Patio Heater Options
TOM: Well, if you’d like to keep dining entertaining in your beautiful outdoor spaces well into autumn, it can be done. All you need is a patio heater. Here to tell us about the different types of heaters available is This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.
ROGER: Hey. How are you doing?
TOM: We’re doing well. So, how does a homeowner go about choosing the patio heater that’s right for their setup? There’s an awful lot out there to look out.
ROGER: Well, there’s basically three different types – three different fuel types – which signifies which type you may like to use. The first one is natural gas and that’s a hard-plumb thing, meaning it goes in one spot and it stays there. It’s not movable.
TOM: Right. OK.
ROGER: But the great part is you don’t run out of fuel.
TOM: Yeah, right. There’s no propane to refill and I guess that’s the next type.
ROGER: Right. The propane ones are great because they allow you to move them around and go to different spots if you’re using different areas in the yard.
LESLIE: Yeah. And they are also in a couple of different sizes. You could even get a tabletop propane one I’ve seen.
ROGER: Yeah. And you see a lot of the umbrella ones – the big, tall ones that radiate down – at a lot of restaurants outside, too.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
TOM: Yeah. Now, what about the infrared heaters? Now, these are fairly new in terms of the patio-heater market but they’re run by electricity.
ROGER: Right. And again, it’s a product of choice of what you want to use. If you want to use electricity, these are pretty good heaters for a smaller area.
TOM: And sometimes, we’ve seen infrareds that are run by natural gas and those are really big, industrial. I’ve seen those in big, open-air restaurants, right?
ROGER: Right. Well, even guys try to heat places in the wintertime to keep working and they’ll use those big infrared heaters.
TOM: Right. Like in garages and that kind of stuff.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
TOM: So I guess the next choice is portable versus stationary and that comes down to, I guess, how much space you want to heat?
ROGER: Exactly. You know, well, you can move some of them around; some you can’t. So we have to look at that, to begin with. The natural-gas ones are stuck in place.
LESLIE: Now, are you stuck with – when you’re using an outdoor heater, are you stuck with sort of a – sort of low/medium/high setting or can you call up a specific temperature? How do these really work for you?
ROGER: Some of them have thermostats on them so you can really control what you want. The other thing is to figure out the BTUs you need. You need something that’s 45,000 BTUs …
LESLIE: How would you even know that?
ROGER: Probably from the – what the manual says.
LESLIE: So it’ll say a 45,000-BTU unit might do a 20-foot diameter or something.
ROGER: So it’s a matter of pricing something in your zone. You don’t want to pay for too little or too much, so read the manual and see which fits you the best.
TOM: Now, you also have open versus enclosed types of heaters. There are a lot of places where you can use a patio heater either, I guess, where – a fully open area or something maybe on a roof?
ROGER: Well, just remember that any time you have combustion, you have carbon monoxide. You want to get fresh air in so that you don’t have a buildup of carbon monoxide. So never, ever bring one of these combustible heaters into a closed space.
TOM: So that would include maybe some place that was roofed over where that gas could kind of build up.
TOM: Even though it’s outside, you could be still subjecting yourself to the off-gassing.
ROGER: Right. You want to make sure you have good air movement to carry the carbon monoxide away.
LESLIE: Are there any safety features sort of built into these, like maybe an on/off switch? Because I’ve got kids and a pet, so I feel like I want to make sure things are really safe for us.
ROGER: Yeah. Most of the high-end ones have an on/off switch but they also have a tip-over switch so that if something happens that it fell down, it just shuts itself off automatically.
TOM: Now, that’s really, really important. And I guess, as always, maintenance is key. Just because it worked one season doesn’t mean it’s going to be working safely the next.
ROGER: No. And you want to take and store these properly in the winter so you have them again next year.
TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ROGER: My pleasure.
LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.