If you want to make the most of your garden or outdoor space then you’ll want to sit out at night and enjoy your garden in the cooler and colder months. One great way to do this is to invest in a patio heater.
But before you do read our guide to patio heaters to make sure you select the best option for your needs.
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What are patio heaters?
Patio heaters come in a number of guises from small wood-burning braziers to large gas-powered heaters but the basic premise is to exude warmth so that you can continue sitting outside in chilly evenings or in the winter months.
What fuel do patio heaters use?
There are a number of options to power your patio heater.
Gas-powered patio heaters
One of the most popular options for gardens are gas-powered patio heaters. These work with re-fillable canisters of propane gas.
Gas-powered patio heaters are generally cheaper to buy than electric and have the added bonus of being a lot more portable – you can place them wherever you need in the garden rather than being limited to the length of your electric cable.
Gas-powered heaters also give out a lovely romantic glow rather than the harsher glare of some electric heaters so are a more attractive option.
Another point in gas-powered patio heater’s favour is that they can give out a lot of heat and therefore can keep a larger area or greater number of people toasty at one time.
Electric patio heaters
Electric patio heaters come in two types: halogen or infrared and both types need to be plugged into the mains.
Infrared heaters radiate heat in a direct line from the source and so need to have effective inbuilt reflectors and be sighted close to the area you would like heated. They work instantly, creating heat at the flick of a switch.
Plus because they are electric you don’t need space to store spare fuel.
Downsides can be that some models can give out quite a harsh light alongside the heat, but more modern models can give out little to no light at all.
Halogen heat lamps use a tungsten filament to give off short-wave heat. This is radiant heat which works on objects and people rather than warming the air (convection heating) and is much more immediately effective than convection heaters which can be almost totally negated by even a slight breeze.
This means both halogen and infrared heaters only need to be turned on when in use. On the downside Halogen heaters do tend to give off quite a strong red light.
Braziers, fire pits or chimineas offer a more atmospheric form of patio heating but are less effective than gas or electric heaters.
Dry wood, charcoal, wood briquettes or smokeless fuel can all be burned in a brazier to create warmth through an open fire.
These can be lovely for a small group to sit around and toast marshmallows over but they will need to be stoked and tended to and will not give out as much heat as gas or electric heaters.
Are patio heaters bad for environment?
If you want to save the Earth the best way to stay warm in the garden is to sling on another jumper or wrap yourself in a blanket. However if you are keen to generate a bit more heat then you may want to consider the environmental impact.
The propane used in most gas patio heaters is a clean and non-toxic fuel. However they are relatively inefficient to run meaning that they will burn through a lot more fuel to heat than an electric heater would.
Gas patio heaters do not offer targeted heat so much of the heat they generate will balloon off upwards or outwards meaning they can be very wasteful.
Electric patio heaters are a lot more efficient to run than gas-powered heaters and as a result are generally seen as the greener option.
According to Heat Outdoors the average gas patio heater (13kW) emits approximately 3,300kg of carbon dioxide per year whereas an electric infrared heater (2kW) heater uses approximately 500kg of carbon dioxide per year – this means that the carbon footprint of an electric patio heater is 15% that of a gas heater.
For braziers, fire pits or chimineas you have a choice of fuel.
Seasoned wood is in effect carbon neutral however when burning wood it gives off soot which releases particles into the air contributing to bad air quality. However even smokeless coal is still coal and so contributes to releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
There is a good round up of all the available fuels to burn here but the main conclusion is that wood is the most ecologically sound option.
How cost effective are patio heaters?
If you are only occasionally going to sit out in your garden at night and with only a few people then a brazier or fire pit is a good budget option.
Bags of seasoned logs will be required to fuel them. Over the course of an evening outside (3 hours) you’d probably burn about 5 or 6 logs. An average bag of 10-12 seasoned logs costs about £6 so you’d be looking at about £3 worth of fuel every time you used your brazier.
For a gas heater you are looking at an initial outlay of between £110 and £350. One propane gas cylinder (13kg) costs about £45 upfront or £33 for a refill and will last for about 10 hours (or more if you lower the heat setting) so for three hours of heat from a gas-powered patio heater you are probably looking at about £10–15 in fuel costs.
Electric heaters cost between £90 and £250 and are the most fuel efficient option costing approximately 18 pence an hour if using an average 2 kw model. So for three hours of heat your looking at spending less than 60 pence on fuel costs.
|Initial outlay||£93.53||£109.99 + £45 for cylinder||£45|
|Cost per use (3hrs)||£0.60||£10||£3|
|Total cost for first year
(appliance + 20 uses)
|Check prices||Check Prices||Check Prices||Check Prices|
Obviously it’s almost impossible to compare like-for-like with the amount of heat produced, area covered etc.
In conclusion if you are not going to be using a heater that regularly then the cheapest overall option is a wood-burning brazier or fire pit.
However, if you are going to use a heater a lot then it’s probably worth investing in an electric patio heater which although an expensive initial outlay the low running costs make it more cost effective.
Gas-powered heaters can be more attractive, are certainly more flexible (and not tied to plug sockets) but do have higher running costs.
How safe are patio heaters?
Many people worry about the safety of patio heaters as they are thought to pose a fire risk.
However, as long as you adhere to the safety guidelines that should come as standard with any quality patio heater you should be fine. Key safety measures include:
- Never place awnings or soft furnishing such as cushions or throws too close to a patio heater or they may catch light.
- Make sure the heater is placed on flat steady ground and is adequately weighted down.
- Never use a patio heater during strong winds.
Lots of people ask questions like:
Can I use a patio heater in my garage?
can I use a patio heater under a gazebo or in a tent?
- Only use them outside in gardens, yards, balconies, terraces or decks. Never use a gas-powered patio heater in a garage or other indoor space due to the danger posed of inhaling noxious fumes.
For those with a small outdoor space wanting the occasional heater, for just a few people, a cheap brazier with seasoned logs is the best and most attractive option.
But for those with more space and those who will use it fairly often then it is worth investing in a fuel efficient electric patio heater.
Last update on 2021-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API