Taking the Nip Out of the Air

Heaters keep porches comfortably cozy during our cool weather season
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Photo courtesy of Home Depot

Of late, we have learned to love our porches more than ever. This is the spot where we have sought refuge from at-home work and Zooming, and it has been nice to connect with neighbors also heading outdoors to their own porches or patios, or simply out for a walk. So it comes as no surprise that the porch is now listed as one of the top features wanted by homeowners.

The only thing that might mar an evening on a porch is nippy weather, but, thankfully, technology has stepped in and an array of heaters is now available. They can be built-ins, freestanding or ceiling-mounted, and the three fuel types are natural gas, propane and electric.

Justin Elkins, a Home Depot merchant associate, confirms that sales of outdoor heaters have risen sharply during the pandemic.

“Today’s homeowners look for ways to extend use of their outdoor spaces,” he said. “They want to host social events, gather safely, or just generally escape the indoors for a while. Those outdoor heaters are an important part of that goal.”

Wayne Paul, owner of Bay Breeze Patio in Destin agrees. “Even here in Florida, we can encounter brisk weather, and heaters are needed to make our porches comfortable” he said. “I have built-in infrared heaters in my own outdoor room.”

Myriad choices

So many heater designs are available that homeowners may understandably be uncertain about what to choose. The first step, said Elkins, is to determine the BTUs (British Thermal Units) needed to heat your space. Typically, one heater can cover a space of 1,500 to 2,000 square feet .

The next step is deciding what fuel to use. Elkins said that natural gas heaters are easy to maintain and connect directly to your gas line. However, they are best used in larger and more open layouts so the fumes have space to dissipate safely. And keep in mind that if you don’t already have gas, installing it can be costly. Also be sure to hire a licensed plumber if installing the heater requires manipulation of the gas line.

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TAKING THE NIP OUT OF THE AIR Homeowners are finding that they can extend porch season with the use of heaters including the 1,500 watt electric hanging patio heater, above, and the 42,000 BTU Gold Gas patio heater, opposite. Both are available at Home Depot. Photo courtesy of Home Depot

He said propane gas heaters are a convenient option for keeping porches and patios cozy. They are designed to heat a smaller area and connect to removable 20-pound propane tanks. These heaters are usually freestanding or tabletop units so they’re ideal for porch dining tables or patio sets. If there’s a bulk tank on the property already, then all that’s needed is a licensed plumber to connect the gas directly to a permanent-fixture outdoor heater.

Portable electric heaters are efficient and with no harmful emissions or byproducts, they are extremely eco-friendly. They are also among the easiest to install. There is no need to manipulate gas lines or call in a plumber. Those that operate below 1,500 watts can sometimes be plugged straight into a 120-volt circuit, but many do require hardwiring into their own circuit.

And then there are electric infrared heaters, which Paul calls true game changers. They don’t just heat the air, they heat the people within its radius. Paul likes the versions that are built into the porch ceiling for an unobtrusive look.

You’ll be surprised just how many outdoor heater designs there are, said Elkins. They can look like giant mushrooms, sleek columns, cylinders, cubes or even Tiffany chandeliers. Whatever your porch decor, one will be right at home.         

Categories: Homes