Regardless of where you live, when winter comes along, it probably gets cold outside – sometimes, it may even snow. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid the outdoors altogether or freeze. You can easily set up outdoor heaters in your own backyard or patio, per se. Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? Then, you’ll be able to sit on your patio (even during those cold winter months) and enjoy the great outdoors. Of course, finding the right heater for your backyard isn’t exactly the easiest thing on the block. Finding the most suitable heater will be easier with this buyers guide in hand.
A Buyers Guide to Outdoor Heaters
Here, you will find everything you need to know in order to purchase the right heater for your patio. The most common types of patio heaters are gas and electric, with gas being the most popular out of those two. In this guide, you’re going to gain a complete understanding of the materials and fuel types, so pay close attention to what we have to say.
Types of Outdoor Heaters
These are the type of units you can install or attach to exterior walls. They can direct heat in a single direction and can be a great opportunity for saving floor space. They generally have a heating capacity of 3,000 BTU’s.
Are you familiar with ceiling patio heaters? They look really cool on a patio, but not only do they look cool, they do a pretty good job at keeping the area warm. You can mount a ceiling heater to a pergola with an open top. When selecting a location for the ceiling heater, make sure you use caution and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
This may be a good option for you if you’re looking for a heater with the highest heat output. Most free standing patio heaters currently on the market have a heating capacity of around 40,000 BTU’s. Which is amazing if you think about it, that is more than enough to heat a small house. So, if you have a large backyard or outdoor space you would like to heat up during those cold months, a free-standing outdoor heater would do the trick.
You’re probably familiar with a tabletop heater. As the name suggests, this is a heater that you place on tablets. Typically, they are smaller in size and capable of producing around 12,000 BTU’s, which isn’t all that bad for small areas.
These heaters are specifically designed to direct heat in a single direction. This does wonders in small areas where you may have flammable materials. Spot heaters are usually powered by electricity and can be very effective in a patio.
So which of the outdoor heaters do you think would be the best solution for you? Our personal favorite would be a free-standing outdoor heater because of how much heat it can put out, but many people go for the ceiling heaters due to the looks of it. The choice is fully up to you, but make sure you do your research in order to make sure you’re purchasing the one that is the most suitable for your needs.
An Introduction to the Types of Fuel Outdoor Heaters Use
No guide would be complete without telling you about the types of fuel outdoor heaters use – this is definitely something you should familiarize yourself with. That you do not end up purchasing something you can’t use.
Propane Patio Heaters
These are the most popular type of outdoor heater you’ll find. Many upscale commercial venues have these heaters on their decks. As far as getting the propane, many hardware stores sell this type of fuel. You can even find it at convenience locations like 7-Eleven.
There are various benefits nesting behind the propane heater. Here’s a list of some of the benefits:
- Have a heating capacity that is higher than electric patio heaters.
- They’re mobile and you don’t have to place them near an electrical outlet for power.
- Most of them have a dial that you can use in order to adjust the heat.
- They don’t require professional installation. All you have to do is replace or refill the propane tank when it runs out and that is easy to do.
Electric Patio Heaters
This is a modern solution to outdoor heating and has been around for many years. This type of heater uses a bulb that is similar to the type of bulb you’d find in a heat lamp. This bulb is responsible for putting off the warmth you need in your outdoor space. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of outdoor electric heaters:
- These heaters produce Zero Emissions. This means they are safe to use in the environment. For this reason, they are a great choice if you’re “Going Green.”
- Unlike natural gas and propane, electric heaters can be used in partially enclosed areas.
- There’s no need for you to worry about your propane tank running out in the middle of an event. All you have to do is plug it in and turn it on.
Natural Gas Patio Heaters
Patio heaters that use natural gas aren’t as common – these are the type you would normally find in luxury estates or commercial establishments. They do require professional installation and we do not recommend trying to install them on your own. So there are initial costs, unlike with electric and propane heaters. Despite it all, there are still benefits nesting behind natural gas patio heaters such as:
- There will be no need to refill a propane tank. Natural gas heaters are connected to the homes gas lines.
- This type provides the lowest operating cost.
Take note that these are stationary heaters. This means once you install them, you will not be able to move them around. Again, they require professional installation. Since they are permanent fixtures, they will cost more to repair.
Outdoor Heaters and How They Work
If you’re not familiar with outdoor or backyard heating, you may think it sounds funny to heat up the outside. Outdoor heaters are heat sources that are specifically designed for outdoor spaces. Such as a terrace, desk, patio, balcony or a veranda. These type of heaters are capable of providing warmth by converting electricity or gas into heat and directing it towards the area you desire.
Patio heaters are different from space heaters as they don’t use fans to push air in a specific direction. Instead, patio heaters use what is called a reflector. The size of the reflector determines how concentrated the heat is directed.
Backyard heaters use what is called radiant heat. This type of energy heats physical objects around it, instead of air molecules. As you may already guess, this is more efficient when it comes to heating outdoor areas. Especially in those areas where the wind blows away that hot air and leave you feeling cold.
Think of radiant heat as being similar to the sun. It heats the environment the same way the sun heats your skin, but without those harmful UV rays. Have you ever had the chance to look through night vision goggles? When you look through night vision goggles, you’re looking at radiant heat emanating from physical objects.
