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Patio Heaters

Saturday, 1 March 2008

You can enjoy your outdoor space after the sun goes down with the added warmth of a patio heater. Since theyíre becoming popular additions to many backyard, patio, and pool areas, we find out what you need to know when buying.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • Patio heaters can either be table top or free-standing towers.

  • They can heat between 12-15 square feet of space and increase the temperature by about 10 degrees to help eliminate the evening chill.

  • Most patio heaters run on propane or natural gas:

    • Refillable propane tanks (like the ones used for barbecues) consume about 1lb of propane/hr.

    • Natural gas hook-ups (always call a professional for installation)

    • There are also electric infrared heaters that can be wall or pole-mounted.

  • Heaters are usually made from a variety of metals. Stainless steel is your best bet for longevity and rust-free, however they are more expensive.

  • Make sure the heater has a gas association marker on it somewhere, which certifies it’s up to safety codes.

  • Check that there’s an automatic shut-off should the heater tip over.

Other Considerations

  • Patio heaters can deliver anywhere between 4,000 to 150,000 BTUs – short for British Thermal Unit, a basic measure of thermal (heat) energy.

Be Aware

  • Propane heaters cannot be hooked up to a natural gas line and vice versa because propane uses copper lines and a natural gas uses steel.

   TEST CRITERIA

We tested these patio heaters at a backyard soiree:

  • Solaira (electric): $349
  • Infratech (electric): $500
  • Endless Summer (propane, tabletop): $130
  • Axxon (propane, powder-coated steel): $460
  • Sunglo (propane, stainless steel): $1350

Heat Test

  • The Axxon and Sunglo heaters were the warmest, and both pumped out about the same amount of heat

  • Endless Summer only reached 25% of the heat of the Axxon and Sunglo

  • The electric Solaira got almost as hot as the Sunglo, and expended only one-tenth the energy.

  • The all-stainless Sunglo looked the most elegant of our test products.

  • The Axxon had an easy to use dial to control the heat, and was easily portable.

   OUR TOP PICK

We really liked the Sunglo but its price tag was a show-stopper. The much less expensive electric heater by Solaira or the portable propane heater by Axxon are both good choices, in our opinion.

 

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