Halogen vs Infrared Patio Heaters | What’s the difference?

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Many are the alternatives for keeping you warm while you’re enjoying your patio—the variety, in fact, may feel daunting. You have probably heard of halogen heaters and infrared heaters, but what’s the difference? What makes them better, or not so good? That’s what we’re here to discuss.

Halogen Vs Infrared Patio Heaters

We might as well begin by covering the advantages shared by halogen and infrared patio heaters. Let’s get to it.

Both Give off Zero Emissions

Three are the main sources of energy at your disposal, when looking to heat up your home: wood, gas (natural or propane), and electric. The first two involve a combustion, and therefore create emissions. While it’s true that wood is the worst in this aspect (and smoke can cause all sorts of negative health effects), gas is not entirely innocuous, as there is still generation of carbon monoxide, which may prove fatal at certain levels.

Electric heaters rely, quite literally, on raising their own temperatures, rather than any sort of combustion. This makes them entirely free of emissions, which people with respiratory problems might be rather thankful for.

Electric Heaters are Safer

A wood fire lets loose small incandescent particles, which can cause a conflagration if they land on the wrong place (dry vegetation, for example). With anything that uses gas, you have to be on the lookout for leaks, or you risk an explosion. Electric heaters do not have such high risks; as long as you don’t overload the power cord, and keep your stuff (and loved ones) at a sufficient distance from the heater, there is nothing to worry about.

They’re Efficient Heaters

The more smoke on a wood fire, the less efficient the burn; many techniques and measures aimed at reducing smoke, do so by addressing how well the wood burns. And that’s not all, as you also have to watch what sort of wood you use, check that it is dry enough—and you still won’t be burning at top efficiency. Gas heaters are, sadly, not exempt from this: at most, you can expect an appliance to operate at 90% efficiency, though the average is more of an 80; and it goes down as the heater gets older.

Electric heaters, for their part, operate at 100%. Every bit of electricity it consumes, goes towards heating your space up. When you’re done, you flip the switch, and your consumption stops instantly. And let’s not forget that you don’t have to periodically restock on wood cords or gas tanks; all it takes is paying your utility bill.

Electric Heaters are Easier To Install

We mentioned a power cord before. That’s all it takes to get an electric heater going: plug it in, turn it on, enjoy. There’s no need to worry about fuel lines or safe placement (beyond basic common sense such as keeping appropriate distance). This also makes them much easier and cheaper to maintain, as opposed to gas heaters—which must be periodically inspected for faults and leaks—, or wood fireplaces and fire pits, which you have to empty of ashes almost every time you use them.

Place It Anywhere

With anything wood, your location choices are very limited: it’s either a fireplace, a fixed stove, or a fire pit which must be placed like 10 feet from anything flammable. Propane and gas heaters are not much better: aside from having to be placed at a safe distance from flammables, they require a certain clearance, and must always be at ground level.

Electric heaters, on the other hand, come in sizes and configurations for pretty much any type of placement you might imagine. You can find something to place on the floor, of course, but there’s also units for mounting on the wall, or for hanging on the ceiling. There are some that stand on tripods, and some others that are small enough to carry around by a handle on the top.

Oh, and when we say anywhere, we mean it. With the right model, not even rain or snow will be a problem. We will elaborate on this further down.

Far More User Friendly

Let’s be frank: nobody in their right mind would allow a child near a gas heater or wood fire pit, let alone operate them. And most of us would be uncomfortable with an elderly relative who lives alone depending on one of these sources for keeping warm. With electric heaters, there’s little to no worry: you can, for example, be completely sure no one will be coming closer to the heater than they should, simply by choosing a wall-mounted model. And operating it can be completely hands free, if your appliance offers a remote control—which several do.

It doesn’t stop there: electric heaters can work in tandem with dimmers, thermostats, timers, all to make sure your space remains at the right temperature at all times—and to shut down on their own when they are no longer needed, or when they’ve been going for as long as you configured them to.

Electric Heat is Better for Any Weather

Whatever its source, any flame will be vulnerable to a certain combination of elements. If it is too windy, for example, any sort of wood fire (including fire pits) will be out of the question, as the risk of embers being carried far—and into places they shouldn’t be—is too great. Propane heaters don’t generate embers, but if the flame gets snuffed out you will suddenly have gas coming out into the open, forcing you to react quickly to shut off the flow.

Electric heaters offer you two advantages here. One, there is no big risk if the wind picks up; at worst, it might take longer for you to feel the warmth from the heater. True, you might want to closely watch your heater in case it topples over—but that only affects freestanding models, not those that are on the wall or hanging from the ceiling.

The other advantage: whereas wood fire pits and gas heaters typically must be kept out of the rain (rust being among the main concerns), the electric heater market offers many models that are designed to withstand any sort of element, rain and even snow included. The resilience of a particular heater can be quickly gleaned by looking at their Ingress Protection (IP) rating, if they have one. This system, created by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) grades electric enclosures by their resistance to solid elements ingress (such as dust), and also to liquids, like water. The format is as follows:


The first digit is for resistance to solids, the second one is resistance for liquids. If an X is on either position, it means the relevant protection was not tested. This is more commonly seen on the first position (solids), but as long as the resistance to liquids is high enough, there is no cause for concern. You can consult the official table here.

