Remember when you were a kid and you went to a bonfire night party and you stood by the huge fire? Remember how your front was always roasting and your back was freeeeeeeeezing?
Patio heaters are even less efficient than that.
My googling tells me they cost anything from about £100 to £570. They heat the open air. The open air is a very big space. It boldly goes all the way to Alpha Centauri and beyond. And when you’ve heated a bit of that air, you have to buy another gas bottle to heat more air.
And yes, I know that there’s an atmosphere between us and the great emptiness of outer space, I’m just trying to highlight the sheer futility of heating the outdoors. Especially as spring is finally here and the urge to sit outside gets stronger and stronger, and you suddenly become aware of all kinds of garden gubbins filling the shops: gazebos, swing seats and all that kind of mullarkey.
Of course patio heaters come in all shapes and types. There are wall mounted, ceiling mounted and freestanding heaters. There are tabletop heaters, and halogen bulb electric heaters. There are fire pits, chimineas and every kind of stylish wood burning brazier which even I will admit I find attractive. It’s a deeply primaeval need that impels us to huddle around a fire with a bunch of mates clutching a beer and a burnt sausage.
However, it should be emphasised that whilst it is not a great idea to heat the outdoors at all in an overheating world, the ones that do the real damage are the ones with the gas bottles because they have special horrid qualities all their own.
Time to give a big shout out to…
In 2008, Curry’s actually stopped selling patio heaters because of ecological concerns. (If you’re reading this anywhere else in the world, Curry’s is a huge electrical retailer in the UK with 295 superstores and 73 high street shops.) This was a highly significant move on their part. If only all those pubs and restaurants with outside heaters would follow suit.
Curry’s decision came after a report the previous year by the EST (Energy Saving Trust) who found that the average patio heater emits around 50kg (110lb) of carbon dioxide per year. So it doesn’t just heat the air, it emits that horrible CO2 that does so much damage to our lovely world.
Just in case you want to dismiss the EST as a bunch of spoilsport eco extremists, it’s actually an independent, impartial not-for-profit organization funded by the UK government and the private sector. Its purpose is to advise on ways to save energy. When the Chief Executive announced the findings of their research, he said, ‘Why don’t people just wear a jumper?’ Bless him. A man after my own heart.
Clothing and fabrics have come a long way. If you can afford a patio heater, you can afford a decent fleece or a duvet coat. There are intelligent fabrics around these days that ensure that we don’t need to be cold ever again. Well, not in the normal way of things; I’m assuming you aren’t living in Trondheim or half-way up a Himalaya. Textile manufacturers have studied the business of keeping warm and there have been astonishing innovations in materials that will make sure you don’t freeze. (And no, I’m not going to get into the subject of polyester, etc., right now.) Fabrics can breathe, they can let sweat out and keep warmth in. You can even get clever gloves that allow you to play with your iPhone without taking the gloves off. Like your mum said, wrap up warm and you’ll be ok.
Why would you want to heat the air? Why in the name of sanity would you want to sit outside when it’s too cold to sit outside without a patio heater? Why, in an overheated, still overheating world, would you want to heat the air?
What you’ll save
Let’s just go for the top of the range, shall we? The Stainless Steel Goliath gas flame heater is £570. You can get cheaper, but surely you want the best? For £570, you get just one of these babies – the stainless steel one which, for no fathomable reason, is more expensive than the black or white version. Oh, and just remember, the gas will need replacing. I don’t know about you, but replacing gas bottles becomes an awful faff after a bit.
But, hey, it is a stylish piece of design and will heat your front, your sides AND your back, so long as you keep rotating.
Let’s just imagine what you could buy with £570 instead – and never have to struggle with changing the gas…
How about this marvel for starters?
Normally this retails for £296.95 but at the time of publishing, this is going cheap for a mere £193.02 including VAT from Alpine Trek. Buy now to avoid disappointment!
Just in case you’re like me and always cold, why not add a fleece underlayer? This vibrant Arc’teryx garment is known as a Covert Cardigan. Yes, like a secret cardigan for rugged types, because as we all know, cardies can be a bit ageing. Not this splendid article though! This will set you back £140 at the Arc’teryx shop (ooh, doncha love that super-kool apostrophe!) in London where it is currently available in Kingfisher blue. Just click on the link to order it.
You will have plenty left over to purchase these amazing electric gloves. So whether you’re guzzling frankfurters in a chilly back garden, hunting moose in Alaska, or simply suffering from arthritis, your hands never need be cold again! Worth every penny at £119.99 from Amazon.
Total spend so far – £453.01. And all of these items so much more portable than a patio heater!
You still have financial room to purchase a full set of thermals from Blacks, the excellent camping and leisure shops. You’ll want two sets – one in the wash and one on the body – so that’ll set you back £30 (£15 each).
To be honest, I’m finding it difficult to spend the full £570 – so far, the total spend is £483.01 so you’ve still got £86.99 left… How about 84 bars of delicious Kendal Mint Cake, a very popular choice amongst climbers for restoring energy in adverse weather?
Now add this beautiful paisley scarf from John Henric of Sweden, a snip at £45 (currently reduced from £89 – don’t say I don’t find you bargains!)
Pictures of meat coming up. Both cooked and uncooked. I thought it best to mention.
So you are finally left with the princely sum of £5.99 which is just enough for two packs of Black Farmer Sausages which are my absolute favourites and which have the added bonus of being gluten free!
Other things you can do
Does your local pub/café/restaurant have patio heaters? Perhaps you might instigate a gentle and polite chat with the publican/owner/restaurateur and encourage them to either turn them off completely or at least use them a great deal less. If it turns out that they have them on to keep smokers warm, perhaps you could point out that smokers might smoke a bit less if they think they’re going to freeze to death before lung disease carts them off to Paradise. Thus, you will be contributing positively to the health of local smokers. There you are, you see – two good deeds in one!
What should I do with my old patio heater?
The gas cylinder can be taken back by the company you got it from. The rest of the heater needs to be taken apart, and probably by someone who knows how to do it. The stainless steel/cast iron/aluminium parts can be recycled as scrap, other components can’t be recycled and its ultimate destination is landfill, I’m sorry to say. Yep, it’s yet another bloody potential pollutant. So if you’ve got one, just leave it on the patio till someone invents a way of disposing of the whole thing.
A final question…
Should we give up barbecuing?
Blimey, what a thought.
Imagine the cultural impact on Australia and South Africa if barbies and braais were banned!!! Whole nations would be in crisis! I don’t want to be responsible for national trauma, thank you.
Seriously, “I don’t know” is my straight answer, but my feeling is that barbies are probably less damaging given that we use our barbecues for a far shorter time than we use the patio heater. Once the chicken legs or veggie brochettes are on the plate, the fire dies down or the gas is turned off… but then we stay out all evening under that bloody patio heater, emitting CO2 like lunatics… it’s not really in the same league, is it?
And besides, the Beloved likes nothing better than transforming a humble chop into pure anthracite and wrapping his gob round it moments later. There’s no way I’d be able to make him relinquish his role as The Great Blackener of Meat. One has to accept one can only do so much.