Frequently Asked Questions
SunSwitch heaters emit virtually all of their heat energy in the shortwave infrared region, where the infrared is absorbed effectively into your body. This also means the radiant energy is not wasted heating the air. This is exactly the same way the sun heats the earth (and you) and it feels every bit as natural and comfortable. Unlike other types of radiant heater (see below) very little of the radiant heat from SunSwitch heaters is absorbed by the air. In consequence it is much more efficient as a heat source than other types of radiant heater and will cost less to run. SunSwitch infrared heaters emit exactly the same wavelengths of infrared as heat lamps used for medical and therapeutic purposes. These are extremely good for your physiology.
The infrared elements in our heaters have a nominal design life of 2000–5000 hours at full power output. However, if they are controlled using a SunSwitch Energy-Saving Comfort Controller, they will last considerably longer. Very dusty environments can shorten the life of elements. We stock replacement elements and other spare parts should you ever need them.
Quartz halogen heaters – the type supplied by SunSwitch – are powered by electricity. They have a tungsten alloy filament inside a quartz tube. A coating is applied to the tube to change the visible light character, increase the IR transmission and resist oxidation. Inside the tube is a halogen gas (usually iodine or bromine) that creates what is known as a ‘halogen cycle’ whereby evaporated tungsten is deposited back onto the filament. This halogen cycle greatly increases element life and efficiency and enables the element to emit most of its energy in the shortwave infrared region. It also allows the element to operate at a much higher temperature than other types of heater elements.
The type of heaters we supply are exclusively Quartz Halogen infrared. Quartz Halogen infrared heaters work instantly, so little or no pre-heating of a space is required. The heat output is mainly short wavelengths of infrared. These are not affected by air movement, which makes them very suitable for use in spaces that are not fully enclosed, such as warehouses, and in very high buildings, like churches. Our heaters are over 93% efficient at converting energy into heat. This is an extremely high level of energy conversion – as high as the very best domestic gas condensing boilers, but with the additional benefit of instant response.
Yes. This is inevitable because shortwave infrared is right on the edge of the light spectrum visible to humans. In older types of elements, the light output is a deep and unpleasant ruby red. All SunSwitch heaters have elements with a gold coating that increases energy-efficiency and produces a more neutral, pleasing light. When correctly positioned above normal sight lines, the light is not intrusive. Any colour is easily washed out with normal lighting.
Quartz heaters have ferrochrome alloy filaments inside a quartz tube. They are medium-wave emitters with a relatively low radiation efficiency of around 60%. Throw is limited, and heat transfer is a mix of radiation and convection. Old style radiant bathroom heaters were usually quartz heaters. The wavelengths of infrared produced by these heaters are not absorbed into your body very well, but they do make the surface of your skin feel hot. We do not sell these.
Carbon heaters are medium-wave heaters with carbon filaments inside a quartz tube. Like quartz heaters they have a relatively low radiation efficiency of around 60% and the rest of the energy is used warming the air. Throw is limited, and heat transfer is a mix of radiation and convection. The wavelengths of infrared produced by these heaters are not absorbed into your body very well, but they will make the surface of your skin feel hot. It is wasteful to use the outside or in large/tall buildings. We do not sell these.
These heaters have ceramic heat emitters with a resistive filament embedded in a ceramic plate. They take a few minutes to warm up. They produce mainly long wavelengths of infrared, and so the method of heat transfer is almost exclusively by convection (they warm the air). This type of emitter is not suitable for use in draughty buildings or buildings with high ceilings. Also, they do not ‘throw’ the heat very far compared with shortwave infrared heaters. We do not sell these.
Some heaters are marketed as ‘far infrared’. There is no agreed scientific definition of what the ‘far infrared’ range is, but it is certain that the heaters produce very long wavelengths of infrared (in the range 7,000 to 15,0000nm). We have seen some highly misleading and inaccurate claims about so-called far infrared heaters, which attribute to them exactly the same benefits as are obtained with shortwave infrared heaters, including an ability to heat objects and people without heating the air and provide effective absorption of infrared into skin tissue. This is impossible. In reality all long wavelengths of infrared transmit heat by warming the air. There is no equivalent form of warmth in the natural world, and the only sources of far infrared on earth are entirely man-made. Experts have raised concerns about the safety of far infrared heat sources. In her paper ‘Radiation effects on the eye, Part 1 – Infrared effects on ocular tissue’ (Optometry Today, May 1999), Dr. Janet Voke states that the infrared band IR-C (3000-10000nm) ‘does not normally reach the earth’s surface because it is absorbed by the atmosphere, but non-natural sources of IR-C can be a significant hazard’ (para. 2). We do not sell these.