You would think that Spain is basking in sunshine all year round, and that heating is a bit of an afterthought even in the coolest months of the year; but this couldn’t be further from what folks living in some regions of Spain actually experience when it comes to the weather.
While Costa Blanca, Cabo de Gata and the Canary Islands, for example, have ambient and often warm temperatures during the winter months, regions like Aragon and towns like Torre de Cabdella and Reinosa are chilly throughout the year and require a decent, yet cost-effective heating system. You could say it is not all sunshine and sangria!
Why is infrared heating becoming more and more popular in Spain (Espana)?
Infrared heating panels and bar heaters are becoming a more and more popular form of heating in Spain, whether they are to be used in domestic homes or in a business premises. Infrared heating systems work well as a primary heating source or a supplementary heating source alongside the air conditioning unit for the property. Infrared panels originally took off in countries like Austria, Germany and Sweden, but word about their cost effectiveness and durability soon spread all around Europe.
When we talk about infrared heating in this blog, we refer to far-infrared heating rather than near infrared heating (such as halogen heaters). Near infrared is the type you’ll often see in commercial premises in public places like restaurants and train station waiting areas. Far-infrared uses infrared light to heat solid objects and the eyes can’t see it, unlike with near infrared, which glows as it heats. New medium-wave heaters have become popular for outdoor seating areas instead of these halogen heaters, as they are not too intense but are a bit more powerful, to counteract the movement of cold air when seated and stationary.
Although some places in Spain get long spells of cool weather, the climate isn’t as extreme as Northern Europe where you are faced with sub-zero temperatures for 3 months of the year. In Spain, consumers usually like a gentle heating source that tops up a cool/ambient environment to a more comfortable level in the winter months.
We always advise any new-adopters to be cautious with a technology that is relatively unknown in the Spanish consumer market. Therefore, it is best to carry out all the possible research prior to adoption, and we take a few moments to explain some of the challenges if you are trying to do so for a typical Spanish property, based on our experience and customer feedback over the years.
Best way to heat a property in Spain (Espana)
The issue with many Spanish homes is that they are poorly insulated. Certainly if they were constructed before 2006, prior to the adoption of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which at least specified some minimum standards for insulation, boilers and air-conditioning units.
Newer Spanish properties are constructed with a solid material then insulation with a mineral or Rockwool external rendering system, making the properties not only cosier in the Winter months, but more bearable during the scorching Spanish summers. With newer properties, the heating and cooling systems and additional insulation work much more efficiently and are less costly to run.
While in the UK a whole-house central heating system is quite common, in Spain the heating systems (due to characteristics of the Spanish climate), are more piecemeal. You tend to get air-conditioning units installed in rooms, with an inverter that is used to manage the internal climate if it gets too hot or too cold. However, typical sized air-conditioning units can be rated 4 or 5kWs per section of the house. If you require 2 or more external packaged units, you could be racking up a huge electricity bill if they are being used to heat or cool the internal climate.
It is quite common now to have open fireplaces in the living rooms of modern Spanish properties, as firewood is quite easy to get hold of in Spain. However, the fireplace in the front room may not transfer some of the useful heat to the furthest corners of the property, so they could always use an additional source of heat like infrared.
If you have a Spanish property or you are one of the members of the EU expat community then you will probably resonate with this next section, which briefly lists some weird heating sources used in the properties out there. So, you may have come across the following heating sources: Calor gas heater, paraffin heater, electric storage heater, plug-in electric fan heaters.
Our team was recently out in Spain for a couple of external training days, renting out a villa near the ocean in Barcelona’s city centre. I remember how uneasy I felt firing up the paraffin heater in the front room: at the same time feeling too hot in one part of the room and absolutely freezing in the other part. Mind you, we wouldn’t have felt like this if we chose to do our training in June/ July!
Now that we have explored the Spanish history of heating, you will be pleased to know the rest of the blog is devoted to explaining the fantastic benefits of infrared heating.
Infrared heating works with the Spanish voltage system
As infrared heating manufacturers and designers have tended to come from Europe, the output of the panels has been designed for the European, Russian, African, Asian and Australian consumer market. Therefore, unless you are buying from a US or Canadian manufacturer (110volts), the infrared heating panel will be rated for 220-240volts and come fitted with a European plug (unless it is UK-made). This can then be plugged in straight away to the mains.
The best option if the heater is 220/240v rated, is to wire the panel into the mains circuit. What does the electrician actually do?
