You love your patio during warm weather, but when the fall chill hits you stop using the patio until spring. Don’t give up your outdoor space so easily. The right size and style patio heater will warm your outdoor area so you can enjoy it on chilly evenings. Imagine yourself sitting in your patio furniture, wearing a sweater and sipping a cup of hot tea while enjoying the ambient heat from your patio heater.
Patio Heater Styles
Choosing the right heater style ensures you achieve the temperature and comfort you need, without disrupting the design or decor of your patio.
People who do a lot of entertaining gravitate towards standalone patio heaters. These heaters are tall, capable of producing enough heat to provide for an entire table or two of people, or about 20 feet in diameter. They’re constructed of a base, a pole, the heating element, and a reflector to direct the heat.
The heating element is usually mounted atop the pole, and contains the heater’s fuel. The reflector is like a shallow lampshade, and it keeps the heat from rising and escaping. Though the narrow design means you can easily fit a standalone heater on a tabletop, any deck or patio with an overhang might cause a challenge. Ensure you can stand the heater beneath the overhang with the amount of clearance the manufacturer recommends before purchasing one.
For patio spaces with limited square footage, a mounted heater is a popular choice. These units attach directly to walls, posts, or ceilings. They are not portable, so once you choose the best place for the heater, there it stays. However, being able to turn on a heater without dragging it out of storage every time you want to use your patio has distinct advantages.
Typically, these heaters don’t produce as much heat as the stand alone heaters do, but some models come pretty close. You can always mount one at either end of your patio to ensure even heating.
A variation on the mounted heater is the hanging heater. Instead of mounting the heater on the wall or ceiling, it hangs down like a light fixture. Like mounted heaters, you can’t move these without significant effort. They’re usually electric, because that’s the easiest way to power a hanging heater.
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The most portable kind of patio heater is the tabletop. They’re small enough to carry from one space to another without help, and provide enough heat for a table when placed in the table’s center. Some tabletop heaters look like mini standalone heaters. Others are designed to look like lamps, and you can shop for varieties that complement your outdoor decor. When you have people over, they might be surprised to learn that your table lamp is actually a heater!
Tabletop heaters are usually electric, so you’ll need an outlet nearby to use them. You can find varieties that use other fuel types, but your search for the perfect tabletop design will be much easier if you’re able to use an electric heater.
Fuel Types for Patio Heaters
Each fuel type has advantages, and your patio space will dictate the easiest kind of fuel for you to use.
Plug in your heater and let it warm your space! People love electric heaters because they’re easy to use. Get an energy efficient model to ensure you aren’t putting undue strain on your power bills during the cold months when you’ll be using your patio heater. Homeowners love electric heaters because you can install and deal with them yourself.
For heaters with open flames, like portable fire pits, you’ll need propane fuel. You install a tank of propane in your heater, and you can move it around your patio or backyard at will. Ensure you have enough clearance for any open flames, like a portable fire pit, before you light the propane. Though propane is impractical for permanent heaters, it’s perfect if you have an outdoor space with no access to a gas line or an outlet.
If you already have natural gas hooked up to your house, consider choosing a permanent heater that runs via natural gas. You’ll need a professional to hook up your natural gas heater, but once it’s hooked up, all you need to do is switch it on. Natural gas is inexpensive to use and relatively environmentally friendly.
Great Heater Features to Consider
Fuel type and style go a long way in helping you choose a heater. When you’re ready to further narrow your choice, consider these fabulous extra features:
- A tip over or tilt switch, which turns the heater off if it falls over.
- Automatic shut off, which turns off the heater if it gets too hot.
- Cool-touch safety features, which ensure the heater isn’t hot to the touch.
- UL and CSA safety testing and approval.
How to Choose the Right Patio Heater Size
When you research patio heaters, you’ll find that companies express heating capacity in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. Knowing that a BTU is how much heat you need to heat a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit isn’t going to help you understand how much heat a 40,000 BTU heater can produce. Instead, measure your square footage, then check how many BTUs you need to heat it.
For example, to heat 100 square feet, you need about 5,000 BTUs. However, you don’t need to add 5,000 BTUs for every additional 100 square feet. 300 square feet takes about 7,000 BTUs to heat, while 1,000 square feet takes between 18,000 and 21,000 BTUs to heat. Remember that, though you’re calculating square footage, the heat radiates from the heater in a circle. So you might need two small heaters for an oblong shape to cover the square footage. Both weather and patio decor can impact how well the heat disperses.
The right patio heater turns your outdoor space from a seasonal to an all-season part of the house. While you might not want to sit out there while it’s snowing, chilly weather won’t be able to keep you away from the patio any longer.