Enjoy being outdoors with your family and friends? Hate it when the weather gets too cold for you to have outdoor barbecues or dinners? Well here's a sure-fire way to extend your outdoor patio season - get yourself a patio heater. Sure the idea of outdoor heating isn't new. People have been siting around campfires for thousands of years, but fires require lots of work before and after as well as constant vigilance while they're burning and in some areas open fires are illegal. However, with the new breed of outdoor gas heaters you can enjoy the warmth of a fire and not have to put up with the inconvenience of an open flame.
Types of gas outdoor heaters
Outdoor gas heaters have been around for quite a while, but early designs were more often designed for commercial applications like restaurant patios, usually fixed in place and relatively expensive to install. However, gas heaters have evolved and newer safe, portable and inexpensive outdoor gas heaters have found a ready market with homeowners looking for ways to get extra use from their yard and deck.
Gas heaters are commonly available in either tabletop or freestanding designs. Starting at a few hundred dollars in price, they provide the ultimate in convenience, safety and warmth. Easy to light, quick to heat with no open flames, smoke or ashes to deal with, they are the ultimate in convenience.
Portable freestanding heaters generally work using LPG gas - the same type of gas and tank as your barbecue. These heaters typically provide 40,000 to 50,000 BTU's of radiant heat - which can be controlled with a built in thermostat so you can comfortably enjoy your outdoor activities inside about a 20-foot circle around the heater. Since the designs of most heaters include a built in compartment for storing the gas tank, you can easily move the heater to anywhere you want to provide heat. No worries about disconnecting and disconnecting gas lines or being tied to a single location.
Tabletop heaters are just what they sound like, compact, portable propane heaters that sit on your outdoor table and provide heat over a small circle (approximately 6-7 feet - depending on the air temperature). Perfect for a keeping the temperature comfortable during a late season cook out.
How safe are they?
Anytime your dealing with flames, safety is obviously a major concern, so modern outdoor patio heaters have a number of built in safety features to ensure their safe operation. Designs often include a solid, heavy anti tip base, to keep the bottom firmly on the ground and make them difficult to topple. A great idea if you have kids or pets running around or possibly an exuberant guest.
In the event that a hater does get knocked over, most include a tilt fuel shut off that senses when the unit is tipped over more than a few degrees from perpendicular and cuts off the fuel supply, extinguishing the flame. Other common safety features include automatic shut off in case the temperature gets too warm and shrouds or domes to keep overhanging branches (or fingers) from getting into the gas flame.
How do they work?
Operating a portable gas heater is as easy as turning on your gas barbecue. Most heater use a push button igniter similar to those of gas barbecues while some higher end models use a form of electronic ignition. Just turn on the gas flow; push a button and instant warmth. Once the heater is going you control the temperature with a built in thermostat, again the same way you control the temperature in your gas barbecue.
All in all, outdoor gas heaters can make a great addition to your backyard with none of the hassles that come with open fires like storing wood, cleaning up ashes and worrying about potential problems with open flames. Gas heaters provide a safe, convenient and reliable way to you to enjoy your deck and yard throughout the year.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with numerous articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to DoItYourself.com.