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A reference to infrared panels may be referring to a couple different things. The term may refer to solar panels that are able to absorb more sunlight and, thus, more energy, than regular solar panels. It also may refer to special heaters that rely on radiant, infrared heat to warm a given space.
Solar panels function by absorbing light from the sun and turning the light into energy. Different panels are able to absorb different amounts of light from different levels of the light spectrum, both factors that govern the amount of potential energy produced. Most solar panels are unable to capture the sun’s infrared light from high on the energy spectrum, but a special type of material on infrared panels, known as low iron, is able to absorb this energy. Regular solar panels use normal iron material.
Aside from being able to absorb more types of energy from the light spectrum, infrared panels have a lower emissions figure. In terms of solar panels, this refers to how much of the captured energy is released back into the atmosphere. Regular solar panels release about 90 percent of their energy back into the atmosphere, while infrared solar panels only release about 3 percent.
While there are many benefits to using infrared panels, a major drawback is that they are much more expensive than their standard counterparts. The price means that only two types of structures would readily benefit from infrared solar panels. Structures that need a large amount of energy and want to be entirely self-sufficient may benefit from using these panels, because of their higher potential energy and lower emissions. Structures in areas with very little sun and thick clouds also are likely to benefit from using infrared panels, because the panels will be able to make use of what limited sun is available.
Infrared heating panels do not absorb infrared energy the way solar panels do. Instead, they disperse it to create warmth. These panels are thin, so they can be mounted on a wall or placed under a desk to warm a room or a particular part of a room while using relatively little energy. When turned on, an infrared heating panel will begin to radiate heat by converting electricity into infrared energy, which will warm up the nearby air and eventually warm the entire room. The heating panels are commonly made of specially tempered glass that is designed to optimize infrared energy dispersion.