Recently searched
      • Published 9 Feb 2024
      • Last Modified 9 Feb 2024
    • 15 min

    Warming Solutions: Heat Lamp Types and Their Benefits

    Our guide will help you understand what heat lamps are, their uses, how they work and the various types available.

    In this guide we aim to shed light on the basics of heat lamps, offering a no-nonsense exploration of their mechanisms, applications, and types. We’ll also identify a few popular brands you can look into if you are looking to purchase a heat lamp for a specific use case.

    What are Heat Lamps?

    A heat lamp, otherwise known as an infrared lamp or heat light, is a purpose-built device designed to emit controlled heat. Unlike regular lamps and bulbs, heat lamps prioritise generating warmth over visible light. Heat lamps typically operate on technologies like infrared radiation, which is why they are also sometimes called infrared lamps or IR bulbs. They are effective at generating targeted heat in a cost effective manner, making them useful in a wide range of applications. 

    Typically heat bulbs are incandescent, as these are typically more effective at generating heat as compared to other types of bulbs. LED bulbs are not well suited to act as heat lamps, as they are much more efficient at turning electricity into light rather than heat. This is by design, as LED bulbs were designed to generate light more efficiently without risk of overheating. While Infrared LED lamps do exist, they are more commonly used for remote controls or other communication devices. 

    Incandescent bulbs by comparison are much more inefficient when it comes to generating light as compared to LEDs. The amount of heat that incandescent bulbs generate is typically seen mostly as an undesirable side effect, but in some cases like with heat lamps this can actually be a benefit. Infrared lamps and heat lamps are simply incandescent bulbs where generating heat over light is prioritised.

    How does a Heat Lamp work?

    Understanding how a heat lamp works is very similar to understanding how a traditional incandescent bulb works, with some minor alterations and shifting in priorities. Heat lamps are equipped with a filament or heating element made from materials with high electrical resistance, such as tungsten wire or other materials for higher wattage bulbs. The filament is enclosed in a capsule filled with inert gas to prevent any reactions with the filament. When electrical current passes through the filament it causes it to heat up and give off light. This simple conversion of electrical energy into heat and light is the main function of most heat lamps. 

    However, unlike with conventional lamps where the emphasis is on giving off visible light, heat lamps prioritise infrared radiation. The heated filament in the bulb becomes a source of intense infrared radiation, radiating warmth outside the bulb. They are often designed to run at higher currents as compared to normal light bulbs in order to generate above average heat. Most light bulbs operate at a maximum of 100W. Heat lamps on the other hand can run up to 2 KW and beyond. For higher wattage heat lamps, they’ll often be constructed out of more heavy duty materials with stronger filaments and ceramic bases to help prevent failures or melting of the light housing. 

    By using directional elements and reflectors, heat lamps can even channel heat in specific directions, making them extremely efficient in providing targeted heat. This precision makes them useful in a wide range of applications like reptile habitats or in industrial processes like paint curing.

    Heat Lamp Benefits

    Heat lamps provide huge benefits in a wide range of different industries and applications. They are commonly used in both industrial and recreational settings due to a few key benefits including: 

    • Heat lamps excel at providing targeted heat. Their ability to focus heat in specific areas makes them ideal for applications where localised heating is needed. This also makes them more energy efficient by allowing them to focus on heating a specific area, rather than an entire room.
    • Heat lamps are quick to warm up. They deliver warmth almost instantly after being turned on, making them practical for scenarios where quick heat is necessary.
    • Modern heat lamps typically offer precise control over the temperature that they give off. These heat lamps can often be temperature controlled to reach the exact desired temperature.
    • Heat lamps are inexpensive and cost-efficient for heating most spaces.

