As much as I’m trying to avoid the truth, it’s undeniable. The days have been gorgeously autumnal for the most part, but the evenings are getting a tad chilly.
My friends laugh at me, but I’ve found that bringing along sweaters and wearing shoes and socks helps. You see, the problem is that the warm, brilliant fall days give way pretty quickly to the cool evenings.
Of course, the most sensible solution is to dress more warmly if you want to stay outside. Setting out blankets for each person is a cosy idea, as well as warm drinks and hot nibbles to warm the cockles.
Another great way to extend the outdoor season is to invest in an infrared or radiant patio heater for a sheltered open area. There are some complaints about patio heaters from an environmental point of view. After all, heating the great outdoors was never an energy-efficient plan, to be sure. But you’ll have to forgive me — short-term usage when needed sure can make a difference to your comfort level during those increasingly frosty evenings.
Like any other appliance we use, it can be used in a conscientious manner. To operate it in the least energy-gobbling way, be sure to turn it off after you are finished using it, and consider operating on half-power once it is fired up. Also make sure the unit has a sturdy aluminum reflector at the top, to direct heat down onto the patio, where it’s needed.
If you are set up for natural gas, and would like to use the patio heater near the house, hooking up a heater with a central fuel supply is ideal since it is the most efficient form of heating. For many people, a propane-powered patio heater is easier, since the propane tank is stored in the base of the heater, and can be moved around with ease.
You can find residential patio heaters at Home Depot and Canadian Tire, ranging from $139 for a tabletop propane heater, to $399 for a 7-foot tall propane heater. Outdoor furniture stores generally carry patio heaters as well. Or you may contact Barrie, Ont.-based Napoleon to find out where you could purchase their models (napoleon.com or 1-888-726-2220). Their Lifestyle “Bullet” propane patio heater has a list price of $469.00, while their commercial series is listed at $599.00.
Another locally produced patio heater is from Wainfleet, Onto. Easy Radiant Works (erwcan.com) manufactures powerful 50-BTU, commercial-grade patio heaters, starting at around $600 plus shipping.
Mull over this ...
• Gas, propane or electrical? I’d avoid electrical because these heaters are the least efficient. Whether you go for natural gas or portable propane depends on whether you can easily run a natural gas line from your house or not.
• How large an area are you trying to heat? A small area with a dining table and room for 6 to 7 people may only need a tabletop propane heater. A tall patio heater will provide heat in a radius of anywhere from 10 feet to 20 feet, depending on the BTU output. A commercial model usually pumps out the most heat, generally providing warmth within a 25-foot radius. If you’ve got a large patio, you may want to consider several of these heaters.
• Where to put it? Choose a semi-protected area to shield the unit from winds, but also provide adequate ventilation to avoid the buildup of dangerous exhaust gases. You might also consider mounting a strip or high-mount unit to a wall or a support if you don’t have much room or you have active young children or pets.
• Safety features such as a sturdy heavy base and a tilt feature which shuts off the fuel when the unit tips over, flame control, electronic ignition and an emergency cut-off value are important. The heater must also be kept away from combustible surfaces—see the installation manual to check for allowable distances.