MattSteen, I hadn’t found it with my search for “far infrared”. :person_shrugging: That diagram is useful, but it looks like a representation more than actual imaging. Useful imaging would show the effect on the human body with each type of heating.

I’ve had a look at the brand mentioned by @mark_m in a showroom (in Chatswood) and they felt great, and not too hot to the touch if being wall mounted, certainly not 90°C as asserted.

Expensive. yes, but for a space challenged bathroom without a ceiling cavity I don’t have many options. Note that other brands are also available. Google it mate. :wink:

As readers me be able to tell, I’ve pretty much decided to install one.

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@PhilT would you say this blew a lot of air? You see, if I was to use this, it would have to be mounted directly across from the fan, on opposite wall. I can imagine the warm air being sucked directly outside by the fan!
I feel like I need to go back to uni to study fluid dynamics and thermal air movement!

For the example given, it is highly likely the panel heater will be a far more cost effective solution than the IXL branded product.

Many panel heaters, including the linked example you provided, can be installed by a homeowner as they plug into a power point (providing there is a spare power point near the installation).

The IXL branded system is hardwired and needs an electrician to install. The costs can range from about $300 for and easy installation (which we have paid for install into a gyprock ceiling venting direct into the ceiling cavity) to more for more complex installation.

A panel heater will be far more cost effective if a plug in type is sourced (like the example you provided) than a hardwired device. This is especially the case for retrofitting to an existing bathroom or renovating a bathroom.

The downside to panel heaters is they only provide IR heat, where a IXL type product also provides lighting and venting.

If one plans to use a panel heater in the bathroom, it is important one checks it is suitable for a bathroom environment.

It’s always useful to look at a product first hand.
The 90C surface temp is not my view point. It’s from the brand product specification data.

https://www.herschel-infrared-technology-center.com/wp-content/portal/tds/select/SELECT%20XLS%20WHITE.pdf

I wouldn’t be worried about surface temperature. Panels should be installed where they aren’t easily touched, no different to the IXL product where the lamps get to higher temperatures.

This is recognised in the product guide where it states…

DO NOT touch the heater when in use. Herschel panel heaters have a surface temperature of around 95°C / 248°F (depending upon input voltage) and prolonged contact with the heater will cause burns and injury.

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Sure, I noted that when I found it.
It did occur to me that the panel I felt could have been down rated to ensure safety, but in any even, if mounted on a ceiling, no problem. Definitely, if mounting on a wall that question would need to be resolved. Also, the effect of moisture in the air… does this result in a loss of heating efficiency?

You see, getting an insight into this stuff is why I subscribe to Choice; as we all know, it hurts to shell out on a product and then find it’s not fit for purpose.

The bathroom in the B&B was very generously sized with a high ceiling. 7 ft tub, shower, vanities, toilet, lots of room between everything.It warmed the room from cool in about 30 min. I would class the fan as reflecting a small split.