Aside from blankets and layers, you might think that firepits are the most eco-friendly way of keeping warm outside, but unless you do your own logging, wood has to be cut down and transported, the heat given off tends not to be very efficient at warming people up, and particles given off when wood is burnt lead to pollution.
This means electric patio heaters don’t fare too badly in comparison – particularly infrared electric heaters, which have a smaller carbon footprint. And they’re more energy efficient and less expensive than gas heaters. Infrared heaters, which work by heating people rather than the air, are relatively eco- friendly. And if they’re powered by renewable sources, you can have almost guilt free outdoor heating.
If you’re looking for a small, neat heater to fit under the table and warm your legs – often the first thing to get chilly- the Imus ( Mensa Heating), which heats four to six people using short wave infrared, is a good option. If you want something on top of the table rather than under it, try the Shadow table top lamp patio heater (Heat Outdoors). This company also makes a larger more powerful heater, the Shadow Fatboy, which can be mounted on a wall or stand, keeping you and your guests nice and toasty.
Most heaters use either short or medium wave infrared. Short wave is believed to be more energy efficient and more suited to exposed windy areas, but tends to give out a more intense heat that might be more uncomfortable if you’re sitting right next to it, whereas medium-wave heaters such the California (Herschel) tend to spread out heat more evenly.
Whatever heater you choose, a canopy or awning will help preserve the heat. And when you’re choosing your cosy clothes to wear to your gathering, aim for dark colours instead of shiny pale clothes which will reflect the heat, just as the sun does.