Far infrared vs. “Fake” infrared
Far infrared vs. “Fake” infrared
What is the difference between a “far infrared” and a “fake” infrared heater?
This is going to get just a wee bit “wordy”, so grab a glass or cup of your favourite beverage and settle in….
When purchasing a far infrared heater, there are many things to consider. With hundreds of companies claiming to sell far infrared (FIR) heaters, few actually ARE far infrared heaters.
The market is flooded with “non-infrared heaters” yet many people are fooled into believing they purchased an energy saving far infrared heating device, while in reality they have purchased a $2 Halogen/quartz light bulb that runs so hot that it produces “Near infrared”. Near infrared is able to “excite” the air molecules which creates “heat” (hot air) around it; next, a $3 fan blows the heated air into the space. The hot air rises just like with any convection heater and if the room has high ceilings, the “heater” won’t contribute anything. To dress it up, manufacturers often add a fancy cabinet.
In reality, the people who believe they have purchased a state of the art far infrared heater, have just been scammed into purchasing $5 in parts and a fancy cabinet for a simple (if not useless) convection heater.
Far infrared explained
Rule # 1 – If they don’t say “far infrared”, they likely aren’t!
Scientific exploration and testing over the past century has provided us with the evidence of what far infrared heat is, and how the far infrared energy “light” passes through the air. Because of its wavelength, far infrared waves travel around the air molecule; it has virtually no ability to collide with and excite the air molecules. Because it is able to travel through the air, the Far infrared waves will collide with any surfaces they encounter, and this in turn is able to warm up these surfaces, people, and/or animals within the space. Far infrared heating is the most efficient way of “heating”.
True far infrared heaters produce invisible light; the wavelength of this light is related to the heaters’ surface-temperature. True far infrared heaters operate from slightly above room temperature to the temperature of boiling water (212 degrees F or 100 degrees C); on the other end of the infrared spectrum are the heating elements that glow (2200+ degrees C); these emit dangerous “Near infrared” energy (examples are heat-lamps, heating coils, gas infrared heaters, etc.). Prolonged exposure to Near infrared is known to cause eye damage (cornea damage) as well as skin damage, burns and even cancer due to tissue burns. Far infrared has been proven safe for people and animals; prolonged exposure is very healthy and only benefits (No risks) have been identified for (far) infrared operating at 7,000-10,000 nm. This is the therapeutic part of the sun’s spectrum.
Ducoterra’s SolaRay far infrared panels, as well as Prestyl’s far infrared heating panel products only operate in this safe part of the spectrum.
Far infrared Heaters, Element types, Efficiency and Expected Lifecycle
There are three different common types of electric far infrared heaters; Carbon, Metal or Hybrid
Carbon film carbon impregnated sheets and carbon impregnated wire
Carbon based heating elements have become the cheap replacements for traditional coil-in ceramic heating elements.
Their expected life cycle is 2-5 years (some cheap versions last less, some better ones, longer).
While carbon is cheap and plentiful (in many cases less than $1 per sq. metre for the element), it is the preferred material by Asian manufacturers. Poorly built carbon units have been blamed for many fires and because of the nature of carbon, even the more expensive units can cause fires under certain well-documented circumstances.
Carbon has a very dangerous inherent characteristic; it has an undesirable “Temperature Coefficient” (this has to do with how carbon reacts over temperature). Carbon is classified electrically as a NTC (Negative Temperature Coefficient) material. What this means is that the colder it gets, the higher its resistance. The hotter it gets, the lower its resistance.
Thus, when it is really cold (and when you need the heater to work the most) the resistance is high. This means very little energy is converted to heat and the heater may take a long time to warm up; and in many cases, “it will not start at all”. At low ambient temperatures this is annoying, but it is not a safety problem.
As carbon heats up, its electrical resistance gets lower so a heater has to be carefully designed not to exceed a certain temperature (balance between energy supplied and infrared energy radiated). A carbon heater must have multiple built-in safety switches to be safe. In most cases, the safety switches will manage the maximum operating temperature of the infrared heater – until a portion of the heater is covered up. The covered portion gets hotter, in turn the resistance gets lower, and this in turn makes the covered section get hotter and an avalanche effect has been created. Because it is a local issue, the safety switch may not know there is a problem and a fire may result (many fires have been attributed to this characteristic). Because carbon cannot be properly controlled (even the best control systems are very slow), the energy usage is typically 5-20% higher than a Prestyl hybrid alloy far infrared heater.
Metal coil, Resistor wire, metal foil and metal hybrid foil
Metal-based far infrared heaters are generally considered safer because metals in general have a “Positive Temperature Characteristic” or PTC. PTC means that the warmer the heater gets, the lower its energy consumption (this is the result of the increased electrical resistance); “self-regulation” occurs when the predetermined design temperature has been reached. This means that most metal-based Far infrared heaters are generally much safer than carbon units.
Then, if all metal-based units have these “safe characteristics”, why would one purchase a Prestyl unit? What makes Prestyl so unique? Please see a detailed explanation following “The Prestyl Advantage”.
The Prestyl Advantage
The answer is simple:
Energy savings (design allows for optimum electrical to IR energy conversion)
Design of the Aluminum hybrid film (can be produced in any volume, with incredible precision)
Construction of the thin-film heating section (fully sealed)
All Aluminum construction (best metal IR radiator for the investment)
Much larger energy transfer area than competitive products (lower element temperatures and longer lifecycle)
Best thermal transfer possible (optimized through trace designs)
Distributed IR energy footprint
Floating housing design (prevents warping of the module)
Quality of the materials used
Available plain or as printed artworks
Primary or supplemental heat
Longest life expectancy
A vast array of approvals and safety listings
What makes Prestyl better?