Halogen Heaters, Explained

Many of us saw, when we were kids, heaters roughly the size of a briefcase, with rods behind a metal grill that turned red hot when the unit was plugged in. Halogen heaters are fairly similar, except because, instead of a heating element, they rely on lamps filled with halogen gas. When the electric current starts to flow, these lamps rise in temperature rapidly, eventually radiating heat into the surrounding air. Many halogen heater models come with blowers, and some are even designed to rotate, like a fan; this is to help them move the heat farther away, enhancing their reach. Here are a couple examples:

WDERNI Halogen Patio Heater. Height adjustable between 70 and 79 inches (approximately 6 to 7 feet), with a range of 0 to 45° in angle. 3 heat settings: 500, 1000 and 1500 watts. Tipover protection shuts off the unit if it tilts past 22.5° off the vertical. Instead of a button, this heater is operated via a long cord at the side. With an IP34 rating, this unit can endure light rain, though it might be safer under cover.

Comfort Zone CZHTV9 Oscillating Electric Halogen Radiant Heater. A rather small unit, but a good example of the rotating feature many of these heaters incorporate. Safety features include  tipover switch, overheat protection, and a handle that remains cool for when user wishes to move the unit elsewhere. Given its size, lack of IP rating, and 800W potency, it is better for smaller rooms, or for individual use.

Understanding Infrared Heaters

This category has risen in popularity, and most models of electric heaters in the current market are of this type. They are the most varied in terms of installation options, IP rating, additional features and wattage.

What sets these heaters apart is, they work via heat radiation. Scary though this sounds, it’s nothing to worry about, and it is in fact a form of heat transfer we have experienced all our lives, whenever we come out into the sun. Instead of cycling within a gas or liquid (convection), or traveling by direct contact (conduction), heat radiation moves directly from one body to another, without the need for an intervening medium. It’s how we feel the heat of the sun, across more than 90 million miles of empty space. By harnessing this principle, infrared heaters make you feel warm pretty quickly, as long as you are in range of their radiation. To help you get to know them better, here are a couple models:

Briza Infrared Patio Heater. This is a fairly well-rounded offer. With a maximum working capacity of 1500W, it offers decent potency for most spaces, and it comes with 3 heat levels (900 and 1200W being the other two). Since it includes an adjustable tripod, and hardware for mounting on a wall or ceiling, you can place it pretty much anywhere you like. Operation is via remote control, and its timer can be set up to run between 1 and 9 hours, so there’s no need to worry about accidentally leaving it on. Rated IP55, it will do well in pretty much any weather. Tipover protection included.

Commercial SunWave Ultra Quartz Infrared Patio Heater. This one can only be mounted on the wall, and it is about twice as expensive as most of its counterparts, but it is not without its strengths. Whereas many appliances in this category won’t go beyond 1500W, this one goes all the way to 3000, which makes it better for servicing larger spaces. Heat can be adjusted to max, medium or low. By its IP65 rating, you can mount this one anywhere you like, including out of cover. A rarity with this model is its JT2-3 6-15P plug type, which will require either a special outlet or an adapter to work.

Halogen vs Infrared Patio Heaters: What Sets Them Apart

We now know what halogen heaters are, and how they work; same with infrared heaters. So what’s the main difference between one and the other? The way in which they provide heat. Halogen heaters warm up the air around them, slowly but surely raising the temperature of their surroundings. They depend on a medium to transfer heat, which is why many come with blowers to increase their range. Infrared heaters, on the other hand, use radiation (which, as we said, is entirely harmless) to take the heat directly to anybody (and any body) in range. No fans needed, and you feel the warmth instantly.

Which Is Better, Halogen or Electric?

This is mostly situational, and a bit subjective. If you want to (eventually) feel warm no matter where you are within a space, then halogen heater is a good one for you, as this one works by raising the temperature of the air. The space in question, however, should be somewhat secluded, as any colder currents coming from elsewhere will force you to keep the heater going for longer. Given the amount of electricity it takes to raise the temperature of the lamps, and maintain it, halogen heaters are also better for smaller spaces.

With infrared heaters, you don’t get to heat up around the appliance, only in front of it. This, however, makes them better at servicing larger spaces: you mount it on the wall, for example, and anything in front of it will feel it. Power consumption is lower, too, as it doesn’t take as much for the heater to start radiating heat, and those in range will feel it pretty quickly. That said, these units might be a little more expensive compared to their halogen counterparts—but with the right potency and additional features, it might be a worthy investment.

In summary: If you want to warm up a space without a lot of air currents, go halogen.  For quickly providing heat to larger areas, regardless of air currents (and as long as there is a good location for the heater to provide larger coverage), infrared should be the better option.

Our Two Cents: Halogen vs Infrared Patio Heaters | What’s the difference?

At this point, we have covered anything that could be said about both categories of heaters, and based on that, provided as neutral an assessment as we felt possible. Having said that, we see no harm in disclosing that we feel somewhat partial to infrared heaters, as they are faster at making you feel warm, and don’t cost so much to operate; their inability to provide heat around them (as opposed to, say, a campfire) is easily mitigated by placing a unit of sufficient side and potency on a wall, so that it covers your seating area comfortably.

The market, we believe, has similar feelings. Infrared heaters, nowadays, are far more abundant than halogen heaters are. They come in nearly any size you could imagine, ready to be installed anywhere you like; and, as you may have noticed, it is precisely this category that is far more likely to offer models capable of enduring rain and snow with ease.

These are our impressions. The choice, as always, is yours.

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