The electrician will cut the end of the plug and wire the panel into the circuit. The panels may be wired to a switch or a programmable thermostat to achieve zonal heating, which we discuss in more detail later on in this article.
We would advise against installing them yourself unless you are familiar with the electrical standards for low voltage appliances or the property has a valid ‘Boletin’, which is document issued by a competent electrical contractor installing the electrical appliances complaint with Spanish Electrical Standards.
Infrared heating can get to those cold and damp spots
Our team loved being in the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, but didn’t very much enjoy the rather cold stay! While in the summers we appreciate that heating may not really be an issue, staying on in the winter months throughout most of Spain requires a decent, cost-effective heating system to make mornings and evenings comfortable.
While we were staying at the property, the team found some of the rooms in this particular home to just not have the sufficient heating and there was a mouldy smell during our stay. The rooms did have plug-in electric convector heaters but they just exacerbated the mouldy smell rather than making it go away. Presumably this is because convection currents just circulate the air, rather than drying it out.
Infrared heating panels would have been the perfect solution for some of these rooms. Not only do they run effectively at a fraction of the cost, they are also a form of dry heat. If you have damp walls, then infrared heating will help dry them out.
When they are turned on for a period of time, infrared heaters will target cold spotss. As long as you have sized up the rooms correctly, and have mounted the heaters correctly on the walls or the ceilings, then the dry, targeted heating will work effectively.
The gentle heating output should reach every part of the room, and won’t make you feel stuffy and uncomfortable, which you will sometimes get with convection heaters. Rather than moving the moisture around in the room, it will eventually dry it out with infrared.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the fact that when heated with conventional heating, some rooms get too hot and stuffy. You are forced to open the window, allowing cold draughts to quickly replace the heated rooms with very cold air. This is the issue with convection heating! However, infrared heating actually acts as a thermal store within the fabric of the building that you are trying to heat. The heat emitted by infrared is absorbed into the the walls and the floors of the room, until the room reaches its thermal mass at the temperature it has been set to. When the heat has been stored in the fabric rather than in the air, you will find that if you need to open a window and let in a bit of fresh air, your rooms will still retain the majority of that heat, rather than allow it to leak into the atmosphere.
Infrared heaters can enhance the look of your Spanish villa
Infrared heaters come in different finishes, but the main ones used in domestic premises are the modern flat panels. These are available in plain matt white, glass, mirror or an image of your favourite photo or painting. The plain carbon fibre can be framed or frameless, with the latter being a bit more visually appealing than the surround ones.
If you want to add a bit of style to your Spanish ‘casa’, then we highly recommend picture panels in living rooms and mirror panels in wet rooms.
Renting the Spanish second home – is infrared heating any good?
Many of our past customers have griped to us about the maintenance of their dream Spanish villas, throughout the year. Some, however, use the second homes as supplementary secondary income by renting them out for most of the year, to holidaymakers or business travellers like ourselves.
Landlords are often concerned that holidaymakers will turn the heating right up without any care for the consumption and costs of running the heating during their stay. With infrared heating panels, they can be wired into the circuit and either as standalone to a receiver/thermostat or together with other panels – with the aim of heating larger rooms or ‘zones’. This allows for greater efficiency.
Infrared heating works amazingly well if you are trying to achieve zonal heating. Zonal heating can either be heating a specific area of the room, or could be heating a specific room like your kitchen, bathroom or living room. As infrared rays need to travel unimpeded to heat physical objects, this makes them different to convection heating which heats the air filling the room.
Therefore, if you have a property with high ceilings and little furniture, then you really need to be careful how and where you place the infrared heaters; this could determine how efficient and effective they actually are.
If they are positioned correctly and sized appropriately, then all you need to think about what level of thermostatic control you would like to achieve. You can install the latest app-controlled thermostats that will work with your smart handheld device or tablet. Therefore, you could be putting your feet up in the UK, whilst monitoring the heating consumption and levels used in your property in Spain. It does sound like overkill, and you may want to educate your guests about the thermostats and how to use them as they come to visit your property.
Spanish homes come in all different forms – sizing infrared heating is important
Spanish properties are a real mix – from traditional stone wall properties, right to more modern prefabricated dwellings. Each different property type will determine the useful heating output you require from your infrared heaters.
On new buildings, both in the UK and Spain, the energy efficiency standards are quite high as both of the countries have signed up to the European Buildings Directive (mentioned previously), which has steadily improved the quality of energy efficiency in domestic and commercial buildings. Therefore, for a new build we recommend about 60 watts per m2 of heating output, but for some period properties the output requirement can be as high as 150 watts per m2. If you are unsure about how many panels you need, and you need help with sizing the system, it is best to get in touch with us directly and we can help pull together a quotation for you.
