- Published on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 11:32
Article Read: 1947
With winter just around the corner, keeping patrons warm while dining or socialising in outdoor areas can extend the use of al fresco areas throughout the evening and all year round and also provide a place for smokers to congregate and enjoy themselves.
The extra revenue created by adding comfort and style to these areas also adds to the bottom line success of hotels and resorts in cooler climates.
Outdoor heating options range from wood, briquette and coal fires to electric and gas heaters but, with rising energy costs, efficiency and effectiveness are the key considerations when selecting outdoor heating.
Here is a brief run down of the options available.
Two types of gas heaters are available: gas and propane.
Propane heaters usually have a heavy base for the gas bottle and a mushroom-shaped cap to reflect the heat. They should have a tip-over safety switch and piezo ignition to start them at the press of a button. These heaters require adequate ventilation as they release carbon monoxide. A 9kg bottle for a propane gas heater will need replacing after about 10 hours of use.
Natural gas heaters are usually fixed and plumbed into position by a licensed gasfitter but the gas never runs out and it cannot be overturned. Wall-mounted models are available.
Electric radiant heaters run on regular power supplies and just need to be plugged in. They produce a soft, ambient light, as well as heat, and are safe to mount under shade sails, umbrellas and other fabric coverings.
While more electric radiant heaters may be needed to heat the same area as gas heaters, the total running costs work out about the same.
While a wood-burning fireplace has plenty of warm appeal it also releases smoke and requires somewhere to store firewood. They are reasonably easy to keep clean as they come with an ashtray.
Gas fireplaces don’t have the cleaning or exhaust problems associated with wood fire and can run on natural or bottled gas to create the same ambience.
Another option are chimineas (Mexican outdoor fireplaces traditionally made from volcanic clay or now from cast iron) that have an open flame fuelled by briquettes or wood and are usually not suitable to use around young children.
Celmec marketing manager Alex Schilbach says gas or electric outdoor heating both have their benefits but to know which to select depends on the area requiring heating.
Celmec manufactures and custom designs al fresco dining and smoking area solutions. Its HeatRay range includes electric heating panels, gas-fired heaters, portable patio heaters and heated umbrellas with in-built heating to provide both shade, protection from the rain and outdoor heating.
“Controlling the operation of your heaters is key to ensuring optimal power/gas consumption and running costs,” she said. “For both forms of heating, zone control allows units to be controlled in groups, using only those units required in an area.
“Electronic start gas-fired heaters and electrically powered heaters are both suitable for zone control. Timers can also be added for further control. Remote controls and passive infrared switches that detect movement in an area, are good alternatives to timers. These are best suited with units that provide instant heat, such as electric infrared heaters, to ensure equipment is operational only when required.”
She said Celmec had a comprehensive range of outdoor heaters with attractive and cost-effective options with all the bells and whistles. This range of options means there is a heating system to suit any outdoor area to keep customers coming back.
A variety of brackets and fixing options is available to ensure their gas and electric heaters can be installed almost anywhere.
Celmec’s HeatRay Umbrellas provide a year-round solution to open courtyards but in areas too small to accommodate them, waterproof heaters are the best option. Celmec electric heaters have an IP65 rating for protection from water, allowing them to be installed in outdoor areas where they will get wet. Celmec offer two ranges of waterproof electric heater under their HeatRay brand.
In areas with very high ceilings more than four metres high, large tube radiant heaters will cover a huge floor space, between 35sqm–180sqm per unit.
Outdoor spaces with ceilings up to 4m can use both gas-fired and electrically powered high intensity heaters, mounted from the walls or suspended from the ceiling. Wall mounted/ceiling suspended gas-fired units are available in a range of sizes with varying floor areas coverage ranging from 3sqm–10sqm. Electrically powered heaters also cover a similar floor area.
In spaces with low ceilings where gas-fired heaters and high intensity electric units can be overpowering when mounted low, mid-intensity electric heaters like the Celmec-HeatRay ERH units, with non-glowing panel heaters, are the most suitable.
Melbourne supplier Keverton Outdoor has the Australian rights to distribute the infratube quartz electric heating system manufactured in California by Infratech USA. The quartz electric heating system reaches full capacity in 90 seconds and because it is an infrared electric ray, is unaffected by wind.
“The key to the powerful heating output lies in the quartz infratube electric element” Keverton managing director Kevin Smith said. “The element reaches full capacity in just 90 seconds and because of the infrared electric ray, is not affected by wind.
“The principle is the same as the sun. When you are sitting in the shade and it is windy, if you move to the sun and you experience the same wind, you still feel the heat from the sun. We just have the added benefit of no harmful ultra violet rays.
“We also waste no energy trying to heat the air and have no harmful gas emissions or naked flames. We also eliminate the hassle of having to change gas bottles.”
Manufactured from marine grade stainless steel, the units are available in sizes from 2kW through to 8kW are suitable for coastal or humid conditions. At just 11cents per kilowatt-hour to operate, he said the infratube is highly cost effective.
“It is a very Aussie way of life to entertain outdoors and now there is no need to limit this al fresco lifestyle only to the summer months. The infratube now allows all year outdoor dining.”
With the introduction of tough new smoke-free laws, commercial venues must provide comfortable outdoor areas or risk losing patrons to more comfortable heated venues.
“For designated smoking areas, especially at gaming venues, the infratube has the ability to be fitted with a movement sensor, therefore allowing for automatic operation when a client enters the outdoor environment to smoke,” said Mr Smith. “This eliminates the need for staff to be constantly turning heaters on and off for patrons.”
Norwest Gas director Daryl Ryan said gas heaters are fast, reliable and efficient and in most cases are less expensive to operate than electric heaters, especially with electricity prices continuing their upward spiral.
“Natural gas remains a cheap energy source in Australia with enough supplies to meet well over 100 times our present domestic consumption and the industry has shown remarkable growth,” he said. “With today's technology, has heating is highly efficient, clean, reliable and safe.”
Norwest Gas is a licensed plumber, gas fitter and LP gas installer specialising in all aspects of the gas industry from domestic installations through to large commercial applications. It also offers a design and installation service.
It is the Australian distributor for German-made Schwank Heating solutions.
Mr Ryan said Schwank radiant tube heaters were ideal for a wide range of heating applications, including those with average to low ceiling heights. The heater shoots into a hollow steel tube radiating with temperatures with up to approximately 600°C.
“Schwank tube heaters offer supreme efficiency and performance since the flame is up to five times longer than in most competing products,” he said. “They save up to 50% more energy than conventional systems.”
Mr Ryan said SunPhase wall-mounted heaters were ideal for al fresco areas as they were simple to install with wall plate fixing and removable mounting bracket. They had electronic ignition for easy control and use. SunPak Heaters use radiant heat to warm people and objects rather than the air.
Mr Ryan said they were easy to operate, inexpensive to use and easy to maintain.
“Our stainless steel Parasol heaters by Ozglow are designed to last and provide warmth with in a five metre circle,” Mr Ryan said. “They have a tilt safety switch which shuts off the pilot and burner if the heater was ever knocked over.”
The H40 model by Ozglow is the only electronically operated outdoor heater in Australia and can be turned on or off at the flick of a conveniently located switch.