Aye aye captain! Infrared heaters have been the star of many Michaels News Briefs in the past (like this one and this one). In case you missed those, here’s a quick refresher. Infrared heaters transfer heat to a space via radiation instead of conduction and convection like traditional forced air systems. Radiation sends the heat directly to where it’s needed as long as it’s within line of sight. Don’t heat an entire open space to reach the objects and people in it. Just beam the heat right where it’s needed, Star Trek style.
High Tech is Obviously High Efficiency
Whoa, pump the reverse thrusters for a second. Infrared heaters are not inherently more efficient than other forms of forced air heating technology. Essentially, a gas-fired infrared heater is a combustion chamber that burns fuel, and then the hot combustion products are sent down a long metal tube. It does the exact same thing as a furnace. A typical natural gas combustion process is somewhere around 80 – 85% efficient. That’s the same in both infrared heaters and traditional forced air heaters and boilers. But if that’s the case, how do these infrared heaters actually save any energy? As Spock would say, “It’s illogical!”
Temperature is the Key
One thing can improve the realized savings from infrared systems more than anything else: turn down the thermostat. “Well wait a minute,” Scotty might say, “It’s already freezing in engineering with the thermostat set to 76°F!” Remember, though, that infrared and radiant heaters use a different heat transfer method than conventional systems. Using a traditional forced air system means the air in the space needs to be heated to a high enough temperature and moved around so occupants and the thermostat feel the
An infrared system beams the heat directly at occupants using radiation (like sunlight, x-rays, and phasers). This means occupants will be getting heat transferred directly to them from the heaters, so they will ultimately feel warmer. Thus, the thermostat can be turned down without sacrificing occupant comfort levels. A lower thermostat setting means less heating needs during the winter, and more energy savings. Leaving the thermostat alone while using infrared systems won’t change the heat needed by the building (or starship), and since infrared heaters aren’t any more efficient, won’t save any energy.
Nobody needs to feel as warm as Tholians. Turn the thermostat down when using infrared heaters and save some federation credits.