Fuel For Thought: Choosing The Best Fuel Type For Your New Patio Heater

Australia may not exactly be renowned for its cool weather, but the evenings and nights can nonetheless get decidedly chilly at times, especially in the desert areas towards the centre of the country. Consequently, many patio owners will install patio accessories and run a dedicated patio heater to stave off the cold on these chilly nights, and a well-chosen heater can keep you warm and comfortable even in the middle of a windy winter night.

However, patio heaters can draw their power either from natural gas canisters or electrical hookups, and each fuel type has its own properties, advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of. To get the most from your new patio heater, make sure to keep the following pros and cons in mind when choosing a fuel source:

Propane and butane heaters

These two flammable gases have different names and chemical makeups but broadly similar properties, and both are used widely to provide fuel to patio heaters. Perhaps the most useful quality of propane and butane-fuelled heaters is their independence; these heaters are self-igniting and therefore do not require an electrical hookup to start and/or function. 

Propane and butane are also quite efficient as heater fuels, and a single canister of gas can be expected to last for many cold nights without diminishing. These canisters are self contained and very easy to fit and replace as needed, so propane and butane heaters are ideal for the patio owner who wants to spend minimal time filling and maintaining their heater.

Unfortunately, these canisters are quite expensive in terms of initial purchase cost, and buying a new canister of gas every time your heater is spent can become prohibitively expensive quickly. Having used canisters refilled is a more economical option. You should also bear in mind that propane heaters emit small quantities of poisonous carbon monoxide. Though these quantities are small enough not to worry about in the open air, they do mean propane and butane heaters cannot be used in enclosed patios, conservatories and the like.

Electrical heaters

These simple yet effective heaters run power through electrical resistance coils in order to provide heat, and are hooked up to your home's ordinary mains electricity supply. Often inhabiting the cheaper end of the patio heater market, these heaters are as cheap to run as they can be to buy, and even extended periods of use should not put a significant dent in your energy bills. With no liquid fuel to deal with you will never have to change a canister in the middle of the night, and zero harmful emissions means the heater can easily be used in enclosed areas.

Unfortunately, electrical heaters tend to be less weather resistant than their gas-powered counterparts, and leaving an electrical heater exposed to inclement weather can cause malfunctions. Electrical heaters also tend to have a little less oomph than gas heaters, and you may need to purchase a larger electrical heater to heat a space a smaller gas heater could easily handle.