There’s the summer and then there’s the British summer. Blazing sunshine one minute, hail and snow the next. If you want to enjoy your garden to the fullest extent this summer (and who doesn’t?!), then a patio heater is probably the best investment you can make. If you’re thinking of buying a patio heater, then find out everything you need to know with Cotswold Teak’s patio heater buying guide.

How do patio heaters work?

Before we delve into the details you need to know when buying a patio heater, we thought it was worth giving you a quick lesson on patio heater fundamentals. Knowing how they work will give you a better idea of what you need from your patio heater.

All patio heaters, whether they are powered by gas or electricity, use infrared radiant heat to produce warmth. That may sound rather technical, but it’s not. People have been using radiant heat to stay warm for thousands of years. Radiant heat is emitted by any hot object.

To be more precise, patio heaters emit shortwave infrared radiant heat, which delivers a strong warmth (as anyone who has sat underneath a patio heater will tell you).

How do patio heaters differ from other types of heaters?

So, do all types of heating appliances use radiant heat? No.

Radiant heaters differ from other types of heaters such as radiators as they don’t require air as a medium to transfer warmth. (Radiators transfer heat using the air, in a process known as convection).

In the same way that heat from the sun is able to travel through the vacuum of space, heat from a patio heater will continue to travel through the air until it hits a solid object. That’s why you can feel the heat from a patio heater, even if it’s blowing a gale!

Choosing the right patio heater for your garden

When selecting a patio heater for your garden, there are several different factors that you should take into account such as location, fuel type, heat output, design and more. Keep reading to find out more about buying the right patio heater.

Where to locate your patio heater

Before you click the order button, you should first have an idea as to where you’ll be locating your patio heater.

The location of your patio heater is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, the location of the heater will determine what heat output you require. Patio heaters are designed to heat up spaces of different sizes. For example, if you will be placing a patio heater in a yard surrounded by brick walls, you will require a lower heat output than if you are using a patio heater in a large open space.

Decide on the location for your patio heater and you’ll then know what sort of heat output you’ll require.

Storing your patio heater

As well as thinking about where you’ll site your patio heater, you should also think about where you’ll store it when not in use.

Patio heaters are certainly okay to use in all weathers, however you shouldn’t leave them outside all-year-round. When not in use, we recommend that you store them in a garage or shed. As patio heaters can be quite heavy, you could buy a cover instead.

Before you store your patio heater, there are few steps you should follow:

> Make sure you disconnect the patio heater from its gas supply. Leaving it connected can be a safety hazard.

> Take the opportunity to ensure the pipe that connects the gas supply to the patio heater is in good condition.

> Give your patio heater a good clean. If it has been left outside and exposed to the elements it may have accumulated dust, dirt and bugs. A simple damp cloth will suffice. Do not use a jet washer to clean your patio heater.

> Dry your patio heater down and give it a quick spray of WD40 or GT85 which will prevent any corrosion whilst it’s in storage.

What size patio heater do you need?

Where you decide to locate your patio heater may determine what size patio heater you buy.

There are many different sizes and models of patio heater available, from the large freestanding ones you see in your favourite beer garden or outdoor cafe through to small, compact heaters which can sit on a plinth or table.

As we say, which size patio heater you buy will be down to a mixture of necessity (available space) and personal taste.

How much heat output should my patio heater have?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding patio heaters. With so many different patio heaters available, with different fuel types, it can be difficult figuring what heat output you require.

As you can imagine, there are many variables involved in calculating the best heat output for your patio or outdoor area. So, what follows is a ‘general rule of thumb’ rather than hard and fast guidance.

There are two main things to consider, when calculating how much heat output your patio heater should produce. Firstly, the heat output of patio heaters is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). This is a standard measurement of heat output. Secondly, the majority of free-standing patio heaters (such as the ones we stock here at Cotswold Teak), will have a heat output that ranges between 30,000 and 50,000 BTUs.

With those two points in mind, here’s a table which shows approximately how many BTUs you’ll need to heat a corresponding area:

Area BTU Estimate
100 - 450 sq ft 5,000 - 10,000
450 - 1,000 sq ft 10,000 - 20,000
1,000 - 1,500 sq ft 20,000 - 24,000
1,500 - 2,000 sq ft 24,000 - 30,000
2,000 - 2,500 sq ft 30,000 - 34,000

If you’re still not sure how much heat output you need from your patio heater, it’s generally safer to err on the side of caution and buy a heater with more BTU output than you think you’ll need. We do live in Britain after all…

Other heating considerations

As well looking at how much space you need to heat, there are a few other things to take into consideration. For example, does your patio/outdoor area receive a lot of sun? Does your outdoor area receive a lot of wind? What is the aeration of the area? Will you be using parasols or awnings? All of these things and more can have a big impact on how much heat you need your patio heater to generate.

If you think you’ll be impacted by things that will cool your patio down (wind, lack of cover), buy a more powerful heater. If you think you’ll be impacted by things that will heat up your patio (sun, heat radiation from brick walls), then you may be able to buy a less powerful patio heater.

Patio heater fuel types

Having decided on how much heat output you require, the next thing to do is think about what fuel type patio heater you want.

In general you’ll be choosing between either a gas powered or electrically powered patio heater.

Are gas patio heaters better than electric ones?

