MADISON HEIGHTS, MI — Most commercial buildings rely on traditional heating systems to keep occupants comfortable. Depending on the size of the application, those traditional systems might include boilers, forced-air furnaces, heat pumps, or rooftop units.

But what about the unusual applications, or those buildings that are hard to heat? Perhaps they aren’t conducive to ductwork or a more traditional system.

That’s when International Radiant gets involved. The company specializes in heating unique applications, including stadiums, warehouses, car dealerships, and ice rinks. The company bills itself as a stocking buy-sell representative, and it specializes in gas-fired infrared heating products. With an engineering bent, employees at International Radiant also specialize in helping contractors design and install overhead gas-fired infrared heating systems for commercial applications.

Tom Blake, a former sales and marketing manager for Detroit Radiant Products, purchased International Radiant Inc, in 1988.

How It Began

International Radiant Inc. was originally founded in 1955 under the name of International Infra-Red Inc. In 1988, it was purchased by Thomas M. Blake, who was then national sales and marketing manager for Detroit Radiant Products Co. Since then, the entire Blake family has become involved in building the company.

International Radiant started as a supplier of energy-efficient gas-fired infrared heating systems for commercial, industrial, and agricultural buildings located throughout the greater Detroit area. In recent years, the company has added energy-efficient industrial heating and ventilating lines. This includes direct- and indirect-fired gas makeup air units and space heaters, air rotation systems, industrial exhaust-supply fans and louvers, and vehicle exhaust fume-removal systems.

The company now sells to contractors all over the state of Michigan and northwestern Ohio and has become successful by focusing on a specific niche.

“We’ve grown into specialty heating by being good at what we do and not handling a lot of products,” says Blake. Specifically, the company sells the “Re-Verber-Ray” product line, which is manufactured by Detroit Radiant Products, as well as makeup air equipment manufactured by Rupp Air Management.

The specialty applications the company caters to include skating rinks, car dealerships, warehouses, factories, pole barns, aircraft hangars, and agricultural applications. “There’s also a big application for our products in pig and chicken brooding,” says Blake. “Car washes are another big area, and we have special stainless steel heaters for a car wash’s highly corrosive conditions.”

One of the more interesting applications involved installing infrared heaters for the salt baths for several automakers in Detroit. The drivers at the test tracks drive the vehicles through a salt, water, and dirt mixture. These baths are covered by a tent with open ends. Infrared heaters are positioned inside the tent to keep the mixture from freezing.

The only place where Inter-national Radiant’s products won’t be found is in the residential market. They do sell some radiant heaters for residential garages, but that’s about the extent of it.

How It Works

A gas-fired infrared heating system emulates the efficiency of the sun by generating radiant energy that is converted into heat when absorbed by objects in its path. Once the infrared energy is absorbed by the floors, machinery, stock, and people, it is then reradiated to warm the surrounding air.

This method of heating, as opposed to filling a room with warm air (such as a forced-air unit), allows the source of heat to begin at the floor level, not the ceiling. This makes it an efficient and effective method for heating buildings such as warehouses and storerooms.

The units come in sizes ranging from 25,000- to 225,000-Btuh each, and there’s nothing particularly tricky about designing or installing the systems, says Blake. “We can make contractors’ lives easier by providing a lot of information up front, which will help them bid the job properly. We can also help with all the details, such as layouts and CAD drawings.”

The company also can perform building energy analyses and fuel cost savings reports.

Blake notes that location of the equipment is one of the finer points contractors may need help with. “We like to perimeter heat the building with radiant heat, putting the hot part of the heaters by the doors. The location of equipment becomes somewhat of an issue, as well as sizing.”

Figure 1. A gas-fired infrared heating system.

Saves Energy, Too

In addition to being helpful in areas that can’t be served by traditional heating equipment, gas-fired infrared equipment is energy efficient. ASHRAE has stated that infrared heaters can save up to 50% on fuel costs; however, in practice, it depends on the application.

In retrofit applications, users might find the 50% savings cited by ASHRAE, but typically the fuel savings are in the range of 30% to 35%. Re-Verber-Ray also has HL Series two-stage radiant heaters, which the company says can save an additional 12% over single-stage heaters.

“We are allowed a 15% deduct in the heat loss of a building according to ASHRAE design criteria for radiant heat. That’s part of the reason why we save 30% to 35% typically over a hot air system,” adds Blake.

In addition to saving energy, occupant comfort is improved, as the infrared system does not cause as much stratification as other systems can. There is also less heat loss with an infrared system, and comfortable levels can be maintained at lower thermostat settings than can typically be achieved with a forced-air system.

And what about first cost? It depends on the application. In some projects, the infrared heating system may not cost much more than a traditional system. Blake notes that overall, the cost of an infrared system is getting closer to the cost of other systems. With the energy savings, the typical payback can be one to three years over other traditional systems.

Infrared systems last a long time, too — usually 15 to 25 years. Little maintenance is required as well, as the only moving part is the blower motor. Sometimes the heaters don’t even have a moving part, and they simply have to be wiped off occasionally, says Blake.

So contractors in Michigan and northern Ohio who need help heating a unique commercial space might want to contact International Radiant. They’re more than happy to help.

International Radiant can be reached at, 800-334-6856; 248-589-8155 (fax); or (website).

Publication date: 09/24/2001