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What type of outdoor heating do I need?

What type of outdoor heating do I need? 

Keeping warm outdoors can sometimes be a challenge. Choose wisely to get the most out of your outdoor living space. The size of your area, the amount and type of heater you want, as well as running costs will determine which gas, electric or wood fire is best for your outdoor living area.

What outdoor heating options are there?

Below you’ll find a little more information about each of your options.

Gas Heaters 

A gas patio heater is one of the most popular and effective ways to heat your outdoor living space. By using radiant heat instead of convection, they only heat the people, furniture and flooring in the vicinity of the heater rather than heating air which is likely to blow away before it can do very much warming. 

These heaters use a gas burner head on the end of a pole to radiate heat out and down to keep you warm on chilly nights. They are portable and usually have wheels that allow you to move the heater to where you need it. A reflector sits on top of the burner head to reflect the rising heat back down towards you. The larger the diameter of the reflector, the more heat will be reflected and the more efficient the heater will be. 

While these heaters come in a range of sizes, most work most effectively when they are positioned in the centre of your entertaining area. For larger outdoor areas, it may be best to have more than one heater. 

Look for the Mega Joule (MJ) rating on the appliance – the larger the number, the more heat the unit will radiate. However, the higher the output, the more gas it will consume.

Electric Heaters

Compact and powerful, electric heaters can be either freestanding or wall-mounted to suit your space and ensure you, your family and your guests are comfortable and warm.

Infrared or radiant energy is the most practical way to add warmth to spaces like patios, terraces, decks, and other outdoor or semi-outdoor spaces where heated air cannot easily be contained and re-circulated.

Electric heaters usually warm your spaces with radiant heat. A heated element emits safe, infrared heat waves that only become heat when they are directly absorbed by a person, table, or floor. For this reason, infrared heat can be distributed very evenly, and will not simply "blow away" in windy or drafty conditions.

Electric heaters tend to be the quickest way to warm an outdoor space, but because they run off your power mains, each use will contribute to your power bill. 

Whether gas or electric, Mitre 10 recommends that you setup, maintain and use your heater in accordance with the product manual.

Outdoor Wood Fires

Outdoor wood fires come in several forms. Freestanding and built-in fire places, fire bowls, fire pits, braziers and chimineas. These provide a great atmosphere, keeping everyone warm with a place to gather as the evenings get colder. Outdoor wood fires become a hub in your outdoor area, producing not just heat but ambient light and a sense of drama that brings people together. 

When selecting your outdoor wood fire, think about design, shape, and size. Select a product with a design that'll match your decor or the style you want to achieve, and make sure it’s the right size for your space. Big enough to contain a fire that will warm you and your guests, but not so big it becomes a hazard. 

Wood fires need to be positioned on a flat, level surface and on a non-combustible surface such as concrete pavers. Consider wind direction, and keep your heating solution well clear of the house and anything else that could be combustible. 

Pricing for these solutions differs greatly. Fire bowls, pits and braziers are relatively inexpensive but for larger fireplaces you’ll be paying a bit more. You'll also need plenty of fuel such as wood, kindling, or pellets so think about a place to store the fuel too. Wood needs to be stacked out of the weather so it's dry and burns well.

Safe Use

For gas and electric heaters, Mitre 10 recommends you read and follow the specific instructions in the user manual of your selected model. Keeping your outdoor heaters in good working order is also a must.

For fireplaces, you’ll need to make sure you’re using them in accordance with local guidelines. Before purchasing or installing an outdoor fireplace, check with the appropriate authorities in your area for permit regulations about burning outdoors.

Because fire pits, bowls and braziers are portable, they do not require a permit, though they should always be set up on a stable, level, and non-combustible surface such as paving slabs, concrete or bricks. 

Whether you need building consent for your outdoor fireplace depends on a number of factors. Your best bet is to contact your local council to find out more. Fireplaces also need regular cleaning and maintenance to continue to work safely, so you should consider this in your decision.

Once lit, never leave your fire unattended. Be wary of sparks, use a screen, and always have a fire extinguisher handy. Always watch children and pets around outdoor heaters and particularly open fires.