Just because its winter doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your deck. Winter may be cold, but it is often still sunny. In Calgary, on average, there are 333 sunny days a year. Meaning almost every day of the year, your deck is sunny. You should be out on your deck, enjoying that sun. You just need a way to make it a little warmer and add some heat to your deck.
There are two ways to heat a deck in winter. Either through heaters or by passive design elements on the deck. Both will raise the temperature on the deck a few degrees increasing comfort. Heating your deck allows you to enjoy your deck year-round.
Both passive heat and heaters will extent the deck season. Allowing you many more days to enjoy your outdoor living space, keeping the additional space useable for a longer time, even when the temperature drops.
Warming your deck is not an either-or proposition but an and. To effectively heat your deck and Effective is one of “E”s of E3, should be used together. Preventing chilling forces while adding the required additional heat to make the deck comfortable as the temperatures drop. Creating an outdoor oasis on those sunny days even when it’s the dead of winter.
We will start with Active Deck Heaters, using common heat sources of electricity, propane and those with the extra foresight in design natural Gas when its of value. Make yourself comfortable, grab a hot cocoa, here are 11 ways to heat your deck in winter and 12 more to increase comfort.
Your deck is an outdoor living space, changing how we heat it. Unlike your house with a central furnace heating the air of your house, on a deck, you want to create the feeling of warmth, not heat the air. Like really, heating the great outdoors will be global climate change, not cool, not cool at all. We only want to feel comfortable and warm on the deck, not cause catastrophic global disasters.
Deck heaters need to either be directed heat, like a heater blowing directly on you, in your chair or better yet, infrared rays warming your skin and the objects around your deck but not the air itself.
Fixed Deck Heaters
What distinction these four heaters from other deck heaters in permeability. Even on a cooking hot summer day, these heaters are still part of your deck. Therefore, their design and installation need to be part of the deck construction. Installed in a way to be safe and convenient to use in winter but not an eye-sore in the summer.
Permanent deck heaters will provide a higher degree of deck comfort at a lower cost compared to other heaters. Being part of the deck design will work more efficiently together with passive deck heat elements. It can be attached to walls in a small alcove on the deck, providing a warm, protected area in the dead of winter. Shelter from the wind and warmed by the infrared rays. Correctly done, it is surprising the level of comfort you can have on your deck in winter.
My strongest memory of overhead mounted heaters are not from decks, but ice rinks. Huddling around a chunk of ice, sitting on cold concrete bleacher but the warm rays of heating coming from the glowing red heaters above. That was small-town hockey, and that is what I first think of when I think of Overhead mounted heaters. You can have that same warmth on your deck.
Most deck heaters work best when installed above the deck, allowing the warming rays to radiate down from above imitating the sun in design. Often installed 6’ or 8’ above the deck’s surface.
Deck heaters can be power by either electrical, propane or natural gas. Depending on the local market and volume of which will be most economical for your deck. Also, the installation needs to be considered. The heaters fuel will impact the level of difficulty in installation.
Natural gas heaters are cheaper to use but require professional installation, costing more upfront. If you plan to heat your deck frequently during the colder months for long periods of time, this can be worth it.
Electrical heaters are the easiest to install and use. But take longer to warm up as the electrical coils need to heat up as opposed to instant heat from gas flames. Most electrical heaters are rated as high as 90% energy efficiency providing an excellent level of warmth for the amount of electricity used.
Propane heaters are a mix of electrical and natural gas heaters in pros and cons. They don’t require professional installation, but propane generally costs more and requires regular trips to the gas station to be refilled. But provide instant heat with flames as opposed to electrical coils.
1. Overhead Ceiling Deck Heater
Often installed between pergola rafter or hanging from porch rooves ceiling. Ceiling deck heaters are great for warming a larger covered area of a deck. Requiring a roof to attach to are limited in application on a deck but are great for seating area, warming guest gathering around a table under a pergola.
2. Wall Mounted Deck Heaters
Similar to ceiling heater but mounted on a house or privacy wall on the deck, about 6’ (1.8m) above the deck. Limited to walls on a deck in application but provide warmth while without obstructing the sunshine.
3. Floor Standing Patio Heaters
Heat from above but not requiring a wall or roof to be attached to. The heater is positioned 6’ to 8’ (1.8-2.4m) from the deck on a pole or pyramid shape cone. Ideally suited for the centre of deck area. Or placed between deck chairs providing a comfortable conversation area.
Their greatest advantage to mounted heaters is their built-in stands. Not requiring a permanent deck structure. Technically they are not fixed as they can be wheeled around the deck, but their size and weight limit movement.
