Best Commercial Patio Heaters for Restaurants in 2021
Best Commercial Patio Heaters For Restaurants
As the months get colder and restrictions on maximum indoor capacity continue to change, finding the right outdoor heating solutions can seem more and more like a necessity to keep up with customer demand.
Keeping your customers comfortable in outdoor settings can be a challenge in the fall and winter months. The right heating solution for the right venue and make all the difference, and keep your guests coming back over and over again.
But what is the best outdoor heater for a restaurant patio? That will depend on your individual needs. Here are a few important things to consider when picking the right patio heater for a restaurant.
Types of heaters for outdoor patios
Finding the right heat lamp can be tricky. Each comes with their own pros and cons. When picking one out, take into account the energy source the heater requires, the space you will need to set it up for best performance and safety, and the overall aesthetics of your outdoor serving area.
To get a deeper look, we asked Bromic, a premium outdoor heater manufacturer that has all the options; gas or electric and fixed or portable, for their advice for commercial customers interested in heating up their outdoor spaces.
Standing heaters for outdoor venues
Standing patio heaters are one of the more popular choices for outdoor venues, especially for temporary structures like tents. They are often more powerful than their tabletop counterparts, and will be able to heat a larger number of people over a larger radius.
They also come in many different forms and aesthetics, from no-nonsense cylinders, to more eye-catching shapes. They can also be made to look like fire pits or even come with handy tables on top.
Sizes can vary (the firepit options are going to be much shorter) but a typical “mushroom” style heater will stand around 6.5-8 feet in height. Omnidirectional standing heaters (that is, heaters that heat from all sides) can heat up a space of around 200-700 square feet depending on the model.
All these options means standing heaters can come in a wide variety of prices depending on size, shape and power, from as little as $120 to as much as $900 or more. The standard “mushroom” style heater can typically be found for about $160. Quartz heaters, the pyramid-shaped ones, will usually go for a little more, around $200-$300. Fire pit standing heaters can go from $400-$1000 depending on the quality of the product.
- Comes in a variety of price ranges for different budgets
- Can come in aesthetic forms like fire pits
- Comes in “direct” heaters that target an area or “omnidirectional” to emanate heat to different areas surrounding it
- Reliable for areas where guests can walk around
- You may need to spend extra for aesthetically pleasing options
- Can be easy to tip over (though some form factors have anti-tipping systems)
- Comes in many different forms, meaning finding the right one may take time
Best usage for standing heater
“It’s all about design,” says Bromic. Design the space to minimize wind using covers and side walls to block wind flow, and have heaters that heat specific areas, and are controlled on a needs basis like having the outdoor space split into controlled sections.
“Also ensure the most efficient type of heaters are selected, E.g. a non-direct and non-directional mushroom heater is considerably less efficient than a direct and directional heater. You have to use way more mushroom heaters, thereby using more gas.” Bromic provided a graph to best explain this:
Easily identifiable, and portable if it has wheels, free-standing heaters are ideal for small-to-midsize environments like patios for hotels and restaurants, club or group events, pool decks and seating areas. They can be hooked up to a natural gas line or fueled with propane tanks, so keeping them going couldn’t be easier.
Restaurant tabletop heaters
Heating with a touch of ambiance, tabletop heaters are, as you’d expect, small enough to fit on a table. They are typically only around 1-3 feet in height. They can heat up an area of around 20-50 square feet. While the tabletop heating option does add a personal flare to the dining experience, it is not without its downsides. Small tabletop heaters usually run on electricity, while beefier options will use individual propane tanks. The more you have though, the more you will have to keep track of and maintain. Tabletop heaters can also “eat” up space on the dining table, leaving less room for guests and dividing them.
Still, these handy little devices can be a convenient way to give each table an equal amount of heat, while also keeping guests socially distanced and not crowding around major heat sources.
An individual tabletop heater can run for as cheap as $30, to as much as $200, depending on size and fuel source (less expensive options usually run on electricity.) While noticeably cheaper than their free-standing counterparts, that does come with a catch: you often need more than one in a commercial setting. Be sure when comparing costs to take into account how many tabletop heaters you may need.
- Small footprint, making it unobtrusive to guests
- Highly portable, just pick it up and go! (once it’s cooled down of course)
- Inexpensive, though this may be offset if you have to buy many to heat up a space
- Heats only a small area around it
- Must be placed on tables or other platforms, as they can easily be kicked if on the ground
- Will take time recharging or refueling each one compared to one or two larger heaters
Best usage for tabletop restaurant heater
Coming as no surprise, tabletop heaters are perfect for intimate settings with space for heaters on tables, especially if tables are in booths or enclaves that can help trap heat. Provided recharging and refueling the individual heaters isn’t an issue (many run on electricity and can be charged ahead of time), they are an excellent source of warmth for small gatherings and restaurant-goers.
Wall-mounted heaters can often function as both an indoor or outdoor electric heater. They also make for a convenient way to heat your patio while saving space on the ground and tables. Wall-mounted heaters are an excellent solution for saving space. Wall-mounted heaters are around 2-3 feet long, and can heat up an area of around 50-350 square feet, depending on the model and wattage.
They can be easily installed with a mounting bracket, but make sure before you purchase one that the wall you have will work. Drywall and sheetrock will provide a stable, usable surface, but if your outside venue’s nearest wall is made of brick or concrete, you may need to find another heating solution.
