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Portable Outdoor Gas Heaters: How to get the best value for money

Supplier: Hurll Nu-Way
02 July, 2014

Seeking to heat your café or restaurant outdoor area or just looking for a good patio heater for your backyard or open veranda? Our advice will help you get the best value for money.

If you are looking to invest into portable heaters, here are your options:

  • floor standing mushroom style gas heaters
  • pyramid flame glass gas heaters
  • ceramic infrared gas heaters

Mushroom style gas heaters are the cheapest option. Or is it? For the price of $100 - $500, you’ll get:

40 Mj/hr output. This means, 9 kg cylinder will be used in 11 hours (2 -3 days).  For $20 per swap bottle, if you run the heater 100 hours per season, you'll pay $200 for fuel. If you are a café owner, you’ll run it for 200 hours per season, and will pay $400 per year for your LPG bottles.

Most of the money spent on heating will go virtually through the roof of this mushroom with a considerable amount of heat lost through the top of the metal reflector cover. Average heating coverage is 9 – 17 square meters. To feel the comfort, one needs to sit close to the heater.

It will take you up to 2 min to turn the heater on. Top of the range heaters are heavy and extremely hard to move around, while cheap options are too light and unstable, which can create safety concerns.

Image 1: Patio heater. Reflector is 150 C, with uneven heat distribution and considerable amount of heat lost through the top of the metal cover.

Image 2:  Ceramic panel heater. The hottest spot is 120 C, with even heat distribution over a bigger area and less heat rising up.

Made cheap, many models offer only 3 months warranty for commercial use.

Total cost of ownership (based on average price and 200 hours consumption per season, for 5 years operation): If you are lucky and the heater does not break earlier, it will cost you over $2200.

Pyramid flame glass gas heaters look more aesthetically pleasing.  For $300 - $1500, they claim to heat the diameter up to 6 meters or ca. 16-30 square meters depending on the model.

Their heat output is, on average, 36 – 42 Mj/hr. With the possibility to run on high or low, top of the range models will use 1 bottle in 10 hours maximum. They are also easier to switch on. The problem though: you get more flames and looks than heat. To feel the warmth, you need to be close to the heater. 

Pyramid gas heaters take up a lot of floor space, which takes away table allocation, and less tables means less revenues for the restaurant owner. For a big venue, you would need quite a few of these heaters to heat the floor area effectively.
Heaters, available in Australia, are manufactured in China.

Total cost of ownership for 5 years operation: We would estimate $3000.

Ceramic gas heaters, or infrared heaters, heat the objects, not wasting energy on heating the air. For the prices $500 - $1200, are they affordable?

With capacity 16 Mj/h (running on low) to 24 Mj/h (set on high), 9 kg bottle will be enough for 20 – 30 hr of usage. This means 200 hours operation per season will cost $130 - $200, which is 2-3 times less than other types of heaters.  Average usage for personal patio would be 100 hours per season or $70-$100 in total.

It takes only a few seconds to switch on the heater, and it requires a gentle shake to shut the flame down.

With the side spread heat pattern, you won’t have to sit next to it. Quite the opposite, you will feel the nice warmth sitting several meters from it. 

Depending on the size, the heater covers 25 -  40 m2. Fewer of portable heaters are required to heat the same café area, which means saving floor space and lower investment per square meter.

High quality product, manufactured in France, is available in Australia, with the heater operating on average for 20 years and requiring little or no maintenance.

Total cost of ownership (based on average price and 200 hours consumption, for 5 years operation): $1800. And it’s only the beginning. While other heaters may not leave that long, the good quality infrared heater may last 30 years and will only require a couple of clean-ups.

To conclude, always make your research and calculations to get the best value for money when investing in outdoor heating solutions. As the table below shows, for the period of 10 years, you’ll spend two times less money with the most expensive heater.

 

Conventional Patio Heater (Mushroom)

Pyramid Patio Heater

Ceramic Infrared Gas Heater

Heat Pattern and reflection

Downward focus

Downward focus

Side Spread

Unit positioning

Close to occupants (between tables)

Close to occupants (between tables)

On periphery (out of the way)

Capacity

40 MJ /h

29 – 42 MJ/h

24 MJ/h to 16 MJ/h at low fire (4 tile model)

36-23 MJ/h (6 tile model)

Safety

High winds and unit tilt

High winds and unit tilt

Tip-over switch

Flame failure protection

Bottle Refill

11 hours

15 – 10 hours

19 hours at 24 MJ;

30 hours at 16 MJ

Running Cost, per hour

$1.8

$2 - $1.3

$1—70¢

Warranty

3 months for commercial use; 1 year for domestic use

1 year

1 year

Total cost of ownership for individual usage,

 

 

Running 100 h/year

Initial investment—$300

Running costs $200/year,

Replacement—every 5 years

 

Total in 10 years: $2300

Initial investment—$400

Running costs $200 / year,

Replacement—every 5 years

 

Total in 10 years: $2400

Initial investment—$800

Running costs $80 / year,

Replacement—every 20 - 30 years

 

Total in 10 years: $1600

Total cost of ownership for commercial property,

 

running 200 h/year 

Initial investment—$300

Running costs $400/year,

Replacement— estimated every 5 years

 

Total in 10 years: $4600

Initial investment—$400

Running costs $400 /year,

Replacement—estimated every 5 years

 

Total in 10 years: $4800

Initial investment—$800

Running costs $160 / year,

Replacement—every 20 - 30 years

 

Total in 10 years: $2400


Comments: Prices in Australian Dollars. Information is taken from the web sites selling portable gas heaters in Australia and is accurate at the moment of publishing.