4. Deck Fire Table
Gathering around the fire table, enjoying both its flames and warmth, in a wide variety of designs, fire tables will enhance the look of your deck, both when in use or simply as a gathering place for cups during the summer heat.
5. Decorative Deck Fire Pits
Bringing the warmth and atmosphere of a campfire to your deck. Without the table but design to imitate a firepit. Break out the marshmallow and enjoy a fun and warm campfire on your deck. A wonderful addition to a deck.
Closer to the decking in height than a fire table, care must be taken to prevent accidental fires or decking damage. Deck fire pits should be used on a fire-resistant mat or stone surface.
Natural gas or propane fire pits are safe compared to wood fire pits without dangerous embers exploding out of the fire pit and possibly starting a deck fire.
If you would like to read a fuller review on decorative fire pits for a deck, click here for a fuller discussion. I really enjoy all the information Eugene provides.
6. Outdoor –Electric Fireplace
Hanging from a wall or a fireplace stand providing warmth from the convenience of electricity. Electric fireplaces have come a long way in both appearance and heating.
Electric fireplaces typically give off 4 600 BTUs of heat but can produce as much as 8 900 BTUs when wired to a 220 outlet. Indoors can heat between 400 to 1000 square foot room. Similar results can be expected with consideration of weather on your deck. Blowing wind and open skies will limit their effectiveness.
Safer than a wood fireplace without sparks or open flames potentially burning your deck.
Moveable Deck Heaters
Not all deck heaters need to be fixed on the deck. There are many portable heating options for a deck. Allowing you to bring them out as the temperature demands but keeping your deck open for other things during the summer. If you don’t plan to use your deck during cooler days regularly, portable heaters are a great option. Bring them out on cold days; otherwise, leave them in storage.
Being portable, moveable deck heaters are fuelled either by propane or electricity.
Electrical portable heaters are limited to proximity to electrical outlets. Extension cords and splitters shouldn’t be used with heaters as it creates a fire hazard. With a smaller deck, this shouldn’t be a problem with proximity to the house, but a larger deck will require additional outlets added during construction.
Speaking of outlets, electrical heaters draw a lot of amps, limiting the number of heaters that can be plugged in at a time. Plan usage wisely.
For a little additional heat, electrical heaters are convenient, economical and easy to use. For instant heat, propane heaters are better suited but require extra work.
7. Portable Patio Heaters
Portable deck heater needs to heat with infrared heat. As we said earlier, you don’t want to actually heat the whole back yard, only warm yourself. Infrared heaters are excellent at warming your skin, making your deck enjoyable on cool days. But being smaller, it must be directed towards you with precision during use. As the small sphere of warming rays can easily miss you.
Safely placed around your deck, providing warmth as required. Not designed to be the centre of attention but providing warmth as needed.
8. Tabletop heaters
The better-looking deck heater then a portable heater. In the design of a lamp but providing warmth to all those surrounding. Using infrared heat to warm those around the deck table.
Designed for the middle of the table on your deck. Its warmth and light warming table conversations long after “deck season” is done. Warming hands and faces.
9. Hanging Patio Lamps
A decorative and portable version of a ceiling-mounted heater. The lampshade offering beauty while focussing the heat on those below. Electrical heat is safest, along with convenience in use, but hanging heaters can also be propane or kerosene. Ensure to hang from a secure hook and location, along with required clearance. Able to produce significant heat, which, if incorrectly directed, could start a fire. As with any heat source should not be left unattended.
10. Portable Firepits
A small propane flame in a protected bowl providing warmth and the feel of a campfire without an actual fire pit. Similar to a barbeque in use. A propane tank attached with a hose at a safe distance. Providing both the warmth and beauty of fire around a campfire on your deck.
Generating heat both above and below requiring a fire pad on wood or composite decks. Preventing accidental damage or fires on the deck.
The ease and joy around a campfire is an excellent addition for your deck for a cooler winter evening or a beautiful deck attraction. You can even roast marshmallows on the flame.
11. Heated Deck Floor Matts
Often used in winter to clear ice without damaging the decking but can also be used for limited heat on a deck. An electrical heat mat providing warmth for your feet while outside in the winter. A floor matt will not warm surfaces with infrared ray heat but remove the chill of the decking under your feet.
Well, there we have it, 11 ways to heat your deck in the winter. But heaters are not the only way to warm your deck and make it more comfortable during the colder months. There are many ways to warm a deck without a heater, which I will call Passive Deck Heat. Constructing your deck in a way to collect or reflect heat unto the deck, warming your deck naturally with the sun.
Included in passive ways to warm a deck, there are also ways to warm you on a deck. Not worrying about heating the deck but heating you individually on while on your deck. Allowing you to enjoy your deck while the air regardless of the temperature outside.
