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Outdoor heating for year round al fresco living

October is the month when decisions about eating in or eating out become more difficult.  One minute the weather’s warm and balmy and the next there’s a distinct chill in the air!  But with a little forward planning the dilemma is removed by providing some artificial heat and the summer is extended well into the winter months.

Patio heaters come in a variety of forms but let’s start with the oldest and most traditional and that is chimeneas. These are basically outdoor ovens made of stone, ceramic or cast iron in which fires are lit. The whole chimenea then becomes hot and the heat is retained for as long as the fire is maintained.  

Next are gas patio heaters, usually a couple of metres in height and made of steel or stainless steel.  The gas, normally Propane, is held within the body of the heater and an electronic ignition system lights the gas within a mantel.  A reflective ‘hat’ then directs the heat downwards.

Lastly are newer quartz radiant patio heaters. These run from the power supply and are considered to be more environmentally friendly than gas.

Let’s now compare and contrast these three types in terms of capital cost, running costs, efficiency and practicality.

Chimeneas are the cheapest to buy. A cast iron chimenea can be bought for around €150. Running costs are again pretty low as the fuel can be anything from wood to charcoal.

In terms of efficiency, most of the heat generated will disappear up the chimney and as for practicality, although attractive to look at, they are very heavy so moving them is a struggle and they can rust so require some maintenance to retain their looks.

Gas patio heaters are still favoured by many and good quality models that will last retail at around €275. Running costs are reasonable, with gas costing around €30 for a 13kg bottle which should last you for a few months of typical usage.

Although the ‘hats’ do direct the heat downwards some of this heated air will still disappear if it’s a windy day. These heaters are versatile and easy to move and take very little looking after.

Electric quartz radiant heaters are the latest innovation in outdoor heating. They cost around €285 but are cheaper to run than a gas heater, around 15 cents per hour, and are by far the most efficient form of outdoor heating.

Being radiant their heat is not wasted on heating air which blows away, so 100% of the heat is used effectively.  In addition, there is no ‘warm-up’ time, heat is instant.

In terms of practicality, they are the most unobtrusive usually being fixed to a structure, so not portable, but work at the touch of a switch with no need to change bottles or collect wood. A bulb will last around 6,000 hours.

So these are your choices. Whichever you choose will allow you to continue to enjoy the Algarve outdoors through much of the Autumn, Winter and Spring seasons and, let’s be honest, the reason we’re here is to enjoy the Algarve outdoors.

Article submitted by Zonda.

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