Do Patio Heaters Really Work

Sitting on the patio or deck in the evening is a great way to relax, especially after a busy day. Our outdoor space is the perfect place to enjoy a drink with family or friends. But what happens when it gets chilli? Well it can spoil the fun, no one wants to sit there shivering. The obvious solution is a patio heater, but do patio heaters really work?

A patio heater can be a good investment for the backyard. However there is not just the expense of buying one, but also the cost of running one. Will the heat return be worth the financial investment, or is it better to buy some blankets.

Do Patio Heaters Really Work?

Yes they do work, however don’t expect miracles. The efficiency of a patio heater depends on a few factors. First the size of the patio heater you invest in will determine how much heat will be emitted. Second the size of the area you are trying to heat. Finally, how cold it is and how warm you want it. If frost is on the ground, it will take a monster of a patio heater to get a tropical feel.

Get the right heater for your deck and those chilly evenings will be a thing of the past.

How Do Patio Heaters Work?

There are three types of patio heaters to consider when we want to heat our outdoor space. All work in a similar way, but use a different energy to heat.

Natural Gas Patio Heater

Do Patio Heaters Really Work

One is a natural gas heater, which will utilize a natural gas line. This is obviously very convenient, but will need professional installation. This will make the upfront cost a little expensive with the heater itself and installation. Also it may involve some groundwork to get a gas pipe to where you want the heater.

Make sure you are placing the heater in the best position to heat the area you want. The reason for this is that it will be fixed in place. These are not portable units you can move around, and so a little more restrictive.

Propane Gas Patio Heater

Do Patio Heaters Really Work

The second type is the propane gas patio heater. There will be no installation costs, however on top of the heater unit itself, there will be the cost of the propane tank. It is said that these do cost a little more to run than a natural gas unit.

The advantage the propane unit has over the natural gas unit is it is portable. They are easy to move around your patio or decking area. If you decide to change the layout of your patio furniture, then the heater can be moved accordingly.

Electric Patio Heater

Do Patio Heaters Really Work

The final type is the electric patio heater. A popular choice with many as they are simple to use, just plug and play as they say. There is no professional installation required, nor do you need to buy any extra kit like the gas tank. The obvious thing you will need is an outlet on or close to your outdoor space to plug into.

The electric version is easy to use, however it will be restricted to a close area around the outlet. Unless of course you use an extension cord, but this will mean a cord trailing around your deck. This of course can be a trip hazard.

The choice between these three types is a personal one and which form of energy you prefer to use. The natural gas unit although has a higher upfront cost will generally be less expensive to run. While the electric type has the least upfront cost, but generally will coast more to run.

Do Patio Heaters Keep You Warm?

Do Patio Heaters Really Work

Patio heaters do keep you warm. However there are a few factors to bear in mind before you jump ahead a buy the first one you see. Not all patio heaters are the same in terms of heat that will give you. Each unit will have a BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating, the higher the BTU the more space you can heat.

It is tempting to just get the heater with the highest BTU rating, and that is fine. But if you only have a small area to heat, it is pointless buying a unit that will heat a space five times the size. You will be wasting energy as well as money.

Calculating BTU

It is easy to calculate the BTU rating you will need by measuring the area you want to heat and converting that into the cubic measurement. This is then multiplied by the temperature you want to achieve.

To keep things easy lets assume the area we want to heat is 10ft x 10ft. Most patio heaters are under 8ft high, so we use this as our height. The calculation would look like this: 10 x 10 x 8 = 800 cubic feet. We are looking to bring the temperature in that area up by around 10°F. So will calculate 800 x 10 = 8000 BTUs.

How about a deck that is 35ft by 15ft? This is the calculation: 35 x 15 x 8 = 4200 cubic feet. Let’s say a 15°F temperature increase. 4200 x 15 = 63000 BTUs.

This just a guide, but will give you an idea of what size patio heater to look for. On the other hand it is easier to rely on the manufacturer. There are usually BTU ratings shown on the units and more often than not an approximate area that the unit will heat.

Are Patio Heaters Worth It?

Do Patio Heaters Really Work

Generally yes they are, especially if you only have a small outside area to heat. The larger the area the more effort it is going to take to heat. This may mean you will need more than one patio heater depending on your BTU requirement.

If the outside area to heat requires 140,000 BTUs’, the four patio heaters with around 40,000 BTU’s will be required. That is going to be expensive to set up and expensive to run. So it is worth organizing your outside space to accommodate a smaller area that needs heating. Just heat the area around your outside furniture, or around your outside bar.

This will keep things easier on the pocket.

Patio Heater Alternative

There are of course a couple of patio heater alternatives in the form of a fire pit, or a chiminea. These use solid fuel such as wood.

These two alternatives are loved by many, with the flickering flames and natural heat. Sitting around a fire pit can not only give the natural heat of fire, but also the option to toast those marshmallows.

However the downside is the higher maintenance as the ashes need to be cleaned up regularly. They are harder to light and can throw sparks and embers out. A fire pit or chiminea should never be left unattended as it could be a fire risk.

Another downside is the smoke, unless the right solid fuel is used, a fair amount of smoke can be given off. This not only can get in the eyes and be somewhat offensive. But also can make our clothes smell of smoke, plus the house if windows are open.

They are great alternatives, but they do come with their drawbacks.

Final Thoughts

The upshot is patio heaters do really work, but will need a little planning to get the best results. And of course they do involve a cost, especially if we want to heat a fairly large area. Budget is the big factor here, for purchase as well as running costs.

Just as the options of natural gas, propane gas and electricity, there are also many design options. The standard mushroom or umbrella style is the most popular. However there are wall mounted and hanging patio heaters too. As well as pyramid and box designs that give a contemporary feel to the garden.

A patio heater is ideal for a seating area in the garden as this will minimise the area to heat. Likewise a patio heater is ideal for a garden bar where the space is more compact. Whether it is s lightly chilly summers night, or a cold winters evening, a patio heater is the solution to keep us warm.

So plan the space, take the plunge and enjoy your outside space in warmth.

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