Determining the Size Needed
Before you run out and buy the first heater you come across, it would be a good idea to make sure you get the size you need. Figuring out the size is easy – take the square footage of the area you plan on heating and multiply by how many degrees Fahrenheit you need to increase the temperature. This little equation will give you a good idea of the size of outdoor heater you should buy.
Depending on the heating capacity, the warmth that comes from the heater will transmit with a range of 6ft to 20ft.
Reflector Shape, Size, and Weight
The reflector is the big circular item that you usually see on top of the heater – it looks similar to a hat. Many people prefer to go for a larger reflector because they are able to spread heat to a wider area. Square shaped reflectors offer a lot of sophistication, but they don’t serve a functional purpose and can detract from those heating capabilities.
As far as the weight goes, this can be a good indicator of the overall craftsmanship as well as the quality of the material used. Those heaters that are light in weight, 40 pounds and below, are made of parts that are questionable. Those type of heaters probably isn’t going to last as long as the heavier heaters that weight 120 pounds of above. Plus, if you go for a heater that is lightweight, it will be more susceptible to falling over and get damaged if a strong gust of wind comes through.
Speaking in a general tone, most outdoor patio heaters are made of stainless steel exterior surfaces. Stainless steel is a great option because it goes well in an outdoor setting and as a benefit, it is easy to clean. The finish of an outdoor heater can come in a variety of different colors including green, copper, steel, black, gold and white.
Of course, when you purchase something like this, you’re going to want to pay attention to the warranty. Some people simply forget this process, so we feel we must include it in this buyers guide. The type of warranty that is attached to the heater will all depend on the manufacturer and not all warranties were created equal. We highly recommend you stick with a brand that is popular. When your heater requires warranty replacement, all you have to do is contact the manufacturer that you purchase the heater from. The warranties generally range from 30-day warranties to a comprehensive 5-year warranty. One year warranty on an outdoor heater is the standard.
When it comes to a heater, it is important that you consider the BTU’s needed. Here’s a simple equation for you in order to determine the BTU’s needed:
- Square Footage X (Current Temperature – Desired Temperature) = BTU’s required.
What are BTU’s?
BTU’s are a unit of measurement equivalent to the amount of heat (or air) required to increase the temperature. BTU is short for British Thermal Unit. This is a term that has been around since the 17th century, so it certainly isn’t new to the world.
Use BTU’s to measure the cooling and heating capacity. It’s common to see BTU readings on air conditioners, heaters and space heaters. Understanding what these numbers mean can be confusing. Honestly, it’s not as complicated as you may think it is – you don’t have to be an expert to understand what a BTU is.
Before you buy a heater, you should also know how many watts are required. You will be able to estimate the required wattage needed to heat your area by doing the following formulae:
Wattage/Heat = Heat Radius
Safety Features We Recommend
When it comes to purchasing a heater for your outdoor setting, you cannot forget to keep safety in mind. Ignoring safety can lead to injuries and even death. If you’re purchasing an outdoor heater, we recommend the following safety features:
Anti-Tilt Switch – An Anti-Tilt Switch should always be provided on a heater. Outdoor heaters that have an anti-tilt switch will automatically turn off knocked over. If your heater doesn’t have such switch built in and a gust of wind knocks it over, it will keep running and surely. We don’t have to tell you what could happen then.
Automatic Shut-Off Valve – On the same note, the heater you get should also have an automatic shut-off valve. This means when the heater reaches a certain temperature, it will automatically shut off without further warning. We personally recommend this feature because it will prevent serious fire hazards and malfunctions.
Safety Approvals – It’s also a good idea to look at the safety approvals. Reliable devices are approved for use by independent industry organizations. Go for patio heaters that are CSA-tested and/or UL Approved. Products with these seals go through testing in order to verify their safety. For this reason, we highly recommend them.
Assembling Your Patio Heater
When it comes to the assembling a patio heater, it all depends on the type of heater you choose. However, despite it all, assembling the heater should be pretty straight forward. If you have experience with a screwdriver or a hammer, you should do just fine. Just make sure you follow the directions that are provided in the owner’s manual – many offer step-by-step details. Many times you can look up the make and model online and find a video with the instructions. Take note that some heaters may require 2 people in order to assemble them. You’ll need a crescent wrench, screwdriver and an open wrench for nuts and bolts.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Of course, you should not look away from the cleaning and maintenance of the outdoor heaters. Once your heater is up and running, you need to make sure it maintains its quality. Switch it off (and unplug from the outlet) and clean it with a mild soap, warm water, and a damp cloth. Make sure you don’t use abrasive cleaners that could damage the finish of the heater. Look at the owner’s manual as there should be specific details on the heaters cleaning requirements.
Apart from simply wiping the heater down, the only other thing you would have to do (if it’s a propane heater) is to replace the propane tank.
Yes, you can, even in cold month, enjoy your backyard. But a good idea would be to get an outdoor patio heater. On an ending note, we would like to give you some advice in regards to children and these outdoor heaters. They are safe for children to be around, as long as you supervise them – similar to a fire pit or outdoor grilling safety. Always monitor kids when they’re around these units. Never leave a little one unsupervised around a heater.