    Heat Lamp Applications

    The benefits of heat lamps make them a popular choice for a wide range of industries. Below we’ll go through some of the most common use cases for heat lamps. Some of these include:

    Outdoor Heat Lamps

    Outdoor heat lamps are built to withstand the elements. Constructed from weather-resistant materials, these lamps may include features like waterproof casings and rust-resistant finishes. Most outdoor heat lamps also use short wave infrared technology as this is more resistant to wind as compared to other wavelengths, further improving their outdoor functionality. Some models are designed with aesthetics in mind and can seamlessly integrate into outdoor spaces. They can commonly be found on decks, patios, and even at some restaurants with outdoor seating in the winter.

    Heat Lamps for Food

    Heat lamps can be commonly seen in the food service industry. In restaurants, these lamps keep food warm before serving, ensuring that dishes maintain their optimal temperature without compromising quality.Heat lamps for food differ from standard heat lamps in that they must be constructed to meet hygiene standards and ensure food safety. They also typically feature shatter resistant coatings to prevent glass contamination in case of a breakage. Their design emphasises easy cleaning and maintenance to meet the standards of the food service industry.

    Infrared Paint Curing Heat Lamps

    Constructed for industrial efficiency, infrared paint curing heat lamps feature high-quality reflectors and durable components. They are used in automotive and industrial settings to expedite the drying and curing of paint, enhancing production efficiency. By speeding up the curing process, they also help painters to eliminate issues that could result from environmental factors like humidity. This was one of the first initial use cases of infrared lamps and they are still used for this process even today.

    Heat Lamps for Plants

    Heat lamps for plants focus on supporting photosynthesis. These lamps are often used in indoor gardening, providing supplemental light and heat for plants, especially during periods of insufficient sunlight. They typically come with adjustable stands and different light spectrums to provide the right amounts of heat and radiation to plants throughout the different stages of their growth cycle. This makes heat lights a popular choice for gardeners and botanists around the world.

    Heat Lamps for Reptiles

    Reptile heat lamps are specifically designed to promote the comfort of these cold-blooded creatures. Unlike humans, reptiles rely on heat to regulate their body temperature. These heat lamps are typically used in enclosures to provide bearded dragons, snakes, and other reptiles with the heat they need to survive. These heat lamps are typically designed with additional features like protective casings to prevent the reptiles from making direct contact with the lamp.

    Heat Lamps for Animals & Pets

    Reptiles aren’t the only kinds of animals that can benefit from infrared lamp technology. One notable example of other animals that benefit from heat lamps are chickens. Typically chicken owners use heat lamps to assist with incubating chicks. Small mammals like rabbits can also benefit from heat lamps during the colder months. Heat lamps for pets and animals usually come with adjustable settings and enclosures to prevent direct contact with the heat lamp, preventing burns and breakage of the glass.

    Bathroom Heat Lamps

    The bathroom is likely the place you’re most likely to run into heat lamps. They are particularly common in hotel rooms and luxury properties. Bathroom heat lamps are designed for efficient heating and ventilation. They often come as part of combo units including a fan and exhaust system, but can also be found stand-alone in many bathrooms. They offer a warm ambiance that can be helpful in clearing away condensation from mirrors, walls, and other surfaces. This can be helpful with preventing a buildup of mould or mildew in these typically damp rooms. If you’re feeling cold after your showers it might be time to look into adding a heat lamp to your bathroom.

    Heat Lamps Application

    The Many Types of Heat Lamps

    For such seemingly simple devices, heat lamps have a wide variety of different types suited to different applications. Below we’ll go into a few of the more common types of heat lamps to give you an idea on what’s available on the market and which could be most suited to your specific use case.

    Short Wave Heat Lamps

    Short wave heat lamps are used in a wide variety of applications from industrial settings to outdoor patio heating. The key technology behind these bulbs is the use of short wave infrared. Short wave infrared is more intense and transmissive as compared to long or medium wave infrared. Short wave heat lamps provide a range of benefits outside their heating capacity and transmission. This includes the rapid speed with which they warm up and their energy efficiency. They are most suited to be used for more intensive and focused heating tasks like curing and drying paint. They are also surprisingly effective in windy conditions making them a popular choice for outdoor heat lamps. They are not well-suited to being used indoors or at close range due to their heat intensity and the amount of light produced.