Far infrared heating is not new, as many people might assume. Before there was any form of man-made heating there was the sun; the sun warms up surfaces, heat energy is stored, and even long after the sun has set, these surfaces radiate a comfortable far-infrared heat (regardless of the outside temperature, as it does not heat the air).
After millennia of development we have returned to the sun; FAR INFRARED.
Prestyl infrared panels are one of the most efficient generators of far infrared heat energy on the planet.
The first Far IR systems were resistor wires coiled up in the ceilings. These provided a comfortable heat and yielded dramatically reduced energy consumption. Because of the corrosion associated with the constant warming up and cooling off however, the life expectancy was relatively short and repairs meant tearing out the ceilings to gain access.
Later, there were a few manufacturers that built far infrared heating panels using this same technology. These worked very well but required routine replacements of the heating elements. The advantage was that these could simply be removed, repaired and reinstalled.
Today there are still a few manufacturers using this technology; the coils have been replaced with a thin resistive wire that is sandwiched between some sort of foil. The advantage is a cheap unit (rivaling carbon) but one that has the same life-expectancy as the older systems (short!).
Regardless of the quality of the resistive wire, these units are prone to failure since these have a very poor “element to surface ratio”. The thinner the wire the “hotter” it needs to run in order to conduct its heat to the Far infrared radiating surface.
Others’ have tried using a very thin solid surface to improve the surface area, but there are several problems associated with these; Firstly) the surface will not heat evenly so there is repeated stress as these heat and cool so these generally crack and fail in a matter of one to three years, and Secondly) due to the construction constraints of these panels it is impossible to evenly distribute the infrared energy, Thirdly) there is no way to compensate for dissimilar materials (expansion ratios of the element and front surface are different, and damage occurs), and Fourth; the film would be so thin that it could easily be damaged in handling, before it is even installed.
Prestyl’s Proprietary Hybrid Film
Prestyl’s unique film has been successfully used for over 18 years under the most demanding conditions (building and private/public transport industry).
Energy Efficiency and Life Expectancy:
Prestyl’s products have been specifically designed for a very long lifecycle; the thin-film Aluminum hybrid alloy is completely encapsulated in a Mylar enclosure, virtually eliminating corrosion. The inherent “self-protecting” characteristics of the Aluminum component in the film add another layer of corrosion protection increasing the life expectancy to dozens of years. The “encapsulating process” creates a 0.031″ (0.8mm) thick “heating element”; and because the heating element is so thin, the distance between the element and the Aluminum front panel is very minimal so the conduction of heat from the element to the front of the panel is optimized and the resulting energy consumption is the lowest achievable.
The manufacturing process is a combination of the newspaper printing process and printed circuit board fabrication. The result is a capacity of over 16 miles (26 km) per day, per production line.
The best Far infrared “radiator” for the money
On the list of suitable radiators, Aluminum is among the top contenders. There are other materials but these are either cost prohibitive or just too soft to be practical.
Prestyl chose Aluminum for its Standard Panels for two primary reasons; First, Aluminum provides the best heat transfer for the investment (99% of heat-sinks in electronic gear are Aluminum or Aluminum alloy ), and secondly because the materials in the film and the housing are based on the same elements, Prestyl greatly minimizes the stress on its film.
Improved heat transfer
Compared with many competitors, Prestyls’ designs offer a much larger energy transfer area; the product resembles a circuit board with a nearly 50% surface coverage (10 times greater than some competitors’ product), this results in lower element temperatures and promotes a longer lifecycle.
Unique trace designs, best possible IR footprint
Another unique Prestyl feature is its trace design; while competitors use “same width/diameter heating wire”, Prestyl’s etched traces are designed to promote an “even IR footprint”. IR works on a principle of watts per square foot or square meter (m²). So every inch on a panel counts. Prestyl’s unique trace design minimizes the heat concentration in the centre. It distributes the heat evenly to the edges of the radiating surface. This results in an even and predictable IR coverage pattern and again, helps reduce energy consumption.
While most competitors use fiberglass insulation, Prestyl uses a 100% recyclable unique wool-based woven insulator. Sure, it is more expensive, but it makes the Prestyl Far infrared heater a virtually hypoallergenic, health conscious choice.
Highest Quality Materials
Prestyl’s far-infrared heating systems have been developed over a period of 18 years; the company has succeeded where others failed by using only the highest quality raw materials.
Prestyl is a true far infrared pioneer, not a “me too” company. The company is not only active in in the traditional (home, office, institutions etc.) heating business; it is also heavily involved in developing energy saving solutions for high-profile transportation projects in North America (for reference, 100% of all French trains produced over the past 6 years are heated with Prestyl films).
For many years Prestyl’s film has been used as primary heat source only; over the past 4 years the company developed the self-contained heating panel or “cassette”.
This panel has become Prestyl USA’s core product as it can be installed in primary as well as secondary applications (augmenting geothermal systems, heating cold areas as fill-in heat and hybrid systems); the printed artwork options have made Prestyl the “fill-in heat” choice of home decorators and re-modelers. Prestyl offers products at European voltages, and all popular North American voltages, as well.