Patio heaters let you spend more time in your garden in spring and autumn evenings as well as on occasional chilly summer evenings. They have become increasingly popular in the last two to three years.
There are several ways to heat your patio including gas powered patio heaters, both free standing and table top; electric usually wall-mounted heaters; chimineas; and barbecues.
Gas powered patio heaters need good ventilation and should only be used outdoors. Chimineas and BBQs too should only be used outdoors for the same reason.
Patio heaters warm you with their radiant energy. This generally means that you have to be within a few feet of the heater to feel the heat coming from it. More powerful heaters produce more heat (measured in kW) and their heat can be felt over greater distances. The most effective heating is produced by a powerful heater with well-designed emitters and reflector. The reflector which is usually mounted at the top of the patio heater distributes the radiant heat in an arc downwards and outwards.
Free standing vs. table top heaters
Free standing patio heaters generally have a power output from 6 to 13 kW, and many have adjustable heat settings. Table top heaters are generally less poweful, usually in the region of 3-6 kW. Table top models are however lighter and easier to store and position. Free standing models can be heavy, although some have wheels to help move them.about.
Look for models that have:
- A solid, firm base that provides stability.
- An anti tilt shut off device. This means that the gas flow is stopped if the heater gets tipped up.
- A reflector and emitter mounted a long way (over 6′) from the ground so you can’t accidentally touch then and get burnt.
Remember to place the heater away from anything that might burn, such as gazebos, trees and trellises.
When not in use you should store the heater in a sheltered place, to prevent damage in high winds.
… the relative merits of electric and gas
We receive more and more inquiries from the general public, as well as restaurants and hotels, about what is the best type of patio heater. Should they go electric or gas?
Both power sources have different advantages
GAS – MOBILE
Mobility is the obvious advantage here!
You can get some very cheap heaters – although we would not advise using them as the fire danger from lack of stability and lightweight is more than we could live with! Make sure they have safety cut off features as well.
The LPG gas is a cheap power source but you need to buy a couple of bottles and keep remembering to order the refills.
Take care, if using under an umbrella that there is a serious clearance between canvas and flammable canopy and the source of heat. Soime advise never using one under a parasol.
GAS – MAINS
Mains gas heaters are a rarely asked for beast, but they are available.
They are cheap to run, being gas, but there is less choice of models and delivery will be longer.
Available both as wall heaters and as plumbed in “tower” heaters. The “tower”heaters look like the popular mobile gas heaters but the bottom section is slimmer as it does not have to contain an LPG bottle.
Obviously, enough, once installed you cant move them! These heaters come at a price as they need to be professional installed and with underground plumbing.
Again, you need to make sure that any parasols are not close enough to cause a fire hazard.
ELECTRIC HEATERS – HARD WIRED
Can either be hard wired into a wall or come with a parasol with integrated electrics.
The parasol with integrated electrics will then be hard wired into underground cabling.
You will need a qualified electrician for hard wiring. The advantage of hard wiring is that there are no straying wires – both much safer and more attractive.
You can also add light as well as heat – some models of heater have both heat and light in one.
Electric heaters have different “IP ratings”. For example, an IP65 rating means that the heater is dust and waterproof and so can be used in an exposed position. IP20 rating requires you to put the heater under a canopy or shelter.
Parasols with integrated electrics tend to be the larger sizes and those with metal poles.
Concerns are raised that electric heaters are expensive to run. We reckon on about 9/10p per kilowatt.
Most work with infrared technology which heats objects rather than the air so they are efficient in this regard.
We would say that electric heaters slotted onto parasol struts are safer than using a portable gas heater under a parasol.
There is no flame, no noise, and instant heat.
You must still take care to keep parasol canopies away from the fixed wall heaters
ELECTRIC HEATERS – BOLT ON
For parasols without integrated electrics, you can buy bolt on eletric heaters ( and lights). These bolt onto the parasol struts and then plug in. They need an overground cable running from the mains source.
Whilst this is a solution for smaller parasols and those with wooden poles, the obvious disadvantage is the trailing overground wire.
This option is often cheaper than the hard wired option.
Again, most tend to be infra red heaters. There is no flame, no noise, and instant heat.
Great for adding on heat and light when you already have a parasol.