Wall mounted heaters are characterized by the type of vent they use and the method of heating. The three main vent options are direct vent, natural vent, and vent-free. The heating methods include radiant infrared, blue flame, and furnace models.
Let's start with the venting options.
Direct vent horizontal termination kit
Direct vent models typically vent horizontally through an outside wall. The system draws in outside air for combustion and vents any exhaust outside. This makes it a great option for people who don't want any exhaust to enter the room. Unfortunately, it requires installation on an outside wall, which may not be an option in the room you want to heat.
Direct vent wall furnace
Natural vent wall furnaces vent vertically like a chimney. The vent pipe must run all the way up through the roof. This option works well if you want your heater to have a vent but are not able to position the heater on an outside wall. The drawbacks are that it can be a hassle to run a vent pipe all the way through your home to the roof.
Vent-free or ventless models (as the name implies) don't require any vent pipe. The electric models are all ventless since they don't have any combustion gases to vent in the first place. Ventless gas models are designed to burn so efficiently that the byproduct of the combustion is minimal. It is so small that the heater can vent directly into the room. It also draws in room air for combustion.
Hooking up a gas line to a natural gas indoor wall heater
Vent-free gas models are incredibly convenient, but there are some possible drawbacks to consider. Because they use room air and vent directly into the room, you must make sure the room is big enough that there is plenty of oxygen and the flue gases will disperse. All of the models should come with specific ratings for how big the room must be. It is very important to follow all of the guidelines closely.
Vent-free gas models are not recommended for people who suffer from smoke allergies or other air-quality sensitivities like asthma. Although the amount of by-product released into the room is very, very small, it has the potential to bother people who are sensitive. Some places also restrict the use of vent-free gas models, so you'll need to check if they are allowed in your area.
Now let's look at the various heating methods.
Radiant infrared heat is a heating technology used with both electric and gas heaters. Remember those charts from your science class? The visible light that we can see ranges from red (low energy light waves) to violet (high energy light waves).
If you keep increasing the frequency past violet, you get ultraviolet light and then x-rays. On the other side of the spectrum, if you keep lowering the frequency below what we can see with our eyes, you get infrared rays.
In case you're confused about how light waves can be used to heat a room, remember that heat is a form of energy. When a heater generates gentle, low-energy infrared rays into the room, they interact with the objects and heat them up. In that way, the heat is transferred directly to objects in the room.
This makes for a very quick, evenly-distributed heat. It works especially well for less insulated spaces like garages or basements since it heats the objects instead of the air.
As mentioned above, infrared heating can be achieved with both gas and electric models. Infrared electric models are more effective than the typical floor convection heating that uses electricity to heat the air.
Radiant space heater
Some find that these heaters get a little too hot or stuffy in rooms that are very well insulated. Another drawback is that they are more prone to ignite flammable objects or cause burns if you get too close. Make sure you keep flammable things away from the heater.
The second heating method is by blue flame heat. This is only for gas models. Blue flame works by heating the air in front of the heater which gradually spreads out and heats the room.
Blue flame gas wall heater
These heaters work particularly well in small, insulated areas. They may take longer to heat up the room, but you can help circulate the warm air by turning on a fan (with the blades reversed so that air is moved downwards).
Wall-mounted furnaces are gas heaters that require an outside vent (either a direct vent or natural vent.) They operate similarly to high-efficiency fireplaces. They have a sealed combustion chamber that heats up and warms the surrounding metal enclosure. This, in turn, radiates heat to the room.
Gas wall-mounted furnaces are highly efficient and much more cost-effective than electric heat. They are also capable of heating larger spaces, and in some cases, they can heat the entire home. The drawbacks are that they require venting and cost more for the unit and the professional installation.
There are three main configurations when it comes to installing wall heaters. The first is a surface-mount heater. This is the simplest version because it mounts directly to the wall with brackets or screws. A recessed or framed wall heater is designed to be framed into the wall. A third, less common configuration is the ceiling mount.
Most 6,000 to 30,000 BTU ventless heaters are surface mount designs. Several b-vent and direct vent room heaters are also available as surface mount models.
Infratech single element infrared wall heater
The majority of surface mount wall heaters can be mounted directly up against sheetrock, wood, or other flammable material. The unit is built with various shields to keep the parts that touch the walls in the back from getting hot enough to be a fire hazard. You will need to watch out for clearance requirements for any adjacent walls or shelves.
If you need a gas line, you'll need to have a professional run a line to the location where you want to hang the heater. It can be stubbed up into the wall directly behind the heater or routed through the floor or wall with a shutoff installed at the unit.
Recessed models sit back in a framed space in the wall so that they don't stick out into the room. This is more common for larger models designed to heat entire homes or large spaces. Because these units put out a lot of heat, framing them into the wall keeps the hot sides away from the living area and keeps the unit from taking up a lot of floor space. The recessed framing also leaves room for the vertical venting system.
