How to Choose a Propane Heater for Outdoor Use
Some people seem to think that when the weather turns chilly it's time to abandon the outdoors. Except for dashing from the car to the door, they say inside huddled by the fire, trying to keep warm.
But if you're one of those people who prefer to experience the Great Outdoors in all seasons, you don't have to give up comfort thanks to the convenience of outside heaters.
- Like entertaining on your patio?
- Enjoy dining on your deck?
- Have a hot tub?
- Go camping in the "off" season?
- Work at an outdoors job site?
If any of these apply to you, then you should think about investing in an outdoor propane heater. Electric heaters might be easy to use, but if you don't have an outlet you're out of luck. Propane heaters are ideal for outdoors because they can go just about anywhere.
Types of Propane Heaters
There are two major types of propane heater available, forced air heaters and radiant heaters. Which one is best for outdoor use?
Forced air heaters use a fan to circulate warm air around the space you're trying to heat, effectively raising the ambient temperature. While this type of heater works great indoors, where the warm air is trapped inside, they are not very useful outside. You can't try to warm up the whole out-of-doors, after all!
That's why radiant heaters are a better choice for outdoor use. Also known as infrared heaters, this kind of propane heater warms by radiating electromagnetic waves, just like the rays of the sun. Anything in the path of the rays is warmed instantly - no need to wait for the temperature to rise before feeling the benefits of propane heaters outdoors.
Choose Your Heating Capacity
Propane heaters are capable of producing a powerful burst of heat, which is especially useful when you're outdoors and the temperatures are low. The heating capacity of outside heaters is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), and there are propane heaters that offer up to 200,000 BTUs of heat - enough to warm almost 5,000 square feet!
Smaller propane heaters for outdoors range from 6,000 BTUs (enough to warm a small tent effectively) up to 40,000 BTUs (keep a 20 square foot area on your patio warm). Most over variable heat levels, so that you can adjust the heat output depending upon the outside temperature. The larger the BTU capacity, the larger an area can be kept warm, so when you're shopping for your outside propane heater, think about the size of the area you need to keep warm, and choose appropriately.
Another specification to look at when you're choosing your propane heater for outdoor use is the size of the propane tank it uses, and how many hours of heat a tank will provide before it needs to be refilled. More powerful heaters will burn propane at a faster rate, so you'll want be sure it has a tank big enough to fill your needs.
Different Outdoor Needs, Different Outdoor Heaters
Depending on your need, different types of propane heaters for outdoor use are available:
Propane Patio Heaters
You may be familiar with propane patio heaters from your favorite outdoor caf??, but they work just as well at home on your deck or patio. They look a bit like stubby umbrellas, but instead of shading you from the sun they radiate heat in 15 to 20 square feet in all directions. Outdoor propane patio heaters come in a wide variety of designs and finishes, so you can coordinate the look with your outdoor d??cor. If you have a bigger area to keep warm, combine multiple patio heaters to spread the heat.
Tabletop Propane Heaters
Tabletop propane heaters look like miniature versions of patio heaters, but are small enough to sit on the top of a table. These are perfect for dining out - put the heater right on the table so food and guests stay warm while they enjoy their meal. Generally, tabletop heaters use a small, 16 pound propane tank, and warm areas up to 7 or 8 square feet.
Portable Propane Heaters
When you're on the move - say, a weekend camping trip - you want something small and portable to bring along with you. Portable heaters are lightweight and have handles that make them easy to transport from place to place. They usually have small propane tanks -as small 1 pound- and a sturdy construction that resists bangs and dents. These are also a great emergency item to have on hand in case a power failure cuts off the heat in your home (just be careful to always use propane heaters in well-ventilated spaces).
Commercial Propane Heaters
Propane heaters for outdoor commercial and industrial work abandon style for the sake of power and durability. But when you're hard at work you're more worried about keeping warm than looking good, and a propane outdoor heater will do the job right. Many commercial propane heaters are "tank top" heaters - they sit atop the propane tank with minimal casing. This minimizes the extra weight you have to carry from site to site, and maximizes the amount of fuel available. Heat anywhere up to 1,200 square feet with one of these propane heaters, and feel your job satisfaction rise!