Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy spending time on your deck.
Despite the cooler weather, winter days can still be sunny. Giving you an opportunity to enjoy your deck. You just need to raise the temperature a few degrees.
There are two ways to keep your deck warm during the winter season: active heating using heaters or passive warming elements built into the deck. Both methods will increase the temperature on the deck by a few degrees, making it more comfortable to use. The increased warmth allows you to enjoy it throughout the year.
Both active and passive heat will extend the time you can spend on your deck. More days enjoying your outdoor living space despite the drop in temperature.
The type of heat is not an either-or proposition but an and. Often, incorporating both passive warming elements into your deck will enhance the effectiveness of the heaters. Minimizing winter’s chills while adding heat to select locations of the deck. Like your circle of chairs. Creating an outdoor oasis on those sunny days, even when it’s the dead of winter.
Let’s start with Active Heating of your deck using electricity, propane or natural gas heaters. At the click of a button, add instant warmth to your deck.
Grab a hot cocoa, make yourself comfortable and start dreaming about which of these 11 active heat sources and 12 passive ways is best for your deck this winter.
Active Heating of Your Deck
As an outdoor space, we need to be wise in your selection of a heater for your deck. Choosing one that will effectively warm you but not throw out heat to the wind. This is where passive heat, like a wind wall, can help alongside a deck heater.
There are two types of outdoor heaters.
- Convection (Space Heaters)
- Radiation (Infrared Rays)
Space heaters warm the air, while infrared warms surfaces.
Infrared heaters will make your skin feel warm even if the thermometers say it’s cold.
Fixed Deck Heaters
What distinguishes these four heaters from other deck heaters is permanence.
Even on a cooking hot summer day, these heaters are still part of your deck.
Installed in a way that is safe and convenient to use in winter but not an eyesore in the summer.
Permanent deck heaters offer a superior level of comfort for your deck at a lower cost