Hurll Nu-Way Pty Ltd offers a comparative study of three different types of portable outdoor gas heaters to assist buyers with making the right selection for their specific application.

Patio heaters are available in a range of options to suit commercial as well as residential applications, with key differentiators including output, fuel efficiency, heating efficiency, heating coverage, weight, warranty, price and total cost of ownership.

Portable heaters include floor standing mushroom style gas heaters, pyramid flame glass gas heaters, and ceramic infrared gas heaters.

Mushroom style gas heaters

Considered the cheapest option, mushroom style gas heaters are available in a $100 - $500 price band.

Offering 40 Mj/hr output, the heater offers 11 hours of heating on a 9kg cylinder. If the heater is run 100 hours per season, at $20 per swap bottle, the heating fuel cost amounts to $200. A typical cafe owner will run it for 200 hours per season, paying $400 per year for fuel.

However, mushroom heaters are inefficient since a considerable amount of heat is lost through the top of the metal reflector cover. The average heating coverage is 9 – 17 square metres and one will need to sit close to the heater to feel the comfort. It takes up to two minutes to turn the heater on.

Top of the range heaters of the mushroom type are heavy and extremely hard to move around, while cheaper options are too light and unstable, which can create safety concerns. Mushroom style gas heaters are mostly available with a 3-month warranty for commercial use.

Based on average price and 200 hours of consumption per season for five years operation, the total cost of ownership for mushroom style gas heaters will be over $2200.

Pyramid flame glass gas heaters

Definitely more aesthetically pleasing in appearance, pyramid flame glass gas heaters are priced in the $300 - $1500 range, and claim to heat 16-30 square metres of area depending on the model.

With an average 36 – 42 Mj/hr heat output, and an option to run on high or low settings, the top range models will use 1 bottle in 10 hours. Though easier to switch on, pyramid flame glass gas heaters offer more flames than heat, with the user required to sit close to the heater to feel the warmth.

Pyramid gas heaters also take up a lot of floor space, which can make a cafe layout space-inefficient, and reduce revenue for the restaurant owner. A big venue will need quite a few of these heaters to heat the floor area effectively.

Pyramid flame glass gas heaters available in Australia, are manufactured in China.

The total cost of ownership for a 5-year operation is estimated at $3000.

Ceramic gas heaters

Also known as infrared heaters, ceramic gas heaters are considered the most efficient as they heat the objects, and do not waste energy heating the air.

Available in a price band of $500 - $1200, ceramic gas heaters have an output capacity of 16 Mj/h (running on low) to 24 Mj/h (set on high), with a 9kg gas bottle sufficient for 20 – 30 hours of usage. To operate a ceramic gas heater for 200 hours per season will cost the venue owner $130 - $200, which is 2-3 times less than the other heaters. Average cost for personal patio use for 100 hours per season would be $70-$100.

Easy to switch on, ceramic gas heaters offer a side spread heat pattern, eliminating the need for the user to sit next to it. Depending on the size, the heater covers an area of 25 - 40 square metres, and a lesser number of portable heaters will be required to heat the same café area, which equates to floor space savings and lower investment per square metre of heating for the venue owner.

Manufactured in France, the ceramic gas heaters are available in Australia, with the heater operating on average for 20 years and requiring little or no maintenance.

The total cost of ownership for a 5-year operation is $1800, with a good quality infrared heater even lasting 30 years.