How Environmentally Friendly are Outdoor Heaters at Home?

Before installing outdoor heaters at home, one must consider not only consider the benefits of the outdoor heater but also the environmental impact of doing so.

Outdoor heaters, burning fossil fuels and biomass, release CO, CO2 & toxic gases, harming the environment & causing global warming. Only solar-powered electric heaters are eco-friendly since they do not generate any emissions.

We will now look into the various types of outdoor heaters and the type of fuels required for them to function. Keep Reading!

Types of Outdoor Heaters

There are various outdoor heating systems for residential homes. They include the following:

Patio Heaters

Patio Heaters are umbrella-shaped heating systems used to deliver radiant heat for outdoor uses. Patio heaters are classified into three main types based on how they generate heat. They include electric, natural gas(methane), and propane patio heaters.

Electric Patio Heaters

Electric patio heaters transfer heat through infrared rays. The electricity from the mains is converted to infrared rays by a heating element or a lamp. These infrared rays are then transmitted by electromagnetic waves through the air till it reaches the people, furniture, or other objects within that vicinity.

The heat generated is not absorbed by the air, hence energy is not wasted when transferred(efficient). This principle of heat transfer is somewhat similar to the transfer of heat from the sun. The main difference is that the intensity of heat is lower than that of the sun, and there is no transfer of UV rays.

Electric Patio heaters come in various shapes and sizes and are easily moved from one place to another.


  • Electric Patio Heaters have an efficiency of over 90%.
  • No carbon or other harmful emissions.
  • Easy to transport.
  • They can be powered by renewable energy(solar).
  • Very efficient in windy situations.
  • It is a very safe system, especially for situations where are children and pets around.
  • Very easy to set up and install.


  • High running costs.
  • It takes longer to heat up.

Natural Gas Patio Heaters

Here, natural gas(methane) is burnt to generate heat for outdoor use. They are typically connected to a gas line hence you will not need to worry about refilling any tank. As a result, it would require the services of a professional to install them.

Natural Gas Patio heaters are the most popular type of patio heaters. They also transfer heat through radiation. Natural gas patio heaters will radiate heat in all directions and towards the sky, hence reducing their efficiency.

Nowadays, modern natural gas heaters have reflectors at the top of the heater that helps to prevent the heat from escaping into the atmosphere.  These reflectors help to send the heat back to the people gathered, hence increasing the overall efficiency of the system.


  • Continuous supply of fuel.
  • Produces heat instantly.
  • Wider heating coverage.
  • Least expensive to operate.


  • It requires a professional for installation.
  • It runs on non-renewable energy.
  • It generates carbon emissions, and hence cannot be used in a space with low ventilation.
  • Very inefficient.

Propane Gas Patio Heaters

Propane gas patio heaters like natural gas heaters generate heat by burning fuel(propane).

The propane heater is connected to a propane tank for fuel. Hence the tank would need to be refilled from time to time. Propane gas patio heaters are more expensive to run than natural gas. They also generate carbon emissions and cannot be used in poorly ventilated areas.


  • Easy to install
  • Very portable – can be easily moved about.
  • Heats up quickly
  • Wide heating coverage


  • It runs on non-renewable energy
  • It cannot be used in a poorly ventilated area.
  • Propane gas is more expensive than natural gas.
  • The propane tank would need to be refueled from time to time.
  • High carbon emissions.


Chimineas are essentially movable, beautiful outdoor fireplaces that may be used for cooking and warmth.

Although there are now creative designs that may be customized to fit a range of interior design aesthetics, the traditional chiminea is fashioned with a pot-belly base connected to a necklike chimney.

Traditional chimineas are made of clay, while contemporary, high-performance chimineas are made of cast iron, cast aluminum, brass, and stainless steel.

The design of the chiminea allows it to draw fresh air into the fire and move soot through its “chimney”. As a result, the fire burns hotter and cleaner.

The chimineas flames are much contained, unlike conventional open pits. Its fuel sources are wood which could be in the form of cedar, hickory, piron wood, or mesquite which ultimately generates smoke.

For safety reasons you should place the chiminea in a place where you can easily spot the flames from inside your house.


  • It is powered by renewable energy.
  • It is cheap to run since its fuel is readily available.


  • It is a potential hazard for kids.
  • Carbon emissions.
  • It also requires lots of maintenance.
  • Very inefficient

Fire Pits

These are homemade campfires. They are usually constructed with bricks and stone to create an outer frame, with a hole in the middle where the fuel would be burnt. Fire pits are sometimes used for cooking.