    Medium Wave Heat Lamps

    Medium wave heat lamps provide a balance between intensity and coverage, making them ideal for use indoors. As compared to short wave heat lamps, their heat is more easily absorbed by people and objects, but less effective at heating from a distance. Unlike short wave heat lamps, medium & long range heat lamps take longer to reach their maximum temperature. Medium wave heat lamps generally need anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute to heat up, while long wave heat lamps can take even longer. They are also not effective in windy conditions making them more suited to indoor use than outdoor.

    Long Wave Heat Lamps

    Long wave heat lamps are typically used for more gradual heating of enclosed spaces. Unlike short and medium wave heat lamps, long wave heat lamps can take a very long time to heat up, with most taking anywhere between 5-20 minutes to reach their peak temperature. They emit very little light which can be convenient when compared to medium and short wave heat lamps, but of course there is a tradeoff to the amount of heat they can provide. They are typically only used indoors as they are heavily affected by wind and other elements.

    Red Heat Lamps

    Red heat lamps are standard heat lamps equipped with red filters. The red filters are used to filter out visible light, creating a warm reddish glow. These lamps prioritise visual comfort by eliminating the visible light, making them suitable for reptiles and pets, whose sleep cycles may be affected by the presence of too much visible light. They typically have a longer warm-up time and lower intensity as compared to other types, but their ability to filter out natural light makes them a popular choice among heat lamps.

    Gold Heat Lamps

    Gold heat lamps offer similar benefits to red heat lamps. Gold heat lamps incorporate a gold-coated reflector to reduce glare while maintaining efficient heat emission. They are often used in environments with sensitive lighting requirements, such as art galleries. The gold coating minimises visual discomfort, making these lamps suitable for areas where both effective heating and lighting are essential. While they may have a longer warm-up time, their ability to deliver warmth without compromising visual comfort is a key advantage.

    Clear Heat Lamps

    Clear heat lamps are capable of emitting both heat and visible light. This dual functionality makes them adaptable for various applications. In outdoor events, clear heat lamps can provide both warmth and illumination, creating a comfortable ambiance. Their balanced heat projection makes them suitable for settings where a combination of effective heating and visible light is desired. These are typically the cheapest types of heat lamps as they don’t have the red coating or gold reflectors needed to affect the visible light given off by the lamp.

    Solar Heat Lamps

    Solar heat lamps harness energy from the sun, providing an eco-friendly and sustainable heating solution. Their heat projection is influenced by the intensity of sunlight, making them suitable for outdoor spaces and remote locations. Solar heat lamps offer a dispersed heat emission, creating a comfortable environment without relying on traditional power sources. While their heat projection may vary based on sunlight availability, the environmental benefits and independence from electrical grids make solar heat lamps an innovative and green solution for outdoor heating.

    Ceramic Heat Lamps

    Ceramic heat lamps utilise a ceramic heating element to emit infrared radiation. These lamps are renowned for their durability and efficient heat projection. The ceramic construction allows them to reach high temperatures, making them suitable for applications that require consistent and targeted heating. Commonly used in reptile habitats, ceramic heat lamps provide a focused heat source without emitting visible light, creating an ideal environment for reptiles that require warmth without disturbance to their natural light cycles. The focused and intense heat projection of ceramic heat lamps makes them valuable for precision heating in various settings.

    Common Questions about Heat Lamps

    Next we’ll address some common concerns regarding the safety, energy usage, and practicality of heat lamps. From leaving them on overnight to understanding their lifespan, we ‘ll provide straightforward answers to help you navigate the use of heat lamps effectively.

    Popular Brands

    RS Pro

    RS Pro

    Looking for quality heating solutions? Explore RS Pro, RS’s in-house brand, for quality heat lamps and infrared lights.

    Shop Now



    Widely known for their lighting products, Philips also provides a range of heat lamps available at RS.

    Shop Now



    Started in Australia and now a member of the Legrand Group, HPM provides a range of electrical components including heat lamps. Check out their collection at RS.

    Shop Now