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Is Your Outdoor Heater's Efficiency Right for You?

az-patio-heaters-hlds01-cbt-400There are many reasons to consider purchasing an outdoor heater, yet you might be wondering whether it is cost effective or an overall good choice to purchase your heater.

The reasons for purchasing a heater mostly amount to your needs regarding heating and the climate in which you live. There are many reasons you could consider buying a model.

Let's think for example, that you live in a region with a particularly cold winter. When temperature begins to decrease, you find that it is much harder to utilize outdoor environments.

Benches might become too cold to the touch, the cold temperature might necessitate the wearing of extra clothing; any outdoor activities you have planned might become harder to execute when the weather gets cold.

It is in situations such as these that it might pay off to have an outdoor heater.

Indoor heaters are similar in offering better sleeping conditions, and making home life more comfortable. If you take those ideas and apply them to outside experiences, you should have a good idea about how your life can be improved by an outdoor heater.

Another thing to consider is holiday and party situations like family reunions, Christmas celebrations, house parties, etc., a heater allows you to:

  • Use more space
  • Plan better
  • Have more conditions that can be used well

A lamp-sized heater could be perfect to heat up a single table and allow you and your partner a warm moment even in unwelcoming weather.

Do you have a commercial building with open air seats or areas? If an outdoor heater is rated as commercially usable, a good business incentive is maximizing the time your building can operate.

  • Both if nights are cold or the season is unforgiving, well placed heaters can mitigate or outright negate adverse weather effects.
  • By having additional control over the elements, you can have better profit opportunities and better chances at maximizing the use of your current location, so an outdoor heater might even be an investment that will pay off.
  • The initial cost of buying and running a heater might be counteracted by the increased activity.

So, summing it, the reason to get an outdoor heater is because it can offer a great improvement and offer you control of your environment and living space.

A heater permits you to use your surroundings to their maximum potential, and you will benefit by being able to not lose living space to weather conditions. Many locations in cold climates employ differing models of heater. If anything, their widespread use hints at their great usefulness.

There are many factors to consider when searching for the right Outdoor Heater. No type is simply better than the other. Many things can alter the benefits of having a heater. For example, propane prices, the area you need to heat, basically every heater performs better in a specific environment and situation.

Often, heaters will show in their specifications their coverage (in square feet) and theirBTU.

Coverage means the maximum area that heater can reach, meaning anything placed further than that will not be heated at all.

  • Let's imagine a standard 40.000 BTU propane heaters has a 1500 square feet coverage, such as the AZ HLDS01-CBT propane radiative heater, this means only objects and people that are within an area of 1500 square feet will feel a difference in temperature. But this is an indication of maximum coverage; a heater that can cover a 1500 square feet area would work optimally in an area slightly smaller than that one.

Additionally, the efficiency of a heater is influenced by how cold it is, for example, in a more mild area, it might take about 30BTU to heat up a square foot, while in a colder area, it can take up to 60 BTU, greatly reducing the effectiveness of your heater.


A way to calculate this is measuring the square footage of the area you need to heat, then measuring how much you want to heat it.

A good rule of thumb is that for each degree Fahrenheit you need to heat up a square foot, you need around 2 BTU.

  • Let's return to our 1500 square foot area and our 40.000 BTU heater, imagine it is currently 30°F, if you wish to heat it up to, let's say, 60°F, you'll have to heat all the 1500 square feet by 30°F, supposing the entire area is under the coverage of our heater, it will take a total of 90,000 BTU to heat the entire area to 60°F.

Since our heater has 40.000 BTU, it will heat the area in about two hours and a fifteen minutes. If you take a smaller space, the heating will be faster, if the temperature drops even further, you might need additional heaters.

Take in account that objects closer to the heater will receive more heat, and thus will heat up faster than objects further away from it.

  • If you have a very small area to heat, for example, a single table in your backyard, or the immediate area surrounding you if you're alone, an electric heater might be a cheaper option, but if you're going for large areas, such as restaurants, bars, industrial areas, etc... The propane heater is a better choice due to its much bigger heating capacity.

The cost effectiveness of the heater you intend to buy depends mostly on the prices in your area.

For example, a propane heater might be a better option than an electric heater if propane is cheap in your area.

Electrical heaters, like infrared heaters, with large capacity might consume up to 3.5 kWh, which could be costly if you require sustained heating for large periods of time in an area where electricity is expensive.

The total cost of operating an electrical heater tends to be efficient and less than the cost of operating a propane heater, but propane heaters usually have heating capacity that far exceeds electric ones. It all depends on your local prices for propane versus electricity, and also the total area you need to heat. If your heating needs are small and electricity is cheap, you should consider buying an electric heater, otherwise, propane heaters are more diversified and might be a better choice.

You may also consider an outdoor fireplace if wood is easy to acquire in your area. If you own land, and firewood is easy to obtain in your property, an outdoor fireplace may have no costs other than maintenance. In some areas, firewood is considerably cheaper than propane, so it might be cheaper to use an outdoor fireplace.

Generally speaking, electric heaters are more energy efficient than propane or wood fuelled heaters, yet their heating capacity is much smaller than a common propane heater.

  • The unit of measure for heating capacity is the British Thermal Unit, or BTU.
  • A conversion between watts and BTU can be done by multiplying each watt by 3.4; for example, an electric heater model with 1,500 watts would have the equivalent of 5.100 BTU; a usual propane heater might heat from around 10,000 and up to 60,000 BTU.
  • So while electricity might be more efficient, in this case propane can offer much more heating. A good way to compare would be looking at the specifications to see how much time a standard 20 lbs propane tank can last on the heater, and comparing the cost of filling such tank with the cost of running an electric heater for the same period.

Calculations regarding efficiency.

fire-sense-02679-l-400For example, let's consider refilling a 20 lb propane tank would cost 15 dollars, and a propane heater could last for ten hours using that, while a kWh would cost 15 cents.

In this case, the propane heater would cost 1.5 dollar to run for an hour, and 15 dollars to run for ten hours.

A 1,500 watts electric heater would cost 0.23 dollar to run for an hour, and 2.3 dollars to run for ten hours, which is six times less expensive. Considering a standard 40.000 BTU propane heater can last for ten hours with a 20 lb propane tank, you'd be getting seven times more heating power than the electric heater.

So in a case such as this, while the electric heater is much cheaper to operate, it cannot heat as much as a propane heater would. In very small areas where you don't need the potency of a propane heater, it might pay off to install an electric heater. Take in account those numbers are purely speculative, and are only being used to illustrate a possibility, the idea is that you should consider the prices in your area, and the size of the place you need to heat in order to determine which type of heater is better for you.


After all these considerations, you have a wide range of variables if you intend to purchase a heater. Make sure your heater has a potency that matches the area you intend to heat, that the energy source you use is cost effective for your need, etc.

Propane heaters are the most common type of heater, so you could look through the different types and work your way from there.

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