Models of wall-mounted heaters can go for as little as $100 to as much as $700 or more, again depending on the model and wattage. Most versions however typically fall between $150 and $300.
- Can be “hidden” on the walls and ceilings
- More floor space for tables and guests
- Often uses energy more efficiently than standing heaters
- Sometimes more expensive than standing heaters
- Not very portable
- May be complicated to install, especially if walls nearby aren’t suitable
Best usage for wall-mounted heaters
Wall-mounted heaters are an excellent option for spaces that are low on floor space but with available wall and overhead space. Typically running on electricity (though some models use natural gas and propane), they make for a suitable choice if you don’t have access to a natural gas line and don’t want to be swapping out propane tanks for your outdoor heaters.
Things to consider when choosing winter patio heaters
Selecting the best commercial patio heater should take into account a number of important questions.
What are the most important things a business owner should consider when looking at outdoor heaters? Bromic says it depends on a combination of factors including but not limited to:
- Radiant heat (the heating of objects, not space) is the go-to option, as HVAC will not work.
- Under what kind of weather conditions does the outdoor space want to be utilized? Wind, rain, average temperature etc.
- Aesthetics and design of heating option – does it match the design of the space, does it glow red or orange (lower-end heaters do)?
- How efficiently do the heaters heat? There are a myriad of options out there, but direct and directional heaters are best.
- How does the user want to control the heaters? On,off; dimming; zonal control; BMS control? Users have many options for control.
Other concerns Bromic said should be considered are local laws, how much space is available, what kind of energy source you will need (energy vs. electric gas heaters), and more.
What energy source will you be using?
Depending on your outdoor setting, you may only have one or two options to choose from between electricity, natural gas and propane gas. Bromic suggests talking with an outdoor heating specialist that is indifferent as to whether you choose gas or electric, fixed mount or portable options. “That way,” Bromic says, “you get an unbiased opinion as to what is best for the space.”
“If full choice in electric and gas is possible based on the [factors listed in this article], consider running costs of electric vs natural gas vs propane gas.” If gas lines exist, but the business owner prefers electricity, Bromic asks to consider what the cost of running power to the outdoor area might be?
What patio heaters are legal for your business?
Before finding that perfect heating solution for your outdoor venue, make sure its form factor and energy source are legal for you to use. Some areas have local laws restricting or prohibiting what kind of outdoor heat lamps can be used for safety or environmental reasons.
“What are the mounting options available,” Bromic asks, “and do these meet minimum safety clearance requirements of the various heating options available?” If no wall or ceiling mounting options are available, a portable solution may be required. Bromic stressed that safety concerns should be considered for “both that of patrons, as well as materials of other lights, fans, audio, canvas, etc., that get installed near the heaters.”
Is there enough space?
Bigger isn’t always better. Bromic emphasized that you don’t necessarily have to heat the entire space, just the parts that guests will use.
“Are there specific areas in the space (e.g. tables, lounge suites, outdoor cooking areas) that need to be heated, and not the entire area?”
Though it could be tempting to decorate your patio or outdoor space with a large heat lamp centerpiece, this can have downsides.
- Poor heat disbursement: If guests are crowding around the main heat source (and in winter, they will be) they will prevent warm air from filling the rest of the patio. All that heat will instead go straight into the lining of their jackets. Multiple smaller heat lamps, whether hanging, free standing or tabletop, will more evenly distribute heat around the patio.
- Possible danger: One of the joys of outdoor dining is the freedom guests feel to move about the space. But with guests moving around, it could be easy for one to accidentally come into contact with the heater, especially on a busy night. This could lead to guests injuring themselves, or even tipping the heater over.
How much energy will be available?
Another consideration that must be made is how much of an energy source will your patio have available. Hanging heaters might seem like a perfect option, but if your outdoor space is lacking in electrical outlets with enough output, they may be unhelpful.
How important is portability?
Commercial patio heaters need to smoothly integrate into your business needs. A natural gas heater will provide a steady stream of heat with no worries about buying and changing out propane tanks. The trade-off, of course, is that they cannot be maneuvered around with the same freedom that a propane-fueled heat lamp will. If you plan to be moving things around a lot, such as for banquets, parties, etc., an outdoor portable heater fueled on propane may be preferable. On the other hand, if your outdoor space will remain mostly consistent, a heat lamp connected to a natural gas line may make more sense.
Finding a reliable energy plan that is right for your needs
Whether powered by electric or natural gas, there is no getting around it: heat lamps are energy hogs. It takes a lot of energy to keep an outdoor environment warm, and even more so when you’re trying to beat back the shivering cold and offer your guests a comfortable experience so they’re chatting instead of chattering.
Energy costs can add up fast, and the most successful business owners know they can’t sleep on trimming their energy bills. Thankfully, neither does Integrity Energy.
At Integrity Energy, we specialize in helping small-to-medium size business owners find the best fixed-rate plans to keep their energy costs flat and manageable for the long run.
We offer rates from over 30 major suppliers, allowing you to have a wide variety of plans to choose from, and we pride ourselves on providing next-level service and guidance to our customers to help them make the best energy choices for their needs. Over the last decade, we’ve helped over 40,000 business owners across the contiguous U.S. save more on energy bills and stay price protected for the long run.
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