Patio heaters are a great addition to any garden, as they enable you to enjoy your outdoor space all year round. From hosting intimate dinner parties in the winter to making summertime barbecues last that little bit longer, they can be used for several occasions.
Traditional gas or oil heaters and wood burners used to be the only options available. And even though they can still provide a decent amount of warmth, the cost of fuel is expensive and their subsequent carbon emissions are far from ideal. What’s more, they can take a while to heat up and aren’t exactly practical in small gardens or enclosed areas.
But in recent years, halogen and infrared heaters have become increasingly popular. Powered by electricity, these heaters promise numerous benefits that oil and gas alternatives cannot compete with.
However, not all infrared patio heaters are the same – and, with lots of different terminology used to describe infrared heaters, you may find yourself confused by the different models available. We’re here to help, with some good news. Most infrared heaters fall into two distinct categories: halogen heaters which give off a red glow, and ceramic heaters which do not give off any visible light. So, the most important thing to decide is whether you want a ceramic heater or a halogen heater.
What are infrared patio heaters?
Although the science and technology behind infrared patio heaters might sound complex, it is actually remarkably straightforward and very similar to the sun.
Essentially, infrared patio heaters give off radiated heat which falls within the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Electromagnetic radiation includes everything from radio waves to harmful ultraviolet waves; however, the infrared range used in patio heaters is a narrow and specific range that poses no health risks.
In order to generate heat, electromagnetic waves cause molecules to oscillate and release energy. As opposed to warming up the air like traditional oil and gas heaters, this energy is absorbed by surrounding objects like people and furniture. Energy then dissipates and provides even and consistent temperatures to those sitting or standing in the vicinity.
This is a much more efficient way of providing outdoor heat, as time and energy isn’t wasted trying to warm up the cold air, which eventually rises and escapes anyway. You can rest assured that your infrared patio heater will generate instant warmth whenever it is required.
To boot, infrared patio heaters operate on a low wattage of electricity, which won’t result in hefty utility bills. The absence of fossil fuel also means you won’t be pumping toxic and harmful carbon dioxide emissions into the environment, making infrared patio heaters an attractive eco-friendly option too.
Ceramic patio heaters
Ceramic heaters radiate heat from the “far” end of the infrared spectrum. They use ceramic heating elements which heat up quickly and push far infrared radiation out into the room. Unlike halogen heaters, they do not glow, because this form of infrared is a long way from the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Far infrared heat waves have a lower frequency but a higher wavelength than short or near infrared heat waves. This provides a gentle level of heat which is easily absorbed by the body. The level of heat is superficially less intense than near infrared heat. However, over a longer period of time, far infrared heat is actually more effective for comfort heating, because more of the heat is absorbed by the body.
Ceramic patio heaters are best deployed in areas that will be visited for long periods of time, that are also not too exposed to the elements. In exposed locations, ceramic heaters will not provide the superficial heat required to offset the low air temperature and cold draughts of outdoor locations. We usually recommend ceramic heaters if you’re heating a covered outdoor location that will see frequent use, such as a restaurant terrace, or an indoor location which is exceptionally draughty or difficult to heat – such as a factory, warehouse, workshop or church.
In contrast to ceramic heaters, halogen heaters typically use quartz elements which reach much higher temperatures and radiate heat at the “near” end of the infrared spectrum. This end of the spectrum overlaps with the visible light section of the electromagnetic spectrum, so halogen heaters give off a red or orange glow as they heat.
Near infrared heat waves have a higher frequency but a shorter wavelength than far infrared waves. This provides an intense level of heat which feels hot against your skin, but is less easily absorbed by the body.
Halogen patio heaters are the best choice for most outdoor areas. The high intensity heat they give off provides an invigorating defence against chilly gusts of winds and cool outdoor temperatures. They are usually cheaper than ceramic heaters, so can also prove the most economical option in locations that only need heat on an occasional basis. Halogen heaters are also known as quartz heaters, tungsten heaters and low glare heaters.