In case you haven't noticed, patio heaters have been popping up in just about every box store and wholesale club across North America. Not too long ago, patio heaters were sold only through specialty stores such as LP gas equipment dealers, hearth products dealers and patio furniture retailers. And they were very expensive. Today, patio heaters are much more affordable than ever and you can find them nearly everywhere you go.
The most popular among the patio heaters are the post mounted propane models, often called "mushroom" heaters because they consist of a heater head mounted atop an 84" post with a round mushroom-shaped reflector over the head. Since the heater head is high atop the post, it is safely out of the reach of children and pets (although ladies with tall beehive hairdoos could pose a problem). The heater head consists of the gas control valve, ignitor and pilot assembly. At the base of the heater is a 20 lb. propane tank, regulator and hose. The sheer weight of the gas tank sitting on a heavy base makes the heater bottom-heavy, making it difficult to tip over if bumped into.
To ignite the heater, just turn on the gas supply at the tank. Most utilize some sort of piezo-type ignition. That ignites the pilot flame. Just push it in and hold until the pilot stays lit. Once the pilot is lit, just turn the control knob to "on" and the burner fires. It only takes a few minutes for the heater head to reach maximum temperature. The infra-red heat energy bounces off the mushroom-shaped reflector, creating a 12' foot circular footprint of comfy heat to the surrounding area. People tend to gravitate where they are most comfortable. The effectiveness of the heater depends on outside temperatures, wind, and how well protected the area to be heated is.
Having sold patio heaters for over 21 years, I'm often asked "what are the differences in patio heaters and how can I ensure I find the best value?" Or, "is the quality of the heaters I see at the big box stores as good as what I see on the internet and at specialty retailers?" Generally speaking, those found in the box stores are made to compete on price only and are not the higher quality, commercial grade heaters. Still, they may be suitable for a moderate amount of homeowner use. This is where a little homework comes in.
Hint: assuming that you can visit several stores where patio heaters are sold, do this: simply move the heater around a bit to check out how heavy it is. Tap on the post and steel cover that hides the LP tank. Does it sound cheap or feel flimsy? Or does it seem solid and heavy? Does it have wheels for easy transport? Does it have a Hi-Lo option? Stainless steel or painted? What grade of stainless steel? Stainless is fast outpacing powder coated models and 304 stainless is what you want. But just because it is stainless, does not mean it is 304 stainless steel. It could be a lower grade that will eventually corrode. For more extended use or more abusive aplications and weather environments, I suggest searching around. Do the homework and you'll be happier in the long run.
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