Infrared heaters can be a primary or secondary heating source in the Spanish ‘casa’
The infrared heaters can be used as a supplementary heating source, or they can make up the full-house solution. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve. The infrared heaters would be much cheaper to install in a room which has central heating radiators, but may require another one on the other side of the room. Actually, to wire and programme your infrared heating panel would be much easier than to lay additional pipework and install another radiator – so infrared installation is hassle-free and quick to put in place.
If you already have a new heating source, that has been carefully integrated into the building design to maximise the efficiency, then it is probably not worth ripping all of this out and getting infrared heating installed throughout. However, if you have a real mish-mash of a heating system, or none at all, then infrared heating would be a viable option to consider.
Heating bathrooms with infrared heating
The infrared heating range are IP-rated, which is a common standard that allows for installation in wet rooms or bathrooms. In terms of the installation side, we recommend you seek professional advice and installation, as electrics and bathrooms with the water and vapour elements are just too risky to try and work around on your own! Typically, the infrared panels are installed to a switch rather than thermostat as it is tricky to find a thermostat that satisfies all the IP requirements.
Once you have sorted out a tradesman for the works, then you need to pick out the sizing and type of heater that would fit into the surroundings. In the UK, we normally don’t like our bathrooms too warm; therefore a smaller heater may be sufficient, but once you are on the continent the culture changes and there is a requirement for much larger heating output. It is not bad idea to have an oversized infrared panel, as the room would get to temperature much quicker, then you can turn it off.
A mirror panel which acts as heater maybe the best solution for you. Mirror panels are fantastic as not only do they serve that purpose, but with the heating element will mean that they don’t steam up if you have just showered and you need to shave or use the mirror as you are getting ready.
You could go for the decorative glass panels or the plain carbon fibre (framed or frameless). They can be installed on the walls or the ceiling, meaning they blend better into the surroundings.
Can infrared heaters be used anywhere else?
While the panels are primarily designed to heat domestic rooms, you can also use far-infrared for your business premises, whether that be a small office, or a larger warehouse and distribution business. While the infrared heating panels can be used in the office environment we recommend different types of heaters for different uses. The following section summarises some of the scenarios that may apply to you and our recommendation of the heater to go for.
Small office with a number of desks and normal sized rooms
We recommend the normal infrared heating panels. The sizing and output requirements will vary and best to come to us with your requirements, so we can offer the appropriate advice.
Shop floor – pubs and clubs
You may be a small business owner in Spain and run your own workshop or simply provide an entertainment establishment that requires some top-up heating for year-round visitors.
In this scenario we recommend the use of the IR or the XL range. The bar heaters offer a much more concentrated and intense heat than the panels themselves, but work very well in rooms that are ventilated and there is plenty of heat loss through the air. As infrared heating allows for minimal losses through air circulation, it is the perfect solution to keep your staff comfortable on the shop floor.
High ceiling commercial spaces – far or medium infrared can do the trick
Rooms with extremely high ceilings are extremely tricky to heat; the Pulsar range can satisfy this requirement. The heaters look extremely stylish (hence blending into the surroundings), are suspended off the ceiling to target an area below that has the work-tops or office desks, where the staff sit. The Pulsar range is the far-infrared range, but in these scenarios, you can also use the medium-infrared range suspended on the walls, which are designed with a more intensive heating output, but heat over a shorter distance.
Heating indoor/ outdoor spaces
You may have a patio area in your commercial premises (pub or club) and we can offer patio heating solutions that would make these spaces much better to use during those chilly months. Great for smoking areas for your staff and customers, or for outdoor eating and drinking all-year round.
Please note: if you are a business with a Spanish VAT number that is approved via the EU VIES scheme we will take the VAT off your order. If you are the end user and purchasing from us, you will have the pay the normal UK VAT rate for the products.
Infrared heating in ‘Espana’ – concluding comments
We get a lot of queries from UK expats or owners of holiday homes in Spain looking for the perfect infrared heater for their property. Since we started a few years ago, we have helped 100s of consumers all around Europe, and not just Spain, but also France, Greece, Malta and the Channel Islands. So, if you just need a bit of advice about infrared heating or you are a bit further down the line and you need help with sizing your rooms, then please get in touch and we can help!