Benefits of Propane Heaters
The Propane Education and Resource Council states that 53% of outdoor appliances use propane. Propane heaters are the king of outdoor room comfort. Most of propane heaters are portable and can be stored out of sight when not in use. They are very low maintenance and spare parts are readily available if needed. In fact propane is an approved clean fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act as well as the National Energy Policy Act of 1992. Propane gas is non-toxic, it will not harm the soil or water. However, like all flammable substances care should be used in its handling.
Unlike Natural Gas and Electricity, propane is a mobile fuel and does not require the need for special plumbing or installation.
Cost of Operation
Propane gas heaters have to highest overall fuel cost. A typical 40,000 BTU patio heater will consume about $1.70 of propane an hour.
- Average Cost of filling Propane Cylinder (5 gal) = $15.00 - $20.00
- Average usage from (1) Propane Cylinder (5 gal) = 10 hours
- Average Cost of Propane Usage per Hour = $1.50 - $2.00
Performance and Heating Range
A typical full-size propane patio heater will output 40,000 BTU's and will distribute the heat to up to a 20' diameter area (314 sq ft). The exact heating range and output will depend on the design of the patio heater and wind conditions.
Propane heaters have the same instant heat output as a natural gas patio heater. However, there are some facts about propane to be aware of.
Propane is stored in pressurized containers. These containers force the propane into a liquid state. When the patio heater is turned on the propane canisters flow valve is opened. This allows the propane to revert back to a flammable gas. The gas then flows out of the tank into the patio heater. If the tank is under pressurized the propane may not flow to the heater.
Propane's boiling point is 40ºF. If you are operating your patio heater in temperatures below 40ºF you may experience a lower heat output than expected.
Safe operating Procedures
Before using any propane appliance you should check for any damage. If you smell gas do not start the patio heater. Before starting the heater follow these steps to check for a leak:
- Prepare a cup of soapy water
- Liberally apply the soapy water to the gas line
- Look for any bubbles
- Repair any and all leaks by tightening or replacing lines, hoses, fittings, and connections. Once the leaks have been repaired, the patio heater is ready for use. Do not deviate from the manufacturer-authorized way of testing, repairing, and servicing.
If you smell gas but cannot see the source of the leak contact your local fire department and leave the area.
Cylinders that are not in use shall be located 20 feet away from heaters that are being used. This distance rule creates enough space between the heat source and cylinder storage location so that the cylinders awaiting use are not subject to intense heat. The purpose of this rule (from the Nation Fire Protection Association, Code 58) is to minimize the chance of actuating the safety relief valve due to volume expansion of the liquid in the cylinder.
NFPA 58 also states that portable outdoor propane heaters "shall not be located within 5 feet of exits from assembly occupancy". This rule is in reference to restaurants and the like that use these portable heaters for outdoor heating. Outdoor propane heaters commonly used in these settings are the stand-up type patio heaters and the reasoning behind this rule is simply so they are not easily knocked over by people entering or exiting the building.
If there is a fire turn off the propane source. Similar to an oven fire, turn off the source of the heat to contain the fire.
Always store the tank upright. Avoid damaging the tank valves; always handle them with care. Store the propane tank outside in a cool, dark place that has good ventilation.
Always follow manufacturer instructions when handling, using, filling, and transporting the propane tank.
When finished using the portable patio heater, shut off the gas supply from the tank. Make sure the tank is equipped with a pressure regulator and thoroughly visually inspect all hoses and connections of the patio heater and tank before each use. Never overfill you tank with propane fuel.