Passive Deck Heat
Passive heat is not in-effective heat but warmth dependent on nature. If the suns out, with these deck elements, your deck will heat up. If it’s a cloudy day, you are better off with a deck heater. Without the sun, wind and sun walls will do little to heat up your deck. Effective on sunny, while increasing deck heaters effectiveness. Here are 9 more ways to heat a deck.
12. Deck Wind Walls
It is called wind chill for a reason. Wind blowing across a deck will cool anyone. A strategically placed wind wall sheltering the deck from the bone chilly winds increasing the comfort level of your deck.
A wind wall does not technically heat a deck, but it will increase comfort and warmth by decreasing the cold, blocking the wind on your deck. Changing the temperature from -20° with windchill to a comfortable temperature without the chilling wind. Wind makes a huge difference in comfort. Sheltering you on your deck will increase comfort.
13. Reflective Deck Walls
Similar to a wind wall but with the intent of trapping and reflecting heat. Years ago, it was January, in the middle of winter, and I was working behind a house we were framing. I gave my boss a shock when he came down, seeing me working without a shirt because it was so hot. Even though it was winter, the sun’s heat was reflecting off the wall, warming me. The same is true, with reflective wall panels on your deck. They can significantly warm your deck by reflecting heat.
The key is using reflective material for your wall panels. Material that absorbs heat may be good to release heat later in the evening, but you want reflective material to heat your deck now. Both wood and tinted glass reflect heat well. A little word of caution. Tinted glass can reflect light so well as to melt composite decking in a magnificent angle.
14. Insulated Roof above the Deck to trap heat in
An insulated roof above the deck must be used in conjunction with heaters to warm your deck in the winter as the roof will block the warming sun rays. But a roof is extremely effective in trapping heating. Keeping your deck much warmer in the winter.
Inside your house, the insulation in your attic is the single most effective warmth trapping part of your house. Your deck is no different. An insulated deck roof will greatly increase the temperature of your deck.
15. A skylight in your deck roof allowing the sun to warm the deck below
Loosing some of the insulation value of a roof but allowing the suns rays to heat the deck passively. The warm air trapped on the deck while additional heat being added through the skylight. On sunny days the temperature on your deck can become quite comfortable even when it’s cold outside.
16. Enclosing the wall and ceiling your deck.
Enclosing the roof and walls of the deck with glass allows you to enjoy the sun and enjoy the view in comfort. Sunrooms can efficiently be heated to the same temperature as your house. Allowing you to stroll out on your deck at any temperature to soak up the sun in your pyjamas.
Even without a heater, the sunlight can quickly warm a sunroom. Raising the temperature to a comfortable level. Trapping the warm air and protecting the deck from the cold wind.
The controlled temperature even allows your deck to double as a greenhouse. Allowing you to enjoy gardening year around on your deck. Or simply to give your plants a few weeks head start in spring. The options are endless with a sunroom on your deck when combined with a deck heater.
17. Composite Decking warming your feet in winter
One of the complaints of composite decking is it gets hot in summer. While in winter, this is an advantage. Composite decking of darker colours will quickly warm with the sun rays. Raising the temperature of the decking and deck. Making midday bare feet on the deck possible in winter.
18. Outdoor Rugs and Blankets
If the decking is cold, outdoor rugs and blankets will warm your feet as you sit on the decking. Insulating your feet from the cold deck boards while enjoying the sun’s rays.
19. Seasonal Wall Panels
Many of these passive ways to heat your deck in the winter are permanent structures on your deck. Which can overheat your deck in the summer. Collecting heat when it is already hot. Seasonal panels can be up as the temperature drops providing a reflective deck wall to warm you when needed. But removing the wall panel when warmer temperature returns. The benefits of a reflective wall on demand.
20. Glass Patio Door warming your deck
Just like the sun reflecting off the lake by the beach, a glass patio door will reflect heat onto the deck. The reflecting heat will warm a deck chair sitting in front of the patio door. If you want, you can also open the door, letting the heat from your house escape unto the deck. An open door will only heat the immediate area by the door but will allow you to be out on your deck in winter. Pull a chair up close to the glass and see what you think.
Wrapping a warm blanket over you could make you even more comfortable, which brings us to the next set of ideas.
Individual Ways to warm yourself on your Deck
Sometimes it is not the whole deck that needs to be warmed up, just you. Warming you enough to enjoy being on your deck even when it’s cold.
21. Hot Tub on your deck
One of the most popular ways to enjoy your deck in the dead of winter. Relaxing in a hot tub surrounded with snow. The silly pleasure running through the cold and jumping into a hot tub of water. Almost everyone is gamed to come over and enjoy your deck in winter when you mention hot tub. Relaxing and warming, it’s great in winter.
