Want to know the difference between a domestic patio heater and a commercial heater?

It’s a grey area trying to work out what a commercial patio heater is compared to a standard domestic patio heater and also if you need commercial quality or will domestic do just as well?  The problem is that from distance they are both the same height, work the same and look the same. So here are the things to look for on commercial patio heaters.

Steel used in manufacture of patio heaters

The majority of domestic stainless steel patio heaters will have a very shiny finish, the stainless steel grade will be 202 grade or lower which is just above corrosion resistance.  This is used on the housing (bit around the cylinder) and pole.  Bases can be the same but most often they are either plastic or steel with a paint finish.  The burner on domestic is just tin plated or chrome.

Commercial heaters use either 304 or 316 marine grade stainless steel which in the majority of heaters is a brushed finish giving more professional look that will not show up marks and dings.  This higher grade of stainless steel is used on all parts including the burner to ensure a perfect match.  For areas close to the sea, corrosion from sea spray or saline fog is a major problem, higher grade stainless steel will last much longer.  Inland areas may be less problematic to salt, however a tin/chrome burner fitted on domestic heaters will still corrode but instead of a few months it might get up to 15 months life expectancy.

Patio heater components

Inside the burner are the working, a thermocouple, tilt switch, gas valve, leads and mantle.  Domestic patio heaters use an all in one thermocouple/tilt assembly to save production time and costs.  These are much thinner with a typical life of 1 to 2 years before replacing. The gas valves are a lower grade with a simple bracket fitting.

On a commercial burner the thermocouple is a single heavy duty connection, this is a more complicated way but longer lasting giving as much as 4 times the quality and life. You have to remember that within a commercial environment these heavy duty burners run for 8 hours at a time and 7 days a week.  Commercial premises don’t want to keep changing the thermocouple every few weeks so they have to be up to the job.  If you put a domestic thermocouple in a commercial heater it would last 3 to 6 months max.

commercial patio heater versus domestic

Commercial Versus Domestic Patio Heaters

Both patio heaters look very similar

From the picture above you’ll not see much difference apart that the domestic patio heater has a drinks table. Insurance and fire regulations in many commercial premises will not permit drinks table just in case someone whose has drunk a little too much nectar decides to lean heavily on the drinks table, the outcome may not end well!  Take a look at the wheels this gives a hint of a clue which is the more robust. From afar they just look the same but up close it does become clear but only side by side.  If you saw one on its own it is difficult to tell.

Which patio heater is best?

It’s all down to how you want to use your patio heater.  For normal garden use a domestic patio heater is brilliant, it will do everything you want and work just the same as the ones in pubs. You really don’t need the extra heavy duty unless you really want the very best, and many do!  But, for a pub life a domestic patio heater will need more maintenance and cannot be moved on a daily basis without some serious wear and tear resulting in a tatty looking heater.

So if you know how and where you are going to use your patio heater it’s just a matter of deciding on the budget or is it.  There are rogue traders offering patio heaters with 75% off, so you might think it’s a commercial heater with a big discount – wrong.  These are just dodgy traders offering domestic heaters with an inflated or made up RSP and claiming to offer 75% off the ticket.  The reality is these heaters are worth far less than they sell them for, so it’s a double con. Rogue traders use pop up web sites and change trading names when the law catches up with them, so do your research and ask the questions, that way you can work out what you are buying and if it’s the right patio heater and right for you. And one last thing, all patio heaters need spare parts, if the seller doesn’t supply spares, offer support and back-up then you know where you stand, when the patio heater goes wrong it will be down to the tip!  Save time and don’t waste your money on tin heaters, direct factory supply will give good advice, support and cost less to buy and run than many of those here today gone tomorrow deal.

30 thoughts on “Want to know the difference between a domestic patio heater and a commercial heater?

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  3. An outstanding share!
    I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been conducting a little homework on patio heaters in fact bought me dinner because I found it for him… lol.
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    But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this issue here on your web site.|

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  8. This is a great topic to bring up, patio heaters are not an easy subject to find out about. Good honest and unbias
    Thanks for the info, PP

  9. Aw, a truly nice post.
    I would like add that it require effort to write a very good article and lots of spare time. For me I procrastinate alot and end up with nothing done!

  10. Came across this and what a relief to discover someone who really knows what they’re talking about patio heaters. I know someone who needs to read up on this and will pass it on. You’re in my favorites now.

  11. Very interesting discussion and worth commenting on.
    Patio heaters may not be a taboo subject but generally most people today don’t know all the facts on such a topic. Good to hear more on this from others.
    Cheers, Rup

  12. I found your weblog via Google and checked the earlier posts. Interesting, these fact based blogs are all the fashion now, what happened before we had all this free information online? Reading is my latest hobby and I read anything that catches my eye.

  13. We thought we had a £599.95 commercial patio heater but reading this we can see that it is not what was sold to us. The online retailer had a 75% discount on the heater, can anyone help? Feel such fools having been taken in by the big discount, the patio heater has started to rust at the top and leaning to one side, it’s not even a year old yet.
    Thanks, Haley

    • Hi Haley
      If you have one of the chrome patio heaters sold as stainless steel you could try complaining to the online retailer that sold it. They cover their tracks with small print to exclude rust near costal areas (totally illegal) and will try to wiggle out of it. You are not alone in this problem, we get at least half a dozen calls a week asking for help with rusty patio heaters. Our advice is to lodge a complaint and keep at it, they will have to do something to put it right. It may take a few months!
      As to the patio heater leaning this is due to weak supports, try changing the tin bolts with stainless steel, this will strengthen the pole.
      Will try to put up some more help blogs on patio heaters, the more people know about them the harder it is to get duped into a this con. There is some good advice on buying patio heater here.
      Wishing you great success sorting it out.

  14. You know I got the same as you Haley, the stupid patio heater failed to light and I had to sent the top back 3 times. Each time they sent a new one but it still didn’t light, in the end summer had gone and I was left with an overpriced heap of junk rusting in the garden. Wish I’d found more about this and read up on the crappy stuff they say is worth £600 yet doesn’t work.
    Don’t be too hard on yourself Haley, there are many more conned by this one.
    Glad I found this but a bit late.

  15. My patio heater has HS101 on the label. My wife bought it last year as a gift for me and since we got it never worked all the time. Sometimes it take 10 minutes to get going.
    Read the comments, looks like a thermocoupling problem but how do I know it will work with a new one, it never worked before?

    • Hello Tony
      Most likely a generic patio heater, best advice is get the thermocouple out if you can and compare online. The Chinese patio heaters usually have AFX485 patio heater thermocouple fitted.
      Always get the old thermocouple out first, generic patio heaters are supplied with tin burners which corrode. Getting inside could be a problem if the rust has taken hold. If that is the case you can fit a stainless steel burner and bin the old burner.
      Good luck

  16. OMG 🙁 I now see why my patio heater rusted away. It started at the top and got so bad I gave it away.
    Thanks a lot for sharing your blog even if it’s a bit late.

  17. Wish I had seen this a year ago, my partner bought me a stainless steel patio heater off a sports web site with a special offer like 70% off last year. Never worked properly from day 1 and now seen reviews on Amazon from others with the same problem. When I spoke to them they said it was unusual and it would settle down, even suggested we had the wrong gas. Eventually sent a new top but that has now all rusted up and stopped working.
    Spend my life reading reviews now 🙁

  18. I’ve been reading blogs on patio heaters and this one has thrown up some very interesting info, brilliant!
    Took a while to find it though, needs to be on Google or somewhere on searches.

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