I love patios and decks because they enable us to live an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. But while every door in my house opens onto a patio or path of some kind, I can’t use all of these areas all year round. Some aren’t covered, some don’t have the ability to incorporate either built-in or moveable seating, and some simply become too cold or wet when the weather is inclement.
For a deck or patio to earn its worth 365 days of the year, it needs to be designed carefully. Clearly you won’t use any outdoor area every single day of the year, but the point is that if you want to, you should be able to. Comfort is a primary consideration – and this doesn’t only apply to seating. If a patio or deck becomes too cold in winter, it won’t be a very pleasant place. This is why you should consider an infrared heater that you can use when conditions get cold and uncomfortable.
Why bother to heat a patio?
Currently my most-used patio is the one closest to my living room. It features a great built-in brick barbecue that we use all-year-round. We use it for cooking and also build fires to keep us warm on special evenings all year round.
Because the patio area is covered, it doesn’t matter if it rains. I love the sound of rain on the corrugated fiberglass patio roof, but I have to admit it can get cold sitting out there, particularly in winter. This realization led me to consider buying a heater of some sort that we could use outside.
Patio heating options
Certainly a basic cave-man fire in a barbecue, or in a similar structure built specifically as an outdoor fireplace, can keep you warm. But there are other options, specifically using gas or electricity.
The former includes both natural gas and propane heaters, some of which are portable. Most look like lanterns and are made from some sort of plated metal or stainless steel
While some electric patio heaters look just like garden post lanterns, others look like table lamps. They are made from a variety of materials including steel (which is sometimes powder coated), stainless steel, cast aluminum and even tough resin.
Examples from Fire Sense, which is available in both the US and Canada, include:
- Ordinary pole-mounted and telescoping offset pole-mounted designs with glass covers over the heating elements. These heat quickly and are easy to adjust. They operate at 90% to 100% heating efficiency, providing a nine-foot blanket of heat in seconds. These designs are supplied with PVC covers and are portable, so you can also use them indoors if you wish.
- Wall-mounted designs (that may also be attached to vertical decking posts). Like the various pole-mounted heaters, these have a glass front and may be used inside or outside. They are supplied with aluminum covers.
Some pros and cons of different types of patio heaters
The two most popular patio heaters – infrared and propane – both have their pros and cons. While gas is generally considered more eco-friendly than electricity, unless you have piped gas, you’re going to have to accommodate a gas bottle which will need to be refilled from time to time. The infrared types run on ordinary household electric current and are in fact considerably less expensive to run than those that use propane gas.
The electric types generally don’t heat more than a 10-foot radius, although you can overcome this problem on a larger patio by installing two, perhaps one on either side. A pro is that the heat is not affected by wind, while gas heaters are.
Both types of heaters do a good job of heating patios, although propane heaters don’t cope well in temperatures below 40 °F because the gas starts to crystallize. In addition, many people prefer the more natural radiant heat produced by an infrared heater.
Radiant heaters are available in a range of designs that will complement all styles of outdoor furniture. Just be sure you choose one that is either ETL (which means it meets the ECA energy technology criteria) or CSA approved (which means it complies with international standards and has been certified).