The weather is starting to cool off, and in any other year, we would all start to move indoors to keep warm. But we’re still in a pandemic, and a lot of us are looking for ways to keep our socially distant gatherings safely outdoors in our backyards, patios, and decks when the temperatures start to drop.
One popular way to do that: Patio and outdoor heaters. You know, the types of warming devices often seen in outdoor dining and beer garden settings. They can help heat an outdoor space well into the colder months of the year, and make brisk evenings outside just a little more bearable.
“Throughout the year, we have seen a significant increase in searches and purchases in the patio category as a whole,” says Molly Parker, vice president of category experience at online retailer Overstock.com. “Additionally, we have seen an uptick in outdoor and patio heaters and fire pits.”
So, what are your options when it comes to buying your own patio heater, and what should you look out for when purchasing one? Here is what you need to know:
The first thing to consider when getting an outdoor heater: What kind of fuel does it use? Generally, you have three options:
Aside from fuel options, another thing to look for is the style of patio heater, which generally breaks down into mounted or hanging, tabletop, and stand-alone heaters (plus fire pits, but that’s another article).
“Think about your space, how often you would need to use the heater, and which fits best for you and your family,” Parker says.
Consider the climate of your area. As Philly-area folks know, we can face some pretty frigid temps come fall and winter. Think about the size of the area you want to heat, and how long and how often you want to use it.
Then, figure out how much heat you need. The amount of heat a particular outdoor heater can put out, DeVillava says, is determined by its British thermal unit (BTU) rating. A good rule of thumb, according to one manufacturer, is to divide the BTUs by 40 (or 30 for more chill environments) to figure out how many square feet a device can effectively warm up.
One thing to look out for, though: Wind. Parker recommends placing your outdoor heater in a place that avoids as much wind as possible in order to maximize the effects of the heat it puts off.
As with any heater, you should be careful when using a outdoor or patio heater to keep warm. To start, both Parker and DeVillava recommend reading the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings, including any advice on how far to keep them from flammable objects.
That said, there are some rules in the Philadelphia Fire Code that could help you keep things safe:
But ultimately, proper use comes down to the individual appliance itself.