Commercial Patio Heaters
Heavy duty for serious winter relaxation
Commercial patio heaters are most often seen on patios at restaurants and bars with patios which stay open during the cold winter weather. They tend to be larger than their smaller lifestyle patio heaters counterparts in size, heat output and heating area. Many are geared towards businesses and are rated for continuous operation – often up to 24 hours per day - without being shut down or refueled. While many of the smaller units come with fuel bottles that must be individually replaced, commercial patio heaters tend to have fuel line fittings that can be permanently installed, either connected to a municipal natural gas supply line or to a centralized propane distribution system to avoid having to periodically replace individual fuel bottles in each fixture.
Like the smaller lifestyle units, commercial patio heaters emit radiant heat to warm objects and people rather than the air. Because they operate in this manner, even on a cool and windy day the heat itself does not blow away, which makes them perfect for use on cold and breezy fall, spring, or winter days. Since these heaters are intended for continuous use in a business setting, they tend to be super high efficiency (as much as 99%) and very low maintenance, allowing owners to simply set them up and forget about them. Some even have automatic start/stop timers (requiring electricity) or thermostats to activate the heater at a certain temperature.
The only real disadvantage of a commercial patio heater is its price tag, which is considerably higher than a typical lifestyle unit. Since there is no clear distinction between the lifestyle/commercial patio heaters, it is most important to simply ask yourself which particular models you like best. You don't need to decide in advance whether a lifestyle or commercial unit is best for you – just establish your budget and the features that you expect from a patio heater, and then start shopping on that basis. There are so many models to choose from that odds are good you'll be able to find one that meets all of your requirements without too much difficulty.
If budget is the main concern, or if you really enjoy a moving flame rather than just the warmth of a patio heater, outdoor chimineas or other styles of outdoor firepits are available as well. These are considerably less expensive than a patio heater, and usually burn wood. Be careful of the material, however – although cast-iron and copper can typically handle being used in the winter, clay or other pottery units will crack if heated rapidly, and can only be used in the warmer months.