This is a common question we receive, as there are a number of different voltages to select for infrared heaters, and there are also many voltages available in residential and commercial buildings. For example, in the US the most common voltage is 120V (plug-in outlets), but there is also 208V, 240V, or 277V single phase available. The majority of homes in the US use 120V/240V. 240V is most common for electrical appliances which require more power, such as a dryer, electric stove, or hot tub.
There is no difference in efficiency in our heaters between 120V and 240V (or any other voltage). The reason why 240V is advantageous for appliances and heaters in a home has to do with amperage. The electrical panel in your home is limited by amperage, and most panels nowadays are 200amp panels. At 240V the amperage is 50% of what it is at 120V. So, by using 240V you are able to take up less space in your electrical panel, and allow more room to make any future modifications which involve electricity. It also requires less wiring and you can fit more heaters on a 240V circuit than you can on a 120V circuit.
So, if 240V is 50% less amperage, why isn’t it 50% more efficient? This requires a bit more in-depth explanation of how electricity works, and if you are curious you can read more about the 3 factors of electricity on our blog here, which explains how they work and why efficiency isn’t better or worse at 240V.
Picking the voltage for your heater
When picking the voltage for your heater, it is always best to match apples with apples. This ensures that you get 100% power out of your heater. If you intend to use your heater as a plug in, or to use it on the circuit that outlets are on, you will want 120V (in the USA). If you are hardwiring a new circuit from your electrical panel, usually it makes the most sense to use 240V, as this will allow you to reduce amperage. Our Cove heaters, SolaRay, and Ceramic Ceiling are all made at standard voltages and can be custom made as well (for overseas customers) at 220V, 230V, or other voltages. For most DIY solutions 120V is common, as heaters can run as supplemental heat on existing 120V circuits.
It is important to keep in mind that heaters are voltage specific, which means that if you wire the wrong voltage to a heater, you will not get the proper heat out of it. What happens in that case? If you wire in less voltage than the heater is made to run at, your wattage will be less, the panel will not get as hot, and you won’t have as much heat. If you wire more voltage than the heater is made to run at, you are overloading the heater and it will either not run, or it will run at a higher wattage than it is intended to output and this will shorten its life.
The majority of homes have 120V and 240V available, but if you are at a commercial space it can be 120V with 208V, 240V, or and/or 277V. Voltage can be measured with a device called a voltmeter, or you can also ask an electrician to measure it on site when you are getting a bid for the installation of your infrared heating system. For more information on voltage and other heater related questions, I would recommend visiting the frequently asked questions page on our website here.
Written by: Jeff Abel, VP of Sales, Heating Green