A house that is equipped with a patio or deck provides the homeowner or renter enhanced opportunities to enjoy outdoor living. Depending on geographic location, cold weather may restrict these enhanced opportunities to only a few months a year. Weather restrictions can greatly be alleviated though, and propane patio heaters are quickly becoming the top method of extending your outdoor living and entertaining season.

Prior to the widespread availability of these propane heaters, most patio/deck heat instruments were wood-burners. Wood-burners are still popular in several varieties and styles, especially in areas in which firewood is readily available. Even then, wood-burners involve safety risks including direct skin burns, deck fires caused by log shift and tipping of the burner, and roof fires caused by flying red ashes.

Electric patio heaters can be effective, but are relatively expensive to run. Another drawback is that they need to wired to your electric system or plugged into an outlet. This reduces potential heater sites and limits mobility.

Mobility should be considered when a decision is made to use a gas fueled patio heater also.

Two basic forms of gas fuel are potentially available for residential use: natural gas and propane. “Natural gas” refers to the type of gas that is available in some parts of the country, where it is fed to the residence through underground pipes. Propane is the gas that is available in canisters for use with gas grills and other appliances, including patio heaters.

A natural gas patio heater will require locating the heater at the point at which a gas line can be run. Propane patio heaters, however, allow for no-cost location of the heater anywhere. The location can then be readily changed by simply moving the heater to a new position. Some propane heaters have built in wheels, while others must be set on a small wheeled platform. The propane tank can easily be removed for movement of the heater, although in some models, just like with propane grills, you may be able to relocate the heater without even taking the tank out.

Mobility being a primary feature, a buyer should test the wheels for effectiveness and sturdiness if you are looking at a wheeled model. A model without wheels should be readily liftable in terms of balance and weight, with the weight centered low at the base. Any model should have a low center of gravity, to ensure stability during windy conditions. A top-heavy model will be prone to blow over, and can get damaged or damage furniture, plants etc.

Smaller table-top models are also available. These models provide the ultimate in ease of movement and placement. They are well suited to smaller patios and decks, where heat doesn’t need to be dispersed over as great an area, and where space for the heater is limited.

In any patio area under consideration, heat dispersion is increased by having a large dome at the top. When comparing propane heaters, a deciding factor could be which heater provides a broader dome while at the same time proving a low center of gravity for stability. A broad dome also can provide a bit of cover during rainy condition, which applies to most patios and decks, which are open-air (uncovered).

A good rust-proof surface is certainly a requirement under open-air conditions. Even some types of aluminum can corrode when exposed to moisture over long periods of time, so it is advisable to do simple research on the Web to read about the experiences of previous buyers. Of course, rust-preventing paint could also be applied after purchase, although there’s no good reason to have to do that.

The shopper should check to see if the heater is already assembled, and if not, investigate ease of assembly. Larger heaters will probably require some assembly, but a half hour with a screwdriver is vastly superior to a complex assembly process.

In the long term, ease of operations becomes a big factor in a buyer’s level of satisfaction with the heater. A push-button starter and an easily-understood heat control dial will make use of the heater a pleasure. Match or fire stick ignition is a distant second choice when it comes to starting up the heater.

Lastly, even though several years worth of product improvements have made all manufacturers’ product lines more reliable, a solid warranty plan is advisable when buying a propane patio heater.