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Outdoor Heating: What’s Best For The Home, Gas or Infrared?

outside living

Indoor/outdoor flow extends your living space, and even in winter, you can make use of your deck or balcony when you’ve got outdoor heating.

Let’s face it you’ll have a tough time convincing your friends and family to dine al fresco without an appropriate outdoor heating solution. Use this guide on outdoor heating and what’s best for your home – for example, Gas-powered or Infrared?

How They Work: Radiant Versus Convective Heat

First things first, there are fundamental differences in how gas-powered and infrared heaters work.

Infrared – radiant

Infrared or radiant heaters convert electricity into infrared heat through a lamp or heating element, transmitted by electromagnetic waves until it finds an object (for instance, a person).

The object then absorbs the waves — in much the same way we absorb rays from the sun, only without any trace of the harmful UV.

Gas – convective

Gas-powered heating produces convective heat by warming up the air around them. Indoors gas-powered works well as there is a finite area to heat, whereas outside without walls, the air is infinite. Clearly, this heating system is not the most effective outside.

Another way of looking at it is when it comes to the heat itself, an infrared heater only uses energy when there is a heat-receptive object within proximity of the emitted waves. On the other hand, gas heating produces heat (and therefore consumes energy) from the moment you turn it on.

Heating outside is not easy, and with infrared, while it’s a better solution, it requires the object to be within two or three metres of the heater to feel its warmth. One heater may not be enough when you’ve got a larger outdoor space, and you may need two or more heaters for everyone to get the warmth.

Environmental Friendliness

Infrared is more eco-friendly than gas, as they use less power.

Environmentally speaking, gas-powered outdoor heaters don’t have a great report card.

Gas heaters emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. According to the Energy Savings Trust report, the average gas patio heater produces around 50 kilograms of CO2 per year.

Natural Gas

Even natural gas – which emits up to 60% less CO2 than other types of gas – is problematic due to the methane-heavy process of drilling and extraction required to source it. This is all in contrast to infrared heating, entirely devoid of C02 emissions if electrically powered.

While the environmentally unfriendly nature of gas-powered heating might not have posed so much of an issue a couple of decades ago, today’s climate-conscious milieu is increasingly resistant to domestic heating solutions, which further impress our carbon footprint.

As a case in point, the known environmental costs of gas-powered heaters have led to their being banned in France. Given booming consumer interest in eco-conscious solutions Down Under, it looks like Australasia might not be far away.

Energy Efficiency

Gas-powered outdoor heaters are also on the losing side when it comes to energy efficiency.

Depending on weather conditions, nearly half of the heat produced by a gas heater can be swept straight into the air by the wind. Not only does this not help with the primary goal of keeping your outdoor area warm: it’s also a significant waste of energy tout court.

On the other hand, electric-powered infrared heaters leave no heat to waste since they only emit electromagnetic waves if they find an object. For this reason, infrared heaters are up to 90% efficient to run and much cheaper.

Let’s Talk Money: Upfront and Long-Term Affordability

For homeowners looking to warm up their outdoor space, electric-powered infrared heaters are often cheaper to buy upfront than their gas counterparts.

For commercial users wanting to heat larger outdoor areas (restaurant owners, for instance), on the other hand, gas heaters may be cheaper to buy upfront.

However, there’s a diminishing cost saving to buying a commercial gas heater when you factor in the cost of the gas needed to power it.

Whether LPG, Butane, or Propane, outdoor gas heaters will tear through around 1.25 litres of gas per hour, and of course, that gas needs to be replaced. In terms of long-term affordability, therefore, electric infrared heaters come up trumps on both counts.

The Verdict

To conclude, infrared radiant outdoor heaters win on every measure for homeowners, from efficacy to cost (in the short- and long-term) to eco-friendliness.

Infrared heating is becoming the only viable option for small-scale heating, as environmentally-conscious homeowners look to do their bit to reduce global C02 emissions.

You shouldn’t have any problem finding a large range of these up-and-coming heaters on the market, either.

Infrared heaters come in all shapes and forms, so whether you’re looking to install one wall-to-ceiling, hanging, freestanding, or under-table, there’s sure to be a heater that suits your outdoor space.

Some manufacturers even offer a custom-colour option so that you can fit your heater to a particular colour scheme.

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