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.
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.