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Patio Heaters: Keeping You Warm All Year Round

Updated on June 22, 2017
patio space
patio space

Are you considering on buying a patio heater to ease the chill of the cool weather? Learning about how patio heaters work can help you choose the best option for your outdoor space.

What is a Patio heater?

A patio heater is a device designed to generate heat for outdoor use. It takes the concept of a campfire minus the smoke and variable heat produced.

They have become popular with bars and restaurants since they extend the day and the season for their customers to sit outdoors. Likewise, homes now invest on patio heaters to ensure that their decks and outdoor spaces are fully functional all year round.

patio heaters
patio heaters

What are the types of Patio Heater?

Patio heaters come in a variety of forms and style. Patio heaters can be freestanding, tabletop or mounted.

Free standing patio heaters are flexible and moveable thereby, providing more possibilities where to position them in relation to your guests or customers. A freestanding patio heater also allows you to vary the heat by simply moving the heater closer or further from the user.

This type is ideal for larger groups since they give off a large amount of heat. Some units come with a thermometer which allows you to set and regulate temperature in your space and a feature that automatically shut off once the set temperature is reached. Typical of these are the lamp posts-style.

Tabletop heaters are stylish and often resemble the smaller version of their free standing counterparts. Due to its smaller size, less area is covered by the emitted heat and is best in a more intimate setting. The majority of these types is electric but there are options that use miniature propane tanks.

Wall or ceiling- mounted patio heaters are ideal for small spaces. These types provide heat efficiently and majority is electric. They use infrared heat to keep your outdoor space warm. They come with brackets and most units are able to tilt up or down, allowing you to direct the heater where it is needed.

Fuel is necessary for any outdoor heater to provide the intended heat. As to the fuel source, patio heaters can be propane, natural gas or electric.

  • Propane fueled patio heater can be set up almost everywhere and do not require professional installation. Using propane can be convenient in many ways, primarily due to its ease of use. Being available in tanks, it allows the heater to be moved around. While there is no installation process, propane heaters are expensive due to the high cost of the fuel.
  • Natural Gas Patio Heaters are stationary or set up permanently in one place. These types of patio heaters can be quite advantageous because they are hooked up to your natural gas lines. With the constant amount of fuel, there is no need to refill them. However, as with all natural gas appliances, care must be taken and may need to be professionally installed. Patio heaters that run on natural gas have a lower cost of operation compared to propane.
  • Electric Patio heaters are designed to produce heat in a specific direction. They rely on the convection process to produce heat with zero emission. They are normally mounted on walls or ceilings so professional installation may be needed considering the type of voltage and wiring of the device. The fuel cost is in between the propane and natural gas.

How do patio heaters work?

Patio heaters produce heat either one of two ways - through radiation on convection. They either burn propane or natural gas to produce radiant heat, or they heat an element using electricity.

The radiation process. Most patio heaters work through the process known as radiation. Heat transfer through radiation is the process that many different appliances use in order to produce and emit heat.

When turned on, it is heated to a specific temperature and immediately starts to emit heat through electromagnetic waves that are in the infrared range. These waves are not visible to the human eye, but they do produce heat that feels just like the sun’s but without the harmful UV rays.

The convection process. Some patio heaters rely on the convection process to produce heat. This involves electricity moving through a resistor. A resistor inhibits the flow of the electric current.

The electric current that begins to move through is converted into heat energy by the resistor. The hot air that is produced is then moved throughout the space to provide heat. Basically, all convection heaters work in the same way with only minor differences.

The radiant method of heating is found to be more efficient than blowing hot air into an outdoor space since air could just escape with the warmth in it. Radiant heat travels through the air and heats the objects in the patio heater’s range directly.

Thus, a patio heater that relies on radiant heat instead of convection transfer is ideal if you’re looking for an energy efficient outdoor heating source. Investing in one would be a wise move to enhance your outdoor lifestyle.


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