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Patio Heater Review

Outdoor living is fast becoming the way forward with the garden adding an extra set of rooms to urban living. To get the most from the garden space a patio heater is a must have. But how do you choose the right one for you? Patio heaters can be fuelled by gas, wood, coal and electricity. These range from the popular free standing heaters, table, fixed/plumbed into the ground (these are very rare and generally operate on natural gas), wall and open basket types. The easiest types to use and the most versatile are the free standing gas patio heaters. The market is saturated with many different types but what are the important features to look for are?

Safety Features

Always ensure a flame failure device is fitted and look for a tilt safety shut-off Should someone attempt to move the patio heater when it's lit the tilt device will quickly cut the gas supply off to the burner. The better quality patio heaters will also be supplied with a thermal fuse for added safety. If they are missing any one of these safety features just ask yourself if it has been built with the customer in mind or is it cheap and cheerful budget model.

Heat/Power Output

Some list power via KW but by far the best method is to look for the BTU/h's (British Thermal Unit). The BTU's will show the engine size and is a more accurate way of understanding how much heat the burner can generate. Just as too little power (table top types often have 20,000BTU/h's or less) is not ideal, to much power will just guzzle gas with no added benefit. The design and construction is a fine balance of height plus reflector diameter to deliver the most efficient heat to the area and people below. Burners up to 50,000BTU can be fully harnessed under a normal sized reflector, anything above 50,000BTU needs a re-engineered patio heater that should be much taller (3M plus) and with a much wider reflector to effectively capture and reflect the heat output downwards. Look for patio heaters with a min 35,000 BTU up to 50,000BTU, anything above will just burn extra fuel into the air above with no extra benefit. Older 16kw patio heaters in the UK are bolted to a frame that is designed to reflect 13kw of power which makes them very inefficient in today's greener climate and very expensive to run. It's worth checking on 16kw patio heaters if the supplier will support with spares and repairs, generally these are unserviceable. Most have been discontinued a few years ago and it is increasingly difficult to find any support.

Burners

The heart of a patio heater and the most expensive part is the burner. These can be manufactured using tin plate, chrome or stainless steel. Even if the body is stainless steel most budget patio heaters still fit tin burners as standard. Within the UK the tin or chrome burners rust quickly, always best to check a full stainless steel burner is fitted before making a decision.

Types of Finish

Stainless steel patio heaters offer the lazy gardener the best option. These can be left in the garden without fear of rust. Powder coated and hammered patio heaters should be protected using a full length cover. Avoid the short burner covers (made for use in The Far East/S. Africa), always look for a full length cover. To help keep the worst of the British weather off and prevent fading, scratches and the potential for rust, invest in a good quality cover.

Fuel

It's worth checking if the patio heater will run on both propane and butane. Not all patio heaters are designed to run on dual fuel, some are single fuel only. For the best all year round performance propane is the wise choice. There are two types of propane cylinders, one is generically called "patio gas" supplied in a green cylinder and designed for a clip-on LPG propane regulator.  The other is standard propane in an orange cylinder, this takes a reverse screw regulator. Although patio heaters can operate on butane LPG it's worth noting that during very cold periods butane will stop working.

Warrantees

Depending on where you purchase a patio heaters it can be difficult to return items. There are many traders who dabble in garden items from paddling pools, trampolines and patio heaters by purchasing from a discount wholesaler. Once sold it may be difficult to get back-up and support. Most switch from one patio heater model to the next based on lowest wholesale cost - not always the best way to guarantee quality. Look for a supplier with consistent product production, development and support.

Fake Patio Heater Sales

There are more and more pop up site and traders that operate fake sales on patio heaters. To see if the patio heater is being sold on a fake sale take a note of the price and web site. Check back a few weeks later and you'll find many of the "for this month only" or "last few remaining" tickets have not changed. Best to avoid those traders that operate using dubious practices that misled the customer, the question is what else are they hiding?

Position

Garden patio heaters are for outdoor use only. When positioning near to any structures the clearance needed is 60cm to the side and 50cm above. If using a gazebo check if the material is flame retardant. Never place a patio heater on a slope or uneven surfaces. Patio heaters suffer storm damage, if high winds are forecast it's best to move to a sheltered spot or strap it to a down pipe. This will prevent any storm damage toppling it over, reflectors can act like a sail in high winds.

Design

Avoid the unsightly garden patio heaters fitted with clumsy doors for access to the gas cylinder. Look for the sleeker patio heater models with hidden access for gas.
There are two types of reflectors - the single piece or sectional reflectors, often called canopies, lid or dome. A patio heater reflector size should be around 80cm for optimum heat deflection. A single piece reflector is not repairable. An alternative is a 5 piece reflector or a 4 piece reflector, these can be easily repaired by purchasing sections required at lower unit cost.

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