When determining whether to purchase a bulb- or strip-style heating lamp, the answer is fairly simple. Bulb-style lamps are designed more for individual plates or dishes of food, so it may take more of these to achieve the same heated area as a strip-style food warmer. Bulb-style lamps tend to be more attractive and are better suited for front-of-house applications. Strip-style models are more in line with keeping large quantities of food warm. Several strip-style lamps may be used in unison in pass-thru areas. Many strip lamps will require hard-wiring into place, a job that must be done by a qualified electrician.
Another important consideration is how you'd like your lamps mounted. They may be mounted on walls or ceilings, providing a permanent, simple solution. Bulb-style lamps can be mounted on stems or cords, some of which are retractable.
Track mounting will allow for multiple single-bulb lamps to be placed over a broader expanse and makes them movable, so you can position them where you need them.
Countertop warmers are convenient in that they can be placed virtually anywhere there is a power supply.
Buffet-mounted lamps can be manipulated to warm a host of items and can showcase foods on a serving line while keeping them warm.
Floor-model heat lamps are portable, so they can be situated over mobile tables and stations. They are also convenient for caterers.
The type of element is critical in determining the best lamp for your needs.
Ceramic heating elementsare popular due to their ability to cast the widest heat pattern. That makes them great in pass-thru windows.
Quartz elements are also effective and tend to be easily replaceable.
Calrod elements are metal sheathed and use reflective panels to aim heat at your food. These are an economical choice when you need slightly more heat than a bulb warmer.
Infrared heaterss give off intense heat and should be hung at higher levels to prevent burning food.
A heat lamp may have controls that are mounted as an integral part of the lamp, or they may be mounted remotely. Depending on the bulb wattage and heating duration, it may be better to move the controls away from the heat of the element, which can cause damage to the control components over time. Remote mounting of the controls can help to prevent this kind of damage.
Many lamps have simple toggle switches that easily turn them on and off. If you want to have more say in the intensity of the heat, opt for infinite controls that provide incremental adjustment of the power of the unit. Additionally, this type will often offer the option of turning the heat off while leaving the light on, in case you simply want to showcase foods, rather than heat them. Some lamps have two tandem strips of elements, creating a wider, seamless lighted and/or heated area.