Off Grid Home Forums Technical Discussion Are heat lamps the most efficient heat source?

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    Nick Rosen

    Disclaimer: I rent and am not off the grid. If there’s a better place for me to go with these questions, please let me know.

    The following site is very useful for saving electricity, and I’m linking directly to a page on saving heat energy:

    But this page, and every other similar resource I’ve found, doesn’t mention heat lamps as an efficient heat source. I use a 250w lamp at my desk, which I power on intermittently to heat up quickly. I find it warms me just as well as a 1500w space heater, perhaps even better, as I seem to stay warm longer. Also, since it’s me that heats up and not the whole room, my computer (also at my desk) doesn’t have to power up its fan into a deafening frenzy to try to cool down.

    Why aren’t heat lamps typically mentioned as an efficient heat source?


    I’m very interested in this. For how long have you been doing it? I’m trying to help a man live without central heat and thought we could get a heat lamp and leave it in the kitchen, only on when he is working there. Then use the space heater in the area where he mostly lives. Maybe we’ll find that heat lamps work better and use those both places, that would save electricity. Can you tell me if you used a special kind of lamp for it? Thanks!


    Radiant heaters are great for the very reason you pointed out – you dont heat everything up. For some reason they’ve never recieved much attention in more main stream circles. People like convection heating (and more these days underfloor) because it heats the whole space. Bare in mind the plumbing and heating world are pretty stuck in their ways. We’ve “always used radiators” (even though they are actually convectors). But you are right, its a lot more efficient. How much did you pay for your heat lamp? I think the other issue with radiant heat is its location, mounting etc – you can end up heating walls they are mounted on lot – which is loss, and you have to stay in a certain proximity to appreciate the heat. They’re much better for things like churches though where there’s so much air in the ceiling to heat up as pure waste. Electrical resistive heating is about as high efficiency as we can get from electricity, which after power station and transmission losses works out at about 20-30%. A lot of people complain about the grid because its more polluting than localised generation from hydrocarbon sources. If your electrics come from a clean source than you’re away… in summary, dont use heat lamps if you want full space heating, its that simple.


    For a more exact explanation, you need to look at thermodynamics, heat and energy transfer texts.

    Heat transfer uses 3 ways, convection, conduction and radiation. Convection warms air which moves because warm air is lighter and floats upward. Conduction warms by touch (the basis of convection). Heat lamps are radiation. Use only heat lamps and your pipes will burst (they only heat where they are pointed)!

    When the lamp gets hot, that is wasted energy. For a more efficient process use QH bulbs.

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