Choosing a Patio Heater
Patio heaters typically burn natural gas, propane, or liquid propane (LP) to produce heat, but some use electricity. Some heater models can use either propane or LP as their combustion source.
With an electrical or natural gas (methane) patio heater, you have to look at a fixed-location model. This will take some additional planning for placement, as well as construction and plumbing. This form of patio heater may be the right choice for you if you are working with a small, uncovered where you can place the heater in a central location for seating. You will need to run a power line or gas line to your selected location, which is relatively easy. Some models of propane-fueled heaters can also be built in place.
Propane patio heaters generally have an advantage over electrical and natural gas models – portability. The bottled fuel you use in your grill and camp stove can be used in most propane-based patio heaters. The fittings for the fuel line are identical in most cases, with the fuel tank sitting in the base of the heater. Propane models come in a variety of sizes, from tabletop models to larger wheeled versions for easy transportability to the perfect spot. The tabletop models are great for camping, as well as for a deck or patio when you will be sitting around a table.
Patio heaters come in two styles – umbrella and tower versions. The tower models have an encaged flame or electrical heating element burning from top to bottom, and provide heat in a circle around them. Umbrella models have gas jets at the top just under the umbrella, and direct the heat downward using the reflective umbrella, rather than the heat coming directly at you. Tower models will generally heat the deck or patio area more quickly, while the umbrella models will usually heat the area more evenly.
Neither methane or propane is suitable for indoor use. Combustion products from burning methane and propane include carbon monoxide, a silent, heavier-than-air, deadly gas. Never bring a camp or tabletop models into an enclosed area – they are not safe to use in a tent or camper.