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Buying A Patio Heater?


Springtime is here and people everywhere are looking for opportunities to shake off the winter blues and escape to the great outdoors. To help take the chill off those cooler days and nights and extend outdoor living hours, many of these same people will be looking into buying a patio heater (or more than one heater to cover a larger area).

The good news is that there are now a wider variety of outdoor patio heaters to choose from than ever before. All are considered "infrared", which, like the sun, direct comfortable radiant (infrared) heat energy to the surrounding area. These heater options generally include:

Ceiling mounted gas fired high intensity infrared heaters ($400 to $1,100.00)

Ceiling mounted gas fired infrared tube heaters ($800 - $1600)

Portable post mounted LP gas "umbrella style" heaters ($199 to $599.00)

Fixed LP or Nat. gas "umbrella style" heaters ($399 to $699.00)

Overhead electric infrared heaters ($199.00 to $699.00)

Post mounted electric infrared heaters (399.00 to $499.00)

Of the above options, overhead electric infrared heaters are gaining some of the most rapid growth in the patio heating industry.


First, electric infrared heaters offer the convenience of simply plugging the heater into a convenient electrical outlet, versus running gas or filling propane tanks. Hence, the "installed cost" can be much less than gas-fired heaters. Second, the purchase price can be as little as $299 to $349.00 for a quality electric infrared heater. Third, because they are not fuel-fired, electric heaters don’t emit harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

Electric infrared heaters are also ideal for focussed small area heating over a barbecue, hot tub, table, or door entryway. A few brands even offer a convenient floor stand, making the heater completely portable so you can locate the heater virtually anywhere, as long as there is an electrical outlet nearby. Great for thawing, freeze control, animal comfort, temporary heat in the garage, and so much more.

Do electric infrared heaters generate as much heat as gas infrared heaters?

Electric infrared heaters normally emit 1500 watts of heat energy (equivalent to 5,120 BTU’s). That’s about 4 to 7 times less BTU’s than many of the bigger gas infrared patio heaters. However, electric infrared heaters are smaller and can focus the infrared heat more directionally. In other words, they emit a smaller, more focussed footprint of heat, generated by a highly reflective parabolic reflector.

It is sometimes necessary to use more than one electric heater to cover a large area. But keep in mind that a 1500 watt heater will draw about 13 amps of power. Therefore, only one heater can operate on a 20 amp circuit. More heaters, means higher amp draw and more circuit capacity is required. For multiple heaters, it is best to use 208V or 240V heaters and have them professionally wired. High voltage heaters will draw fewer amps and cost less to operate. Higher output 3000 watt electric heaters are available.

Important: If you are searching for an electric infrared heater, be sure to search the various brands. Better units can "throw" dramatically more usable heat energy to the target area than some cheaper ones. Also, choose a brand that offers the best warranty and bulb life and make sure it is approved for outdoor use. Some have a 1-year warranty and 5000 hour bulb life. Better units have a 2 year warranty and a 9000 hour bulb life. Some are approved for outdoor use and some are not. Some have built-in thermostats or remote controls while others do not.

By the way, electric infrared heaters are also excellent for use in bathrooms, laundry rooms, sunrooms, lofts, cabins, bedrooms, outdoor smoking areas, offices, and much more. Electric infrared heaters have also been shown to offer health benefits, since infrared radiation stimulates blood circulation. Think of sitting in the sunshine, but without the harmful rays of the sun.

Scott Workman owns and operates Infra-Red Products Supply, Inc. of Draper, Utah. Since 1986, Infra-Red Products has become recognized as one of the foremost leaders in energy saving heating system design and sales for residential, commercial and industrial consumers.

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