Having a patio gives you a great place to hang out and enjoy the outdoors while you’re at home. Unfortunately, dropping temperatures often makes your patio all but uninhabitable once the fall and winter months come around. Cooler weather doesn’t have to be the end of your time enjoying your patio, however; there are many options available that can extend your time on the patio, including patio heaters.
There are several things that set patio heaters apart from other outdoor heating options like fire pits. Because they’re designed to spread heat out over a larger area, a patio heater might be the ideal solution to keep your patio area usable well into the winter. If you think that one of these heaters might be the perfect addition to your outdoor space, here are a few things to consider to help make sure that you pick the perfect heater.
How Patio Heaters Work
Patio heaters are designed to radiate heat outward, spreading heat over a larger area than you’d cover with a fire pit or other heat source that doesn’t have a cap or other barrier preventing heat from escaping upward. The amount of heat coverage provided by these heaters differs based on the type of heater, its size, and where it’s located on your patio. Some patio heaters include chimneys or other exhaust pipes to vent potentially harmful gases generated as their fuel burns, preventing those gases from being diverted outward by the same caps that redirect the heat.
Depending on your needs, you can find small patio heaters that can sit on top of a table or other surface, as well as larger free-standing units that sit on the patio floor itself. Most heaters include controls similar to what you see on indoor heaters, allowing you to change the amount of heat produced. This lets you adjust your heater for use when you just need to knock off a little chill or when you need to produce more heat on colder nights.
Patio Heater Types
Though there are several different types of patio heaters; the most common varieties are electric, propane, natural gas, and wood-burning heaters. Here is a little information on each type:
- Electric heaters are similar to some of the space heaters you might have used indoors, offering benefits such as portability and heat production without creating fuel exhaust. Unfortunately, these heaters are not as energy efficient as other types, and often do not produce as much heat.
- Propane heaters connect to a propane tank like you would use with a propane grill. They produce more heat than many electric heaters and are still relatively portable, though they should not be used in covered or enclosed areas.
- Natural gas heaters are the most energy-efficient and convenient patio heaters, connecting to your home’s existing natural gas line so that you don’t have to swap out tanks or perform other maintenance. These heaters are not portable at all, however, and need to be professionally installed to ensure that there are no gas leaks.
- Wood-burning heaters are the cheapest patio heaters to operate, but they also require more cleaning and maintenance. They also require more work to light and put out and can be fire hazards if left unattended.
Choosing a Patio Heater
Picking the right heater for your patio area depends a lot on how your patio is laid out and whether portability and maintenance are major concerns for you. Electric and propane heaters are best for those who want to be able to move their heater around easily, and wood-burning heaters are a good option for those who want a heater that operates cheaply and don’t mind emptying out ash and coals to keep the heater clean.
Natural gas heaters are the best options for homes where there’s already a gas line installed, and you don’t mind having a permanent heating option in place.