In the age of e-commerce, warehouses and other large industrial facilities are essential to the global economy. So it’s no surprise they’re springing up across the United States. Consider, for example, that warehouse construction starts were set to increase 36% in 2021, with another 13% boost in 2022, according to an outlook in Engineering News-Record.
And with the proliferation of these large facilities—warehouses with 1 million-plus square feet are no longer anomalies—comes the challenge of heating a whole lot of space to ensure employee comfort and proper temperatures for inventory and equipment. That’s where infrared heaters shine.
How infrared heaters work
Infrared heaters work by burning fuel such as propane to heat a heating element that creates infrared radiant energy. This energy is then directed down to the area below, where people, objects, and floors absorb it as heat. “These surfaces absorb the heat and then re-radiate it back to the surrounding air to maintain a blanket of warmth within the heated space. This is known as working from the bottom up, which saves energy and lowers fuel bills,” says Paul Horne, vice president of Gas-Fired Products, a heating equipment manufacturer based in Charlotte, N.C.
Unlike some other types of heaters, infrared heaters don’t directly heat the air, so the heat is delivered more quickly and efficiently to the people and objects needing it. It feels more like the warmth of sunlight. For people working in a warehouse or other large industrial space, that means comfort. “Your whole body feels warm, not just a specific area like your head or your shoulders,” says Kevin Morgan, energy sales director for Peachtree City, Georgia–based manufacturer Rinnai America.
“More and more engineers and installers are learning the benefits of radiant [infrared] heat, especially the energy cost savings,” Horne says. “As the technology expands and the drive for energy conservation increased, radiant heat has started to take the spotlight more due to the natural efficiency and effectiveness that it has over traditional convection heat.”
How to specify infrared heaters
Like many other types of industrial equipment, infrared heaters can be made to work off several different power sources, including electricity, natural gas, and propane but propane has several advantages.
“Propane usually costs less than electricity and will cost the customer less money on energy compared to electric radiant heat,” Horne says. “Also, propane is an easier fuel source to supply to radiant heaters than electricity.”
In areas where the natural gas infrastructure hasn’t been developed yet, or might never be fully developed, propane’s ability to be delivered by truck and its abundance throughout the country are major benefits. Considering that warehouses and other large industrial spaces are increasingly being built in rural, undeveloped areas, propane stands out as a great fuel choice for infrared heating, not to mention many other industrial applications such as forklifts.
Visit propane.com to learn more about the factors to consider when specifying propane infrared heaters for warehouses, distribution centers, and other industrial facilities.