A word of caution, on that hot water, is heavy, a litre of water weighs 1 kg (2.2 lbs). A deck supporting a hot tub needs to be built to support the extra weight. Or the hot tub should rest on a concrete pad with the deck surrounding it.
22. Heated seats
Your deck doesn’t need to be warm in winter, just you. A heat blanket on a deck chair can provide some extra heat in winter. Keeping your warm on your deck chair while the cold air surrounds you. Heated deck chairs can give those few additional degrees moving you from cold to comfort on your deck chair.
23. Rearrange Seating on your Deck
Deck furniture arrangement may have worked great for summer but need to be rearranged for winter. Think of the hot spots are your deck. During cooler winter months arranging your deck chairs, there will be advantageous. Moving your deck chairs closer to reflective walls providing a warmer seating area. Arranging chairs around a patio heater warming, creating a warm zone for sitting in.
Ways not to heat your Deck
Woodfire pits or anything that can throw sparks unto your deck. Both wood and composite decks are combustibles. All will burn with a spark from a fire pit. Yes, you can put a screen over top, but the risk is too large that while you are adding wood, a spark will fly out unto the deck.
Always provide sufficient clearance for heaters as not to melt the composite decking. Some blower heat at a temperature high enough to damage or melt PVC or composite decking. Always check usage and clearance before use.
Conclusion of Heating a Deck in Winter
These 23 ideas to heat a deck may all help, but ultimately you will need to use a few in combination to be effective. For example, wind and sun walls sheltering your deck from the cold, with chairs arranged around a standing patio heater, is a very effective combination for heating a deck. Active controlled heat, passive deck protection along with wise furniture arrangement for warmth.
Heating a deck in winter will ultimately involve active heat. Passive deck heat will increase comfort and warm the deck a few degrees depending on the sun, but good old heat will change everything. Here are a few quick answers to common questions about heating a deck.
A few quick answers about Heating your Deck
First, expectation regarding deck temperature. Heating a deck even with the best heater will only raise the temperature and warmth level a few degrees. How much depends on heater size and deck shelter, but if its -40° outside. It’s going to be cold on your deck. It doesn’t matter what heater you have, or how its arranged. Go inside. Your furnace is working overtime just to warm your insulated house, let alone the great outdoors. But correctly sheltered and placed correctly sized heaters can make a deck comfortable on a cool winter night.
Now for the deck heater questions.
Do patio heaters work in the winter?
Yes, but only if sufficiently sized and to raise the temperature a few degrees. Not designed to cause global warming. Infrared heaters are the most effective. Gas patio heaters will generate heat more quickly than electrical, but in extreme cold, propane fuel will condense in the tank, slowing fuel supply, lessen the heat of the flames.
Can you use a patio heater under a covered patio?
You can use electrical heaters under a covered patio, but gas heaters produce carbon dioxide—the silent killer. Never use a flame heater inside an enclosed area. Carbon dioxide is invisible and odourless; the best case scenario you will get a headache before collapsing from lack of oxygen. Worst case, you will wake up dead. Only use an electric heater under a deck roof.
How much area does a patio heater cover?
You don’t actually need to heat the entire deck but the sitting area. Placing a heater in the centre or directed towards the sitting area, creating a comfortable space to enjoy your deck.
Keep in mind a 3’x6’ table sitting six, requires a space 8’ x 11’. A table heater needs to heat the entire length of the table area, as the heat radiates out from the centre of the heater. A 5000 BTUs heater will heat up to 6’ around the heater. Our table of six will need a 5000 BTUs heater.
Roughly for every 1 000 additional BTUs adds 1’ of distance from the heater being heated. A 10000 BTUs heater will heat up to 10’ around the heater. Over 10 000 BTUs heaters start to lose their effectiveness. Effective heating reducing to roughly ½ foot for every additional 1000 BTUs beyond the 10’ radius.
|BTUs of Patio Heater||Effective Heating Distance||Heated Deck Area|
|5,000||5’||100-150 sq. ft.|
|6,000||6’||150-250 sq. ft|
|7,000||7’||250-300 sq. ft.|
|8,000||8’||300-350 sq. ft.|
|9,000||9’||350-400 sq. ft.|
|10,000||10’||400-450 sq. ft.|
|18,000||15’||700-1,000 sq. ft.|
|30,000||21’||1,500-2,000 sq. ft|
The further away from the heater, you are, the more energy it requires to heat. Often making it more useful to heat your deck with multiply heaters as opposed to one large centre heater. Multiple well-placed heaters will better heat selected areas of the deck.
Patio Living has a great chart of patio heater BTUs and area effectively warmed. Click here to go to patio living to read their chart.
Stay warm, my friend and enjoy your deck all year long.