Donâ€™t let the cold keep you cooped up all winter. Outdoor heaters can keep you entertaining outdoors no matter how dismal it gets. There is a huge variety of options and styles available, so you are bound to find one perfectly suited to your needs. However, as there are many things to consider it can be hard to wade through all the information out there. Here is a list of everything you should know before you choose your patio heater.
Letâ€™s start with how your outdoor heater is going to be fueled. This is a big decision to make that can affect both your upfront and ongoing costs as well as your ease of maintenance and desired ambience. There are 4 main options which each have their own advantages and drawbacks.
Option 1 - Propane
This is a popular choice due to the lack of installation requirements resulting in an outdoor gas heater that is less expensive upfront. This is an excellent fuel source if potability is key or if you need to place them in less accessible locations as it just requires you to attach to a separate gas tank. Not only that but it is quick to heat up and highly efficient. However, if you use it regularly it can end up being more expensive than other options and youâ€™ll need to remember to replace the gas tank when it runs out.
Option 2 - Natural Gas
Natural gas heaters function by being connected to your gas line. This is probably the cheapest option in the long term due to the minimal cost of running. It is also incredibly easy to maintain and simple to use. However, it does require significant upfront costs both for the outdoor gas heater itself as well as the required installation.
Option 3 - Electric
Electric heaters are highly convenient and usually donâ€™t require installation (except for specific types). They just require an outlet to plug into which can limit their versatility. However, they are the advised fuel source to use for an enclosed space. Not the best option when you need an instant heater, as they can be a little slow to warm up and are one of the more expensive options to use long term but they are very easy to both use and maintain.
Option 4 - Wood
Itâ€™s impossible to deny the rustic charm of a woodfire and that is the huge benefit of using wood as a fuel source. A great choice as a centrepiece and is a clear frontrunner if ambience is your primary concern. However, these aesthetic trade-offs come at the expense of convenience. It is significantly trickier to ignite than other options and wood needs to be continually added to keep it alight. The fuel itself can be hard to obtain depending on where you live, and you have much less control over the heat. In addition, it is the least weatherproof of the options.
Types of Outdoor Heaters
The style of outdoor heater you select will depend on a variety of factors, from the aesthetic value to its functionality. There are too many different designs and models but here are the most popular options.
These outdoor heaters are some of the most popular around, mainly due to their ease of portability and minimal installation costs. They come in two main styles, though you do see many other styles as well. These styles are the mushroom style and the pyramid.
The mushroom head is the original style of patio heater. This style is still present for a reason and that is because it is designed in a way that is highly effective and can heat comparably large spaces. They are also among the cheapest when purchasing. The major drawback to these are their susceptibility to being knocked over as they are fairly top-heavy. This means they arenâ€™t the most suitable to windy areas or gatherings where it is likely to be bumped. However, this drawback can be countered by making sure your model is weighted at the bottom.
The pyramid style is another common option that maintains popularity. People love it because of its stylish design that provides a comfortable amount of space to move around and wonâ€™t get in the way, especially in comparison to mushroom head styles. However, this design does lack a degree of functionality as it isnâ€™t as effective when it comes to heating capabilities as the alternatives
These heaters are typically just smaller versions of the freestanding outdoor heaters. Naturally, they wonâ€™t spread the heat around quite as well as the larger varieties, but they are an excellent choice for saving space on your patio or for when your guests will remain seated around the table throughout the evening. They are usually powered by either electricity or propane.
Wall mounted heaters
If youâ€™re looking to save even more space and have a relatively small patio area, then a heater that is mounted to your wall or ceiling is an excellent option. These save a lot of space and tend to use energy efficient heating methods like radiant heating. However, they do require installation and are hard to reposition.
If you have a hard ceiling roof, then the hanging patio heater may be one of the most stylish heater options available for you. The benefits and drawbacks are fairly similar to wall mounted heaters but with the added placement limitations and enhanced atmosphere.
If you are after that good wood-burning ambience, then a fire pit might be the right choice you. For many people there is no comparable option to the homely, yet enchanting qualities of a fire pit and the wood can give a far more natural and old-timey experience than the alternatives. Negatives are usually associated with being harder to maintain and it can be particularly susceptible to bad weather making it a poor choice for entertaining during the winter months. However, if youâ€™re drawn to the aesthetic, there is nothing else that can truly compare.
Another option for a wood heater is a chiminea. The name is derived from the Spanish word for â€™chimneyâ€™, referencing their unique design. They can be made from clay or metal and offer a spectacular choice for any garden, offering a distinct style that will add plenty of character. They arenâ€™t as open as fire pits, so they do offer additional protection against rain and wind as well as an added element of safety if itâ€™s situated around plants.
Things to Look Out for
This comes down to two main factors: the initial upfront costs, including the price of the heater and installation, as well as the cost of running.
When it comes to initial costs, smaller and less powerful heaters will naturally be cheaper. Additionally, free standing and tabletop heaters have an added advantage due to the fact they donâ€™t need to be installed. Fire pits and chimineas also have affordable options available for similar reasons.
Long term cost of running is usually tied to the fuel source with an outdoor gas heater (particularly natural gas) being the cheapest. However, the stronger the heater, the more energy it will use in general. Energy efficient designs like mushroom head and radiant heat strip can warm you up efficiently using comparatively less energy.
Effectiveness and Power
For many people, the most important aspect of a patio heater is how well it functions. This all comes down to how powerful the heater is and the efficiency of the design. This will of course vary depending on the brand, but Mushroom heaters tend to be a highly effective and versatile option and if youâ€™re after warmth above all else then the Pyramid styles probably arenâ€™t the ones for you.
Pay attention to these aspects of your heater, especially if you intend to use it as you head into the winter months. The two things you should keep in mind is whether the heater is waterproof or windproof.
If you have a covered area, obviously this will provide good protection for wet weather and heaters designed for use undercover will be great choices. Fire pits and wood burning heaters in general will be largely ineffective in wet weather. If you want to entertain in a more outdoorsy setting without the concern of a drizzle dousing your fuel source then a chiminea might be a good choice.
Wind proofing is an important quality of a heater in Perth, which is one of the windiest capital cities in the world. Provided they are weighted well, free standing heaters will be an excellent option. The most inefficient would be fire pits as heavy winds will risk extinguishing the flame.
The ambience is something that many people consider. Some people just want an efficient way to warm their outside areas without it needing to be a statement. For this radiant heaters are the best option. Others are drawn to the functionality of a hanging heater that really adds character to a patio space. Of course, one canâ€™t talk about the value of ambience without mentioning the down to earth, rustic beauty of a fire pit. The desired atmosphere is therefore a highly important consideration.
Ease of use and maintenance
It will of course be easier to clean heathers that are smaller or arenâ€™t otherwise attached to a hard to reach place like hanging or wall mounted heaters can be. Additionally, heaters that run on natural gas and electricity are much easier to run as they essentially donâ€™t require any upkeep or continual purchasing of fuel like wood and propane.
Get the Right Heater for You
A heater is an important part of your outdoor space so itâ€™s essential that you carefully consider the options so that you get the one that ticks all your boxes. There are many variables when it comes to heaters and many alternatives to keep in mind. However, the one thing that is certain is that you will not regret being able to entertain guests outside all year round.