I first noticed the inclusion of quartz infrared heaters into the design of electric fireplaces and inserts at the beginning of the 2012 heating season.
From a marketing perspective, expanding into the electric fireplace product line is a no brainer given the popularity of quartz infrared heaters in general.
But are infrared inserts just a gimmick, or do they provide additional benefits not found in conventional inserts?
Superior Heat Quality
If you already own an infrared heater you do not need to be convinced that its moist, even heat creates a more comfortable environment than the harsh, arid heat that comes from an electric coil heater.
And if you've never experienced the difference you'll be pleasantly surprised when you do.
More Powerful Heater
The typical electric insert comes equipped with a standard electric coil heater rated at 4,600 BTUs, or the equivalent of 1,350 watts.
A quartz infrared heater, by comparison, is rated at 5,200 BTUs, or 1,500 watts which works out to 10% more heating power.
And, since it has a radiant heat source that directs its warmth to inanimate objects such as funiture, which retain heat, it uses less energy to maintain the room temperature.
The identical flame display is used for both infrared and non-infrared inserts of similar sized models within a brand name's product line. For example, the same SpectraFire flame display is used in all of Classic Flame's 28 “models.
Although the flame display quality is not an issue for the purposes of this article, it's understandable why it would be more important than the type of heater for some consumers
By the way, the reviews I've read for the Classic Flame SpectraFire flame display have been good to outstanding.
Heating Coverage Area
I do not know why everyone who sells infrared heaters claims they will heat 1.000 square feet, but they persist in doing so. I know my 1,500 watt DR Heater will comfortably heat around 600 square feet of my Boston condo, but that's about it. There are just too many obstacles (doors, walls) that prevent a heater of this size from reaching every corner of a home's layout.
Or, if you have an open floor plan, it's impossible for any 1,500 watt heating appliance, quartz or otherwise, to keep up with the demand.
So the answer is yes, a radiant heater will do a better job at heating larger areas than most conventional heaters, but it's not going to heat 1,000 square feet without it's a self contained room in a home built to LEED standards.
Although the additional cost of an infrared heater is not mentioned as a drawback by people who have purchased and reviewed them, it might be a deterrent to some.
Fireplace Inserts Are Versatile
Electric fireplace inserts are popular with RV owners as an after market installation. They can also be used as a stand alone heating unit or, if you're into woodworking, you could custom build a mantle and surround to suit your taste.