The Portable Heater Guide: Which One Is Right for You?

With summer behind us and winter right around the corner, the colder weather will make it necessary to bundle up, but it shouldn’t put an end to our time outdoors. A portable heater can be the perfect solution to enjoying outdoor activities in the winter months. But with the variety of options, the real question is, “What heater works for me?” 

Heaters suit a variety of purposes, and the wrong choice could turn your winter wonderland into a frosty nightmare, so be sure to do your research before making your choice. The two main characteristics to consider when choosing your heater are size and style.  

The first factor to consider when choosing a heater is the application. Are you going to use it for work or to warm up an entertaining space like a patio? Then, think about the size. You want to make sure the amount of heat your heater produces is proportionate to the amount of space you want to warm.  

Forced Air Vs. Radiant Heaters 

Forced air heaters, also known as bullet heaters, supply heat to the surrounding area by pulling the cold air into the back of the unit, heating the air inside a tube, and blowing heat out via a high-powered fan. These units require a fuel source and electrical connection to run the electronic controls and fan. 

These units produce an incredible amount of heat for their size and are great for keeping the chill out of any outdoor workspace or well-ventilated area. One thing to note when considering a forced air heater is the noise level. The fans inside produce a significant amount of noise, so you may want to consider another solution if you plan on holding a conversation in the space you are heating. 

Another great option to consider for outdoor heating is a radiant heater. Many radiant heaters, like this stand-up option, provide outdoor heat with no need for an electrical connection. These units burn propane gas overhead and reflect heat toward the ground using the umbrella-shaped upper dome.  

Radiant patio heaters are the perfect choice if you are looking for a heat option in an outdoor area to entertain guests. They offer plenty of warmth with no need for extension cords, which keeps your walking area clean, and make significantly less noise than forced air heaters. 

What Are BTUs and How Many Will I Need? 

British Thermal Units, or BTUs, rate the amount of heat emitted from a heat source. The higher the number of BTUs, the more heat a unit produces. Portable heaters offer a variety of BTU ratings, and you need to make sure to properly size your heater to the amount of space you want to heat.  

Forced air heaters generally have higher BTU ranges, making them the perfect option for heating well-ventilated garages and outdoor workspaces. A 150-170k BTU heater will work great for you if you want to heat an area of 3,500 square feet or smaller. If your desired heating area is larger, scale the heater size accordingly. 

Radiant propane patio heaters offer lower BTU ranges, but their design makes them perfect for outdoor decks and patios. A 40k BTU patio heater provides heat to a circle 20 feet in diameter around the heater itself. If your entertaining space is more than 300 square feet, it may be necessary to use two heaters to keep the entire area comfortable. 

Safety Precautions When Using Portable Heating Units 

First and foremost, be sure to read the user manual for portable heaters. Each heater requires a different amount of clear space around them to prevent accidental fires. If you do not follow the proper guidelines, personal injury may occur. 

Pay attention to the area you want to heat as well. Most portable heaters aren’t suitable for indoor use, and even those made for use indoors are only designed for use in well-ventilated areas. The gases emitted from burning fuel can cause carbon monoxide poisoning or death if not used properly. 

Overall, if you pay attention and follow the guidelines in the user manual, portable heaters are relatively safe to operate. If you take precautions when using them, portable heaters can keep your outdoor activities going all winter long.

At Northside Tool Rental, we understand that you don’t need to own every tool available. As the seasons change, we have what you need to make the outside accessible — even when it’s cold outside. Come visit us to see our portable heater options or contact us to find out more!