Comfort

comfort

There are several factors that affect heating an outdoor environment. Most critical of these factors is the wind. Better protection from the wind results in comfort at lower outdoor temperatures. With little or no protection from the wind, a practical comfort limit is about 40-45 degrees with wind at 10 mph or less. With good or complete wind protection, year round use of the outdoor environment is achievable.

There are various types of patio heaters and patio heating equipment. The main differences are fuel/energy type and configuration. They are summarized below:

    1. Propane “Mushroom” Patio Heaters
        • Description: a free standing 7′ high unit placed on the patio floor, heat is emitted near the top, glows red/orange
        • Fuel Type: liquid propane (LP)
        • Type of Heat: high intensity infrared
        • Configuration: heat is emitted from a single point in a 180 degree circular pattern
        • Can Be Modulated: no modulation,  but some more expensive models can have “lo-hi” control
        • Operating Cost: high
        • Effectiveness: poor-very uneven distribution of heat
        • First Cost: low
        • Other: units take up patio floor space, safety concern of falling units, units last only 1 or 2 seasons due to damage

2. Infrared Panel Heaters

        • Description: an above mounted rectangular panel, heat is emitted from flame on the panel surface, glows red/orange
        • Fuel Type: natural gas
        • Type of Heat: high intensity infrared
        • Configuration: heat is emitted from a single point in a small rectangular pattern
        • Can Be Modulated: no
        • Operating Cost: medium
        • Effectiveness: poor-uneven distribution of heat (unless “extra” units are used driving up first cost)
        • First Cost: high
        • Other: safety concern of exposed flame

3. Electric Infrared Heaters

        • Description: an above mounted small rectangular panel, heat is emitted from a quartz infrared bulb, intense pink/orange glow
        • Fuel Type: electricity
        • Type of Heat: high intensity infrared
        • Configuration: heat is emitted from a single point in a small rectangular pattern
        • Can Be Modulated: yes
        • Operating Cost: high
        • Effectiveness: poor-uneven distribution of heat (unless “extra” units are used driving up first cost)
        • First Cost: high
        • Other: three phase power is usually required, intense pink/orange glow illuminates patio

4. Infrared Tube System (Patio Enhancement Group)

        • Description: an above mounted tube/reflector system, heat is emitted from steel tube, no glow
        • Fuel Type: natural gas
        • Type of Heat: low intensity infrared
        • Configuration: heat is emitted from a aluminized steel tube that traverses the entire heated area in a large rectangular pattern
        • Can Be Modulated: yes
        • Operating Cost: low
        • Effectiveness: excellent-even distribution of heat over entire area
        • First Cost: high
        • Other: stainless steel/aluminum construction provides excellent product longevity in an outdoor environment

The answer is YES! In order to do so, we would propose a steel “clear span” system to support the heating units. An alternative would be side wall mounting of the units. Be sure to check our picture gallery page under the “Uncovered Patios” or “Side Wall Mounting” sections to get an idea of how we do this.

The often seen”mushroom” style propane patio heaters, although boasting a low first cost, fall hopelessly short of the goal of providing even heat around a patio at a reasonable operating cost. Considered a “high intensity” propane fired infrared heater, these units emit a large quantity of heat from what is virtually a single point making it almost impossible to spread that heat evenly around the patio. The high cost of propane as its fuel makes it even more undesirable, not to mention the labor cost associated with having to constantly change the propane tanks. Lost patio floor space is yet another issue, depending on how the units are placed.

Our systems use a natural gas fired low intensity “tube” that runs the length of the patio to evenly distribute the heat. This heat can be modulated to match the conditions of the day and save energy.  The units mount above the patio, out of the way, not taking up valuable patio floor space. By using natural gas for fuel, you can expect an operating cost one eighth that of the propane “mushroom” heaters.

Just as heating systems for buildings are sized for a worst case outdoor temperature, outdoor heating systems are selected for a worst case patio temperature. For instance, if you intend to use your patio at say 40 degrees or above, we will design enough heat into your system to meet that requirement. But when operating the system on a say a 55 degree day, you would have too much heat so we must modulate the heat downward to maintain the comfort of your patrons. Remember, sometimes too hot is just as bad as too cold! As an added bonus, modulating the heat also saves energy which lowers your operating cost.

Much like the propane “mushroom” heaters, electric infrared heaters are considered “high intensity” and emit their heat from virtually a single point making it almost impossible to spread the heat evenly around the patio. Because they are electric, they do heat up faster than a natural gas unit but this comes at the price of much higher operating costs. Our systems use a natural gas fired low intensity “tube” that runs the length of the patio to evenly distribute the heat. Using natural gas for fuel, you can expect an operating cost one fifth that of the electric infrared heaters.