Outdoor heaters that beat the winter chill

Choosing the right heat source and ambience will ensure that your deck and garden can be used year round – extending your outdoor entertaining possibilities.

Outdoor heaters that beat the winter chill
ARTICLE Jason Burgess, PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of Escea, Broady's and Heatmax

Choosing the right heat source and ambience will ensure that your deck and garden can be used year round – extending your outdoor entertaining possibilities.

When humans first learnt to control fire an eon ago alfresco living was probably the furthest thing from their minds. Outdoor fires were made to provide protection from wild animals and evil spirits as much as they were to grill brontosaurus burgers and stave off the chill. We have indeed come a long way yet even in our push button, automated age the sight and smell of a dancing flame stirs something primal in us.
Fortunately, staying snug under the stars today comes with all the creature comforts associated with the indoors. From innovative wood fires to discreet non-glowing heat strips, all season entertaining zones are virtually a prerequisite for a modern home.

Geoff at The Fireplace believes,  “Most customers have a preference for gas or wood before they come to us. But when it comes to wood fires, there is no comparison really.”
Outdoor wood burners are not restricted by the same stringent council regulations as indoor fires. Fireboxes can usually be fitted into any façade. Systems like The Fireplace’s Jetmaster Alfresco convection series are said to deliver five times more heat than a conventional open fire, while burning less fuel and requiring no cleaning. A damper and stainless steel cover are standard issue, while hotplate and grill are optional.
There are seven sizes, with the large 1500mm version heating any area up to 280 square metres. “A wood fire though,”  warns Geoff,  “is only as good as the fuel you burn.” John Lintott at Broady’s agrees. He says,  “It all comes down to wood quality, wood size and how dry it is.”  Broady’s has been in the fireplace business since 1885. Recently they took their Firepower range a step further, mounting fireplaces onto casters and encasing them in weather proof double skinned stainless steel to create mobile units. “Clients put their heart and soul into getting the right backyard fireplace,”  says John,  “but at the end of the day it is fixed. Our mobile fireplaces allow you to move your heat source to suit the event, out of the wind, away from your neighbours. And if you sell the house you can take it with you.”
Escea’s Mark Cowden is also a fan of the flame. He believes the two key factors for people choosing an outdoor heater are lifestyle and location.  “A wood fire requires time for cutting and stacking wood and, in the city, consideration for your neighbours.” A gas flame is ideal for an urban couple,  “who want to be able to flick a switch for instant heat and enjoy a wine on their deck, maybe with a handful of mates. No worries about fire rated walls, no flu, no emissions or cleaning. Gas is also convenient in tighter spaces.“ The stylish Escea EF5000 gas heaters are extremely efficient, distributing all heat through the front (as opposed to losing around 40% up a flu).
Heatmax Radiant Gas Patio Heaters are most likely at work at a café near you. Decidedly industrial in appearance there is no doubting their practicality, effectiveness and portability. The freestanding (2,050mm high) stainless steel units boast 40 hours of burn time from a single 9kg bottle.  “They are kind to the environment,”  says Heatmax’s Bev Prichard-Jones.  “The gas burns over a ceramic plate, burning twice and thus registering near zero emissions.”  Using only a quarter of the gas of conventional patio heaters, radiant heating costs work out at about .64c per hour.
For a trendy alternative the flames dancing up the clear central pyrex tube of an Alfresco Inferno Flare generate ambient heat that will  “warm the entire body”. The inferno has electronic ignition and runs off a standard 9kg gas bottle. A tilt switch will cut the flame and a mesh outer makes it safe to touch when operating. If you have wall space for fixed heaters, an electric Infratech Radiant Heater will definitely keep the party cosy. Simply put, radiant heat is transferred directly to a solid body such as a person, a table or the floor (rather than trying to warm the ambient air temperature). The heat does not  ‘blow away’. A registered electrician can easily bracket fit or flush mount them. Each element has 7,000 hour burn time, can be wired independently and fitted with dimmer switches. In tight spaces, overhead electric  ‘Heatstrips’  can free up entertainment areas. With no glowing element or light these black on stainless  ‘strips’  work in with any décor. They operate best on low clearance eaves or ceilings, in a sheltered patio area.  According to Prichard-Jones,  “Architects love them, they look good and offer a pleasant heat.”
Despite the technological advancements and design sophistication, for some, the real character of the outdoors remains with a rustic roaring brazier, fire pit or Chimenea. However, while their affordability and portability is indisputable, so too are their emissions.

Perhaps the future of heating lies with the ambient enhancing Ecosmart bio-ethanol fuelled fires. These funky furniture pieces are fully portable fireplaces, require zero clearance, are weather resistant and offer an environmentally friendly, vent free open flame with no smell or smoke. Ignition is simple with the supplied lighter wand. They may not rage like a fire pit but with a versatile range of burner sizes and eye catching designs expect to see more of them popping up on table tops.

You might be interested in reading: Maximise your outdoor living.

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This article by Jason Burgess featured in Issue 003 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.


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