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Space heaters are a part of most people’s winter routine. Whether you live in an older, draftier home, or you like to spend time in a basement or garage workshop, space heaters can help you create a cozier area of your home without turning up the thermostat in your whole house. Parabolic space heaters are a type of infrared heater that use a parabolic reflector to aim the heat in a concentrated beam. Here’s why you should try one.

How infrared heat works

Infrared electromagnetic energy is energy past the red end of the spectrum of light that humans can see, hence its name that means “past red.” Infrared energy is what makes sunlight or fire feel warm to us. A heater that uses an infrared element—like a ceramic and wire coil element or a quartz, halogen, or tungsten bulb—generates heat by releasing infrared energy using electricity. Since the heat from an infrared heater is transferred like heat from the sun, it doesn’t require a fan to be distributed like with a forced air type of heating system.

What is a parabolic reflector?

Parabolic reflectors are reflectors made in the shape of a parabola, or a curve on which all points are equidistant from a focus point as well as a line known as the directrix. To us, it just looks like a shiny bowl shaped reflector. This type of reflector is used in lighting, satellite dishes, and radar dishes, as well as for heaters to create an aimable energy field. The beauty of using a parabolic reflector for an infrared heater is that it will reflect incoming energy from the focus out through its opening in an even field of heat.

Parabolic space heaters make infrared heat aimable

By using a parabolic reflector to evenly distribute the energy from an infrared heat source, a parabolic space heater creates a defined area of heat within the scope of its opening. Since this type of heater doesn’t use a fan, the reflector is the main tool for distributing heat from the infrared element. Rather than dissipating from an infrared source such as a ceramic and wire coil element or a quartz, halogen, or tungsten bulb, the reflector contains the infrared energy within its scope and evenly distributes it through the opening in front of the heater.

Parabolic heaters can be used outdoors

Since infrared heaters use energy rather than blowing air to heat an area, they are a popular choice for use outdoors. The way the heat is transferred isn’t disrupted by wind, and while wind will still cool you down if you’re under a parabolic heater outdoors, you’ll likely feel warmer than if you were relying on a blower to warm up outdoors. Take care, though, when using a parabolic heater outside to make sure it’s properly secured and that you have a model that’s intended for outdoor use.

Parabolic heaters are energy efficient

Since parabolic heaters don’t use a fan, they’re more efficient than other types of space heaters for heating a specific area. They are touted as being around 80% efficient, meaning that 80% of the energy they use comes out as heat when they’re running. A parabolic heater is cheaper than turning up your thermostat most of the time, so they can help you conserve energy and lower your home heating costs.

Advantages of parabolic heaters

Parabolic heaters don’t have fans, so they aren’t noisy. In addition to being quieter than most other space heaters, they also have the added benefit of not drying out the air as much. Since parabolic infrared space heaters emit heat as energy, they heat surfaces rather than the air, and don’t dry things out nearly as much as fan-driven space heaters.

Drawbacks to parabolic heaters

Since parabolic heaters aim heat in one particular direction, and mostly work by warming up surfaces rather than the air around them, they’re not great for large spaces. While they’re really good for heating you up while you’re sitting on a porch or at a workbench, they’re not so great if you plan to be up and moving around because they will mostly warm up what’s in front of them. While there are oscillating versions of parabolic heaters that can spread out the distribution of heat a little bit, they’re not intended for heating whole rooms, but rather targeted areas.

Safety when using parabolic heaters

Because the heating element in a parabolic heater can get very hot, you should make sure you keep them away from fabric like curtains, tablecloths, and bedding—you should keep the heater at least three feet from flammable surfaces. You can also opt for a parabolic heater with an automatic tip shut-off that will turn the heater off if it falls over. As with any heat source, supervision of children and pets is necessary.

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