Answer to Question #12691 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Lasers, Infrared, and Ultraviolet Radiation — Infrared

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


Do infrared space heaters pose any health risk?


To answer your question, we will say that infrared (IR) heaters used indoors or outdoors are safe, especially if the appropriate safety factors are considered. In the case of IR heaters, these safety precautions include protecting yourself from possible burns and electrical safety to prevent fires.

IR heaters emit a type of radiation that is much different from the radiation associated with x-ray machines or germicidal lightbulbs. Some of the properties of IR radiation (IRR) are similar to the properties of visible light; however, your eyes cannot see IRR. IR heaters will not heat up a room or the air within that room. The IRR mostly passes through air, not heating the air but will heat other materials such as furniture or your body. This heating, if extreme, can cause fires or dangerous skin burns. Furthermore, since the eye blocks the IRR, the eye begins to overheat leading to eye damage and possible blindness. Because of this, you should not look at the heater for an extended period of time.

The other health and safety issues involve electricity. The heaters require electrical energy so you need to ensure that the electrical wire from the plug to the heater is not covered by rugs, or other material that might rub the insulation off the wires. Loss of the insulation could lead to fires. You will also need to insure that the electrical outlet in which the heater is plugged into is not overloaded with other appliances or equipment.

There are several information sources on infrared heaters that you might consider reviewing prior to using this type of heater. For example, the website The Spruce has some information on selecting the type of heater and their advantages.

To summarize your question as to the safety of infrared heaters and any health issues, these types of heaters are safe for people to use. Like all energy sources, you will need to take normal safety precautions such as not sitting too close to the heater, staring into the heater, and ensuring that the electric cords to the heater are in good condition. We also recommend you read the manual that comes with the unit you have as those will give you the particular safety information specific to your heater.

Paul Charp
Health Physicist

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 6 December 2018. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.