If only climate change could be controlled at all times with the turn of a knob. We may not yet have complete control over nature’s forces. Still, we can now change a chilly October evening into an August scorcher by dropping down to B&Q, or anywhere you want and spending £100 on a patio heater, or an “alfresco appliance,” as some in the seasons-defying trade now refer to it.
Eating outside in pubs, restaurants, and gardens was a fun way to mingle in a more secure environment during the summer. However, as the weather cools and COVID limitations continue in effect, socialising outside becomes more difficult (even after lockdown).
The truth is that one heater can produce the same amount of pollution as a rushing truck, but unlike cars, there is no filtration or reduction of hazardous gases. They’re also inefficient in terms of energy. A regular 13kg natural gas canister will warm a 25 sq m space outside for 12 hours. However, the same canister used in a gas fire will heat the same area indoors for ten times longer. Standing in the garden with a hair drier aimed at one’s body would make more sense because the heat source would be directed at the target rather than radiating up into the sky.
Standard patio heaters are inefficient for use outside since so much of the heat they generate is lost due to the lack of walls and ceilings to keep it in. And let’s face it, they heat only like one person. So, how can we keep everyone comfortable outside without putting a massive carbon footprint on the environment?
Good Old Fire?
A firepit or a wood burner is the most basic outdoor heating options. These are commonly used; however, they contribute significantly to air pollution. The amount of heat formed depends on how concentrated the energy in the fuel is and, in the case of wood fires, how much water is in the wood.
Dried wood has a calorific value (a measure of how much heat it emits) of roughly 15 megajoules (MJ) per kg. In contrast, lighter, cleaner-burning charcoal has a calorific value of around 30 MJ per kg, which is better than coal’s 25 MJ per kg. So, yes, a high-efficiency outdoor woodburning stove will help the fuel burn hotter and produce fewer pollutants. Still, these may be costly, and performance will vary depending on the quality and dryness of the wood.
Even if we ignore the costs and carbon emissions, we still have the issue that wood, coal, and charcoal produce a lot of dust. The World Health Organization estimates that particles cause roughly 7 million premature deaths per year. In addition, woodburning stove gases are hazardous because they contribute significantly to poor air quality. When you burn wood over an open fire, you produce more of these hazardous particles than when you burn coal. In addition, more smoke is produced when the wood is damp.
Can Outdoor Heaters be Green?
With their warm light and nice warming effect, patio heaters may take the chill out of the ambient temperature. They are, however, damaging because they mostly run on fossil fuels and, because their heat is generally lost, they constitute a destructive use of carbon-rich fuels. While a patio heater heats you, it also warms the air and space around you, wasting energy in the process. A typical gas-powered patio heater that warms your table for a couple of hours during a night out could consume 108 MJ and generate 3 kg CO2. An equivalent, more efficient electric system would consume a fifth of the energy, be cheaper to run, and create less than a kilogramme of carbon dioxide in the same evening. Although there are greener alternatives, such as biogas or waste-derived bioethanol heaters that burn cleanly and do not rely on fossil fuels, this is still an extremely wasteful use of energy.
What About Infrared Heaters?
In contrast to other heaters that warm the air around us, Infrared heaters work by “shining” infrared light directly at their target. In an outdoor location, this is more efficient, and the effect is immediate as the heater is turned on. So far, it seems like a good alternative.
The issue is that infrared heaters, like hot torches, only heat whatever is in the path of radiation. Everything that isn’t in the beam or the shade remains frigid. This implies that while your arms, face, and body may be warm, your legs and feet under the table may be cold. The colder we get, the less blood flow to our extremities, which causes our feet to get even colder.
Let’s talk heat lamps
You may also get heat lamps that work using an element that looks a lot like a household lightbulb but emits a bright white light with a temperature of over 2000 degrees Celsius. These elements have a red or gold coating to prevent people from being hurt by the strong white light they emit. When you turn on a heat lamp, you may feel the heat almost immediately, just like when you turn on a short wave infrared heater. However, if you’re using a heat lamp in extremely cold temperatures, you’ll need to be in close proximity. This can also be used as a mounted wall heater or for heating outside in the winter.
When it comes to the end of the bulb’s life, some heat lamps allow you to remove the heating element and replace it; this is an obvious advantage over the other lights previously stated. If you choose to use an electric heater, consider how you will power it. Ensure the place you choose has a power outlet and that any cables are taped down or covered to avoid tripping risks. To ensure that no moisture enters the power source, a waterproof cover should be used.