Obviously, framing a heater into the wall takes more effort and is both more permanent and more expensive. An in wall heater is usually sized to fit in between studs, so ideally you won't have to cut or move any studs during the installation.
Ceiling-mounted heaters are mounted on the ceiling (bet you couldn't guess). Many of the ceiling-mount heaters we carry are outdoor heaters and are great for using on your patio or deck. Ceiling models are versatile in that they usually come with the option to mount either on the wall or on the ceiling.
Infratech heater installed on a patio
Another thing to keep in mind is the wall heater gas or fuel source. A propane wall heater and a natural gas wall heater require a gas line routed to the unit. It's best to have a gas shut off right at the unit so you can quickly turn off the gas to the heater.
Many gas models have ignition systems that do not require electricity. However, if your gas unit is equipped with a blower, fan, or IPI ignition, you will need an electrical source. Typically, the electricity needed for these features does not require a dedicated circuit.
Electric models require a power source. We recommend hiring a technician to wire a dedicated circuit for your wall heater. The residential models are available in 120-volt and 240-volt options.
Why Choose a Wall Heater Instead of a Space Heater?
Endless Summer radiant wall heater
Small electric space heaters are easy to move around and plug into an outlet. So why bother to buy a unit that mounts on the wall? The short answer is that most wall heaters - especially propane wall heaters or natural gas wall heaters - are far more efficient at heating. They are also more effective at heating larger spaces.
Portable electric heaters have their place, but they're not very good at heating entire rooms. If you want to save money on heating costs and effectively heat larger areas, wall heaters are your best bet.
What Are The Different Ignition Systems?
Gas wall heaters have different ignition systems depending on the model. Two of the main options include the matchless Piezo ignition system and electronic ignition. The main difference is that the Piezo system does not require electricity, while the electronic ignition does.
Piezo ignition is similar to a push button cigarette lighter. It has a push-button start that triggers a small hammer to strike against a hard surface (usually quartz). This creates a spark that allows the heater to ignite.
Electronic ignitions, including IPI ignition, require an electrical source. The IPI ignition is used for gas models and features an electrode that lights the pilot light to ignite the gas.
Ready to start looking for the model that fits your needs? Here is a list of our top recommended manufacturers to get you started. You will find a variety of models and fuel options, including gas, electric, outdoor models, and more.
Infratech Comfort has specialized in infrared technology for over 50 years. They offer eco-friendly infrared heaters for both commercial and residential applications.
Empire, a family-owned company since 1932, offers a selection of both vented and vent-free zone heaters. All of their vented heaters are made in the USA.
Dimplex is a leading brand for electric heating appliances. In addition to their electric fireplaces, they also carry a selection of electric wall and ceiling-mounted heaters.
Bromic specializes in outdoor heaters. They offer gas, electric, and portable models to help bring warmth to your outdoor space.
Care and Maintenance
Spraying compressed air from a can
As with any heating appliance, proper maintenance is a major factor in the longevity of your wall heater. In addition to following all of the instructions in the manual, here are some tips for caring for your gas and electric heaters.
To prepare your heater for the cold season, inspect the venting system for any debris or nests that may have collected in the pipes. You can also check that the venting joints are secured and sealed.
Remove dust build-up on the interior parts such as the combustion chamber or the heater plaques. We recommend using a can of compressed air for this task.
Throughout the heating season, you can continue to check for dust buildup. At the beginning of the season, make a thorough check of the parts such as the pilot light, ignition system, blowers, and thermostat to make sure everything is working.
In the offseason, turn off the gas to the appliance. This is also a good opportunity to give the parts another dusting.
Electric heaters are delightfully low maintenance, but they still require some inspection and cleaning. Dust the heating elements before firing it up at the beginning of the season. While you are dusting, you can check to make sure all the wires are intact and the connections are secure. You should also give the unit a final dusting at the end of the heating season.
Any "chemical" or "hot" odors coming from the unit when it is on may indicate that the heating element is going out.
Smaller units like the ventless gas units or electric infrared heaters will ship via small parcel post. Larger furnaces, console heaters, or direct vent furnaces require LTL freight. With LTL freight, the shipping company usually contacts you to arrange a delivery date at a time that works for you.
It's important to inspect the unit right away before signing off on the shipment. Once you sign off, the shipping company is no longer liable for any damages. If you do notice anything amiss, contact the manufacturer and they should be able to help you sort things out.
Young girl sitting next to a wall heater
Wall heaters are a great option for adding supplemental heat to your home. They are not as portable as plug-in space heaters, but they are more efficient and much better at heating larger spaces. Some are even adequate to heat an entire home.
Choose from natural gas, propane, or electric models depending on what is most convenient for you. There is also a range of styles and different installation options to suit your home.
If you have any questions about wall heaters, please reach out to our NFI Certified Specialists. We would be happy to answer your questions!