At Cotswold Teak we favour gas patio heaters as they offer better value for money, both in the short term (they are cheaper to purchase) and in the long term (the cost of gas fuel is cheaper than electricity).

Gas patio heaters also tend to be more robust, withstanding the elements in a way that electric patio heaters cannot. Gas patio heaters are also low maintenance. Other than fitting new gas fuel bottles when required, you can generally run them for a long time with no issues. You should factor in an annual service though, as this will ensure the patio heater continues to operate safely and efficiently.

Propane versus butane for gas patio heaters

If you decide to go for a gas patio heater, then here’s another question to consider. Will you use propane or butane gas to power your heater?

Some patio heaters will run on either gas type, whilst others will only run on propane or butane. So, when looking at gas patio heaters, check which fuel type they require.

The main difference between the two types of gas is the temperature ranges at which they’ll operate. Propane can be used in temperatures as low as -42 degrees Celsius, whereas butane will operate in temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius.

Patio heater essentials and accessories

As well as the patio heater itself, you will need to buy a connector (most patio heaters are not supplied with one). A connector is basically a rubber hose which is used to connect your propane or butane bottle to your patio heater.

Connectors are easily obtained and can be found at most DIY outlets that sell gas and gas appliances. For safety reasons, you should not buy a gas connector that is more than 1.5m long. You should check that the connector is suitable for the type of gas you will be using. For example, some connector hoses are designed to only work with propane.

For more information, read our guide to connector hoses for patio heaters here.

Another accessory that, whilst not essential, is really handy to have is a patio heater cover. If you’ve bought a large free standing patio heater, then a cover will let you keep your heater in the same place all-year-round.

Here are some of the most popular patio heater covers on the market right now.

Gas Mini Patio Heater Cover

Shop Now: Gas Mini Patio Heater Cover

The Gas Mini Patio Heater Cover is the perfect way of protecting your mini patio heater from the elements. Constructed from 100% Polyester which is coated in a PVC primer for extra protection, this is a durable, fully waterproof patio heater cover that’ll last for years.

Gas Patio Heater Cover

Shop Now: Gas Patio Heater Cover

If you’re going to purchase a large, free standing gas patio heater, then this cover is the ideal choice to protect it. As with the Mini Gas Patio Heater Cover, this cover is made from 100% Polyester coated with a PVC primer. Being 100% waterproof and with a fabric density of 490 g/m², this is a cover which will give years of service.

As well as practical accessories such as covers, you may wish to purchase some accessories that will improve the look and aesthetic of your patio heater…

Black Decorative Stones

Shop Now: Black Decorative Stones

Patio heaters are increasingly being used as the focal point of home gardens. Just think about it, this summer you’ll potentially have friends, family and neighbours gathered around your patio heater, so you’ll want it to look as good as possible.

You can enhance the look of your patio heater with these decorative black stones. Made from black crystal, they are the perfect way of adding a touch of elegance to your heater.

Other things to look for in a patio heater

As well as all of the above factors, there are some other things that you should look for when selecting a patio heater for your home or pub garden.

> Material - patio heaters can be fabricated from a variety of materials, but one of the most common is stainless steel. Stainless steel is great at withstanding the elements, although standard steel also performs well all-year-round.

> Variable control - some patio heaters offer variable control, which allows you to control the flow of gas with more precision, therefore giving you greater control over heat output and fuel usage.

> Safety and quality standards - all patio heaters sold in the UK must conform to the appropriate CE and BS standards, so look out for these when buying a patio heater.

> Emitter screens - some patio heaters feature ‘emitter screens’ which help to modulate the radiated heat and make it more comfortable to sit by a patio heater.

How do I stay safe while using a patio heater?

This is another question we receive on a regular basis. It’ll often crop up when someone is on the verge of buying a patio heater.

Patio heaters are similar to many household appliances. Simply follow a few basic rules and you’ll not have a problem:

> Make sure that your patio heater is situated at least 3 feet away from your home or any flammable materials.

> Follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions when operating your heater.

> Make sure that your patio heater is securely fastened in place and unable to tip over. (The gas patio heaters that we supply here at Cotswold Teak are extremely robust and weighted to stay in place).

> Use the correct BTU output so that you’re not heating up an area too much.

The best patio garden heaters

With all of that information in mind, you’re probably now ready to start actively looking for a gas patio heater to buy. If that’s the case, then keep reading as we outline some of the best patio garden heaters on the market.

Umbrella Gas Patio Heater

Shop Now: Umbrella Gas Patio Heater

If you’re looking for a large freestanding patio heater that combines form and function, this is it. The Umbrella Gas Patio Heater’s unusual design makes it an interesting focal point for any patio, garden or outdoor area. Decorative elements such as glass stones can be added to further enhance this patio heater’s design.

Mini Patio Heater

Shop Now: Mini Patio Heater (White)

The Mini Patio Heater makes a fantastic addition to the smaller garden or yard space. Enclosed by glass and sat upon an elegant plinth, the Mini Patio Heater is one that you can gaze at for hours. Resembling an ornament more than a patio heater, this is the perfect heater for when aesthetic considerations are the top of your agenda.

The Mini Patio Heater is available in white, black and steel finishes.

We hope you’ve found this patio heater buying guide useful. If you’re also looking for high-quality teak garden furniture and accessories, then please explore the rest of the Cotswold Teak website.

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