No indoor or outdoor heating is completely eco friendly. Even the electricity running through your house affects the environment, whether we like to think about it or not.
So the most eco-friendly patio heater are jumpers, rugs and blankets. But, if we accept that heating is an acceptable use of energy, there are certainly worse and better ways to heat your patio space so you can enjoy the outdoors all year round.
Are patio heaters bad for the environment?
Right now, you probably think that the best way to get heat is old school – surely a good old bonfire in a garden fire pit will be the most eco-friendly way to get warm? If it was good for the Neanderthals, it’s good enough for us modern folks.
Here’s the thing. Wood and coal-burning stoves are responsible for over a third of particulate matter – in other words, air pollution.
So, you won’t be going green by throwing a few logs on the fire, but if you do decide to go that way, make sure the wood you are burning is dry (with fewer particulates) and meets recycling standards.
For example, why not burn a compressed log (eco log) or briquette instead?
These are made of recycled hardwood flour and should hold less than 9% moisture. They may not look as pretty, but they burn bright, are good value, and are more eco-friendly than your average log, as it’s stuff that would usually end up in a landfill anyway.
- 100% recycled cardboard
- Burns Cleaner
- For Firepits, Stoves, Chimineas
So lets’ remove fire-stove, chimineas and fire bowls from the equation.
As an eco-warrior, if you have one of these in your garden, it’s used on the few nights of the year when you want to have friends over.
If, like most of us, you are more of a concerned consumer, and want to make the best possible choice while accepting that you’ll want year-round heat, then you have two options to pick from.
You might like: We’ve put together a list of eco-friendly fire pit fuels to help keep your carbon footprint to a minimum.
Which is best – gas or electric patio heaters?
The age-old fight between electric and gas heaters is as long as there are outdoor heaters in the market.
The quick and obvious answer is that electric heaters are more eco-friendly.
Now, that’s not to say they don’t have a CO2 footprint, but it’s less than natural gas or propane gas.
But we do accept that there simply are different things to consider when looking at what makes the best patio heaters.
How much C02 do they emit?
In general, electric patio heaters produce only around 15% of the C02 footprint of a standard patio heater. It’s really hard to argue those numbers.
An average gas patio heater emits approximately 3,399KG of C02 per year, Vs an equivalent electric heater will only use 500 kg of C02.
This is because electric heaters don’t have to produce as much Kilowatt of heat as a gas heater. More on that in a minute.
Is it cheaper to run a gas heater or an electric heater?
This depends on where you live and the gas and electricity price. But generally, if you live in the western hemisphere, electricity is cheaper. In fact, on average, an electric patio heater only costs around 15% of what it would take to run a Gas Patio Heater.
Don’t believe us? Take the United Kingdom, for example.
The average cost per hour in gas for a gas patio heater is £1.20. An equivalent electric patio heater only costs 15p per hour in electricity.
What type of patio heater generates the most heat?
Here is where it gets tricky. A typical average gas patio heater will generate around 13KW of heat, whilst the equivalent electric version will only probably generate 2KW.
And there’s a huge variety between them as well, with some gas or electric garden heaters being more efficient than others.
But, if you want to warm a large, unsheltered space, say a garden or a sizeable patio, gas heaters will feel warmer quicker.
That’s because gas heaters are convection heaters – that means that they warm up and circulate warm air, meaning you feel the warmth quicker, even if a lot of it is wasted on the air. They have to be stronger in order to make up for the loss.
Electric garden lamps, on the other hand, are radiant heaters – meaning they warm up people and objects around them. This is why these work particularly well in patios, and they don’t need as strong a KW.
There’s no wasted heat because, like a beam of light, all the heat goes towards the people or objects directly in the beam’s path.
Winner: If you have a large open space Gas garden heater.
What is the most efficient patio heater?
When people ask: “What is the best type of outdoor heater?” What they really should be asking is what is the most efficient type of patio heater.
By now, you may have an inkling of what we mean, ie. What heater will keep me warm for less money and in the greenest possible way?
The answer is an electric quartz infrared patio heater.
We haven’t mentioned them before because they are basically a type of electric heater. Most electric heaters will see you through a cool summer evening and will certainly be enough to warm you and a close person standing next to you.
But if you want a little bit of a wider range, you have to go quartz.
This isn’t that surprising if you think about it. A typical gas mushroom garden heater is warming not just the air around the people but the air above it as well. So there’s a lot of wasted heat.
Electric quartz infrared patio heaters aim their heat directly where you point it. The parabolic reflector magnifies and focuses the heat to where it’s needed rather than having any waste.
It needs less heat to be twice as efficient.
Give me a good example of an electric quartz infrared heater?
If you are looking to invest in a long-term solution for your patio and you have the space and ability to put something permanently in place, then the WSN Electric Umbrella is for you.
It’s not cheap, but it’s powerful, and you will be warm through day and night instantly. It can cover a space of 10 to 40 square meters, so it’s certainly not just for decoration.
Alternatively, if that stretches your budget a little too much, then how about a more traditional heat lamp, such as the Flower Electric Freestanding heater?
Not only does it have an adjustable head so you can direct the heat exactly to where you need it to go, had a soft light that will add atmosphere to any party and could save you as much as 30-40% on electricity compared to your traditional heater.
Who said going green is so difficult?
What can I do to lower my heating footprint?
So are outdoor heaters bad for the environment? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. There is no such thing as eco-friendly outdoor heaters because there’s no such thing as eco-friendly energy.
Until such time as we all get our electricity through the power of wind, water or sunshine, there is going to be a cost. And while electric heaters are substantially more environmentally friendly than gas patio heaters, unless your hour runs from electricity from your solar panels on your roof, there is cost.
So if you want to ensure that you don’t have the patio heater at full blast all the time, here are some small things you can do.
- Hang lights: They may not provide warmth, but they provide that illusion that tricks the brain into thinking you are warmer than you are.
- Create a wind shelter: Wind, more than anything, will bring the cold in. Create a little nook or shelter for guests to enjoy.
- Bring out blankets: Drape blankets all over the seats and allow your guest to add or remove layers as they feel comfortable.
- Don’t forget soft furnishings: pillows, throws, rugs – even if they don’t use them, these cotton fabrics will be instantly warmer than wood, metal or plastic.
- Buy an efficient patio heater: If you are going to use energy, make sure it doesn’t go to waste. Warm your guest with a good electric patio heater instead.
Don’t think you can’t enjoy the outdoors come winter just because you don’t want to heat your patio.
Electric heaters work fast, can be switched on and off in seconds, and cost as little as one-tenth of a gas heater.
They are efficient because they heat the people rather than the air, and you don’t have any smelly fumes or noisy gas to distract you from an evening with friends.