Lifestyle Patio Heaters
Economical, consumer-oriented models
A lifestyle patio heater is essentially the consumer-oriented "little brother" to the larger commercial patio heaters. While fireplaces and woodstoves are designed mostly to produce convective heat which warms the air, a patio heater produces radiant heat, warming objects and people in its path. The upshot of this is that the heat from a patio heater just doesn't blow away as you would expect heat from a campfire or other largely convective source to do. The heat radiating down from a patio heater more closely resembles the type of heat energy that we get from the sun, allowing you to bask in the warmth of the efficient propane or natural gas fire even in the coolest months of the year.
Lifestyle patio heaters are less expensive than their professional-grade counterparts, and the selection of them tends to be more flexible in terms of range. There are very small electric patio heaters designed to warm an area of only 5-10 square feet, ranging through to larger lifestyle patio heaters that are fuelled by propane or natural gas and which provide enough warmth to heat 25-30 square feet on a cold winter day.
Many of these units are convertible or telescoping, allowing you to twist or otherwise adjust the base to shorten the heater, turning it from a freestanding patio heater into a tabletop heater which is less unwieldy and more portable. Conversely, the build quality of these heaters tends to be lower than that of their industrial counterparts. The fuel efficiency of lifestyle patio heaters is lower in general as well, resulting in a lower upfront cost, but a higher cost per hour of operating time. Since you will not need to run the patio heater for 16 hours per day at home, this should not be a significant issue.
In the end, the distinction between a lifestyle patio heater and a commercial unit is very fine and sometimes arbitrary, in much the same way that it is difficult to discern the line between a rock and a boulder or a boat and a ship. If it is inexpensive and geared towards homeowners, it is certainly a lifestyle patio heater, which is suitable for the cool weather outdoor needs of most people. If you plan to make extensive use of your patio during winter weather, you may want to look into higher-end patio heaters by investigating the commercial models.