Electric patio heaters function by heating the air surrounding the heater through the emission of infrared energy. Prior to the introduction of electric patio heaters, patio heaters were gas-powered and thus necessitated a tank of propane that needed to be refilled periodically. An electric patio heater does not require regular fuel refills as with gas patio heaters, and can function as long as it is connected to a supply of electricity.
Free Standing Electric Patio Heaters
Electric patio heaters are available, like most heating systems, in a variety of forms to suit the needs of the user. The two main categories of electric patio heaters are free-standing and ceiling or wall mounted. Free-standing electric patio heaters are generally constructed as a wide base unit for stability onto which is affixed a long pole. The heater itself rests at the top of the assembly and disseminates heat downwards to the surrounding area. Free-standing electric patio heaters are, as the name suggests, able to stand anywhere on the ground as long as they are connected to a power source. The effective range of the heater will depend on its power rating, but typical electric patio heaters have an effective range of between twelve and twenty five square meters.
Wall Mounted Electric Patio Heaters
A ceiling or wall mounted heater works by the same principles as its larger, free-standing cousin but requires a mounting on a flat surface to work. Whereas a free-standing electric patio heater can be moved around as the user desires, a ceiling mounted electric patio heater is a more permanent installation. Due to fears of theft of electric patio heaters, using models installable as as wall heaters is an increasingly popular option for many businesses.
The choice of either type of heater will largely depend on the venue in which the heater is to be installed. A free-standing electric patio heater is ideal for use in outdoor venues such as bars and restaurants that have outdoor seating, as they allow the outside areas to be usable after the temperature has dropped. They are typically placed around tables and in outdoor smoking areas, allowing the patrons of the establishment to continue to enjoy a pleasant ambient temperature all year round. As they are electrically powered they also operate silently and typically operate at around 90-100% efficiency, making them relatively cost-effective. Most electric patio heaters also have a heat-guard fitted at their tip, ensuring that the minimum amount of heat is lost. They are generally considered safe for use in most outdoor commercial environments but it must be noted that depending on the geographical location in which the heater is used (such as the UK), the heater can be a carbon intensive appliance.
For smaller outdoor venues, or for venues in which a low-key approach is required, a wall mounted electric patio heater may be more suitable. This type of heater is unobtrusively fixed to a wall and thus poses no danger of being knocked over. For those who want to heat a gazebo or other covering, electric patio heaters are available that can be fitted to the inner support poles of the gazebo. These electric heaters also have the benefit of acting as a lighting source and can be easily disassembled when use of the gazebo has finished. Small models are also available for home use, and these models can be easily fitted and adequately heat a small residential patio space.