Fire pits also run on renewable energy in the form of various types of wood(pellets, briquettes, or logs). They also tend to generate carbon emissions.

Also for optimal functionality, ensure your fire pit has a drainage channel at the center, to ensure there is a pathway to remove water anytime it rains.


  • It heats up immediately.
  • It runs on renewable energy.


  • Carbon emissions.
  • Potential hazard for kids.

Do Outdoor Heaters Use Renewable Energy Reliably?

Most outdoor heaters run on renewable energy in the form of wood. Outdoor heaters like firepits, chimineas, and other forms of outdoor fireplaces make use of wood to generate heat.

Outdoor gas heaters do not make use of renewable energy. Gas fuels like propane, butane, methane, and other forms of gases are not classified as renewable energy, since their source is bound to get exhausted at some point.

Electric outdoor heaters, like the electric patio heater, can be said to run on renewable energy if it runs on solar energy. But in most situations, they are usually powered by electricity generated from nonrenewable sources like coal, nuclear energy, and natural gas.

The Concept behind Outdoor Heating and Indoor Heating

The environment is the main distinction between outdoor heaters and indoor heaters. Indoor heaters are typically suited to heating a specific area. The space is often enclosed, whether it be a living room, bedroom, kitchen, or even the garage. They are designed to heat the air required to warm an area.

The effectiveness of this indoor heater would almost vanish if you placed it outdoors. The advantages of the heater warming the outside air would probably vanish at the slightest wind. Open-flame heaters also fall under the same category

With outdoor heaters outside, though, this is not the case. Compared to infrared heaters, open-flame heaters are significantly more similar to indoor heaters. People must remain inside a small heat-throw radius due to the surrounding air being heated by flames to effectively feel the heat. 

The slightest breeze may blow the heat away, leaving you feeling chilly. Outdoor fire pits are beautiful decorative accents for the same reason. They are unable to provide the same level of high-quality comfort that an infrared heater provides.

Infrared technology works by directly giving objects affordable warmth. It is made to warm items, not the air surrounding you and your company. Any person or thing inside the breeze’s large radius stays warm and comfortable no matter how many times it blows across your area.

Why Outdoor Heaters cannot be used for Indoor Purposes

The following are the reasons why outdoor heaters cannot be used for indoor purposes:

Harmful Emissions

While electric patio heaters do not generate toxic emissions, other outdoor heaters do. These outdoor heaters generate toxic gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

Carbon monoxide is a very deadly gas as it cannot be detected by the human nose. When the homeowner is exposed to the gas for long periods, it may lead to nausea, difficulty in breathing, dizziness, and ultimately death.

This is why outdoor heaters are used in open spaces so that when these harmful gases are emitted, they can easily be transferred into the atmosphere.

Fire Outbreak

Most outdoor heaters have open flames. These flames can easily come in contact with flammable materials like curtains, books, and furniture and start a fire.

Also, propane tanks are pressurized and thus flammable. These tanks can ignite under excessive heat to them.

Like any other space heater, outdoor heaters of any size and design can pose a fire threat.

However, unlike indoor heaters, outdoor heaters are more likely to cause a fire since they often use raw fuel and have a larger potential of tipping over because of their narrow shape.

Lack of Safety Features for Indoor use

Most outdoor heaters lack the safety measures found in indoor heaters, such as thermostats amidst other sensors.

Once these indoor heaters malfunction at any point, these sensors activate and immediately shut off the device to safeguard the internal components.

Since outdoor heaters were primarily intended for use outside, they often do without the majority of automated built-in safety precautions because they may be turned off quickly.

Since the heater is outside of a structure and not within, the likelihood that it will cause any property damage in the case of an explosion or fire is considerably reduced.


Outdoor heaters usually tend to attain very high temperatures since they are designed to heat open spaces where heat loss is very high. As a result, they tend to have very high surface temperatures.

An adult can accidentally brush against the outdoor heater when walking past and may suffer severe burns. Children and pets are not also left out, leaving them around these outdoor heating systems are very dangerous.

Without a question, the potential for suffering a severe burn from this system is a serious safety concern that should not be disregarded or minimized.

Talk about the concept of heating outdoors compared to inside (eg heat constantly escaping), how to maximize the heating effect felt from the heater


Most outdoor heaters are environmentally unfriendly. They tend to generate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide which eventually contribute to global warming.

This is because a good number of outdoor heating systems run on solid fuels and other forms of biomaterials. Only electrical outdoor heating systems which are powered by solar energy are environmentally friendly.

Also, these outdoor systems should not be used for indoor purposes as the consequences are very severe.