There are two common types of fuel-fired portable heaters available to consumers, forced air and radiant. Forced air heaters have been the most common and are widely known as torpedo, salamander, or bullet heaters for their narrow, oblong shape that literally looks like a torpedo. Radiant fuel-fired heaters have can have various different looks to them but all have one thing in common, a dome shield in the front to radiate the heat.
Both forced air and radiant heaters are a style of direct-fired heat. Direct-fired heaters mean that the surrounding air that is heated, is the same air that comes into contact with the flame. Both torpedo-style and fuel-fired radiant heaters are both forms of direct heaters. An example of an indirect fired heater would be a home furnace. The air within a home is sucked into intake vents within each room, sent through ducts to the furnace, and sent through a heat exchanger within the furnace. As the air passes through a heat exchanger that is extremely hot, it warms the air and sends it back through your home.
However, the fire never comes into contact with that same air that you breathe in your home. But to provide heat there needs to be a flame and flames need continuous oxygen to burn. That air is supplied through an intake tube from outside the home and vented into the furnace and vented back out, typically through a PVC pipe. Neither this air nor the air within the home come into contact with each other. This offers safety from any harmful carbon monoxide gases that could circulate throughout the home undetected. This is the reason why indirect-fired heaters like a furnace needs no extra ventilation and can be used in a completely sealed environment.
SunFire and torpedo-style heaters, being direct fired heaters, are not meant to be used in household residential environments. Instead, they are primarily used in either outdoor applications and many indoor commercial applications that often easily allow some ventilation from outside air. This would include shops, garages, pole buildings, barns, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and many more similar indoor applications.
However, the method of heating between forced air and radiant heaters are quite different, even though they are both direct-fired heaters. With torpedo and salamander heaters, outside air is sucked into the same chamber as the fire. This provides both oxygen to the flame at a high velocity for a proper burn associated with the amount of fuel sprayed through the nozzle to achieve the amount of BTU’s the forced air heater is rated for. This provides some benefits and common negatives that are usually associated with torpedo/salamander heaters such as the loud noise, a strong odor, but also lower prices.
Fuel-fired radiant heaters like SunFire radiant heaters also take in air to provide oxygen for the flame. However, for SunFire radiant heaters, the air is spun like a tornado at a highly scientifically precise method to produce an extremely clean and efficient burn that ads near to zero carbon monoxide emissions into the air. For example, the OSHA standard for indoor air emissions is 50 parts per million, the SunFire ads up to only 1 parts per million, putting our radiant heaters exceedingly well within the OSHA guidelines. This air escapes gently through various holes located on a dome in the front of the heater.
However, this isn’t the primary method of providing heat. Most of the heat is generated by the intense flame that heats the round dome in the front of the heater. This dome will typically glow bright orange or red and will radiate heat directly forward, similar to the sun. Direct heat can be felt from the sun but it is not from the sun blowing hot air upon the earth, it is literally infrared radiant waves of heat energy that warms everything upon the earth. And although this warms air upon the earth, it’s the primary reason why when we step directly into sunlight, we can feel an instant rise in temperature compared to being in the shade. Sunfire radiant heaters work very much the same.
This offers many benefits to this radiant heating method. For instance, not only is this generally a cleaner and more efficient way to burn fuel, it offers more of an odorless heating experience for its users and far less noise because not as much air is required to burn the fuel properly as in torpedo/salamander heaters. Forced air heaters are generally associated with the sound of a jet engine that make it extremely difficult to speak to others within the vicinity of the forced air heater. They also often emit have a strong odor that can even cause headaches. However, they have been a norm for many generations, especially because of the low cost of forced air heaters. But that low cost can come at a high expense of miscommunication from the loud noise, possible health issues, and sometimes low performance from those that work with these types of heaters.
Radiant heaters however, and more specifically SunFire radiant heaters, were engineered to solve these issues with a low noise and virtually odorless experience. And although radiant heaters can still warm an indoor area like a forced air heater, radiant heaters can also heat an object or individual directly like the sun without the assistance of air. Therefore, if a radiant heater were to be used near a garage door that opens frequently or is used outside on a cold windy day, anything placed within about 7 – 10 feet within the front of the radiant heater and will still receive warm heat, just like the sun would provide.
Pros of Radiant Heaters
Pros of Forced Air Heaters
Both forced air and radiant heaters can provide beneficial heat for various outdoor and many indoor commercial applications. But the heating experience they provide is completely different. Most users will simply need to determine and weigh the possible health benefits and improved communication and worker performance that could be provided by a heater using infrared radiant technology.
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* With all direct-vent heaters, it is recommended to be used with proper ventilation.