How to design a garden to trap the heat from your patio heater, wall mounted heater or tabletop heater

How to design a garden to trap the heat from your patio heater, wall mounted heater, or tabletop heater

We would all love to spend as much time in the garden as possible, but sadly, with the UK’s climate being what it is, that time is usually quite limited. Even when using a patio heater or wall-mounted heater, it can sometimes still be hard to get warm enough to allow you to spend a decent amount of time outdoors shivering to death.

One of the main reasons for this is that gardens tend to be open spaces, and most of the heat coming from your tabletop heater, or even a blazing fire pit, will disperse, leaving you feeling a little underwhelmed at your heater’s performance.

There is a solution to this problem and all it takes is a little planning, some moving around of objects, and maybe a little basic DIY, and you can design your garden to trap most of that heat where you need it most, and finally get your money’s worth out of your patio heater.

With all that extra cash you’ll have from savings on your heating bill, you might even want to throw it around a little-

Types of outdoor heater- pros and cons

The choice of outdoor heaters these days is quite staggering from table top heaters to wall mounted heaters, but how do they measure up? We decided to look at the pros and cons of using electric, natural gas, propane, and fire pits so that you will have a better idea about which one to go for.

Electric patio heaters
Electric patio heaters are probably the safest type to use, as long as the power cord is kept intact and the heater is away from water. There are no fumes with this type of heater, so they are great for more confined spaces and are really easy to use.

The problem with electric heaters is that most require connecting to the mains, and so, you are limited by the length of the power cord when it comes to where you can place them. This type of heater doesn’t warm up as fast as the others either, and the heat doesn’t seem to reach as far from the heater itself. There are some infrared heaters that are better for this though, it has to be said, and they do come in some lovely designs like this one-

Natural gas heaters
As these products run off your main gas supply, they have to be installed by professionals and that raises the cost quite substantially when compared to electric heaters. They are also permanent features and can’t be swapped to another spot easily.

However, gas heaters do produce a lot of heat with a wide distribution, and after installation, there is no maintenance to perform like changing gas tanks or finding wood to burn. These heaters are the best for warming up larger areas.
In this clip, the guy gives his opinion on electric and gas heaters-

Propane patio heaters
providing you with more heat than most electric heaters, and not having to be fixed in place and connected to the mains like natural gas, propane-fueled heaters are very popular. They come in a wide range of designs and sizes too, so it’s easy to find something to match your tastes.

What are the downsides? Well, there is the fact that you need to buy a regulator and also a large propane tank to run them from, and those tanks aren’t the most attractive things so you’ll need a place to hide them away. Then, of course, there is the safety factor. For the most part, using propane tanks is perfectly safe, but you do need to be very safety conscious and make sure everything is connected properly, and also well maintained.

Fire pits
Nothing quite beats the feeling of huddling around an open fire and fire pits give you just that. Modern fire pits are usually designed to look fantastic too and can be a really beautiful centerpiece for your patio.

It may surprise you to know that fire pits aren’t actually that economical and that the heat from them doesn’t spread very far, so they are only really good for milder evenings, or smaller spaces. You have to be careful about smoke, cinders, and ash being blown in the wind with fire pits, and you’ll always have to have a good fuel source at hand.

As I said, modern fire pits can look very nice indeed-

Designing your garden to trap heat from your heater

It doesn’t matter what heat source you are using to warm you on those chilly nights, to get the most out of it, you need to be trapping as much heat as possible. With that in mind, we thought we’d share a few tips that should have you feeling toasty in no time.

The wind is your enemy
When it comes to dulling the effects of your garden heater, there aren’t many things as guilty as the wind. Even if the wind itself isn’t icy, which in many cases it certainly is, it still blows the warm air away from you, leaving feeling colder than you should.

So with this in mind, you really need to think of ways to keep those gusts away from your outdoor sitting area. Obviously, making good use of the walls of your house should be a priority, but other things you can do are put up structures such as pergolas, gazebos, or even trellises, to keep the wind out. Natural barriers like potted shrubs, bushes, and hedges are also very effective for this, and there are even artificial hedges that you can buy these days that will work just fine.

Even your type of garden furniture, and how you have it set up, can have a wind-blocking effect. Setting your furniture up so that the backs of the chairs all face the wind, and packing them tightly together with the heat source in front of you, will help you to feel the warmth a lot more effectively. Obviously, larger pieces of garden furniture with thick cushions and high backs are better for this.

Of course all of this only applies to mild to moderate winds, and I’m not saying for a moment that you should sit outside if the weather is like this-

Look for cover
Having some kind of roof overhead is excellent for trapping heat. It can as something like corrugated plastic, but other solid materials work just as well. With cloth and other fabrics like what pop-up gazebo tents are made of, you have to be more careful

You do have to make sure that there is some clearance above the heater and that the cover isn’t too close or it could be a fire hazard, especially with some materials. There are also fumes to think of when using propane or other fuel sources like charcoal or wood. They can get trapped underneath and make it not only uncomfortable but also dangerous for everyone sitting there.

As you can see from our photo below, we have our decking area with walls and a roof, but also that the walls are not floor to ceiling, allowing for air circulation. We believe this is just the right balance to allow you to trap heat, yet still, use any type of heater safely.

Other things to help keep you warm outside

Apart from rearranging your garden, there are other things you can try to keep you warm in the garden. One of the most popular ones these days is to get yourself a hot tub. These hot tubs get water up to very high temperatures and you’ll be more likely to break a sweat than to have your teeth chattering.
Having some nice thick blankets to wrap yourself in is a tried and tested method of keeping warm outside, and using one with thick, comfy, cushions can really help you to feel snug as you feel the glow from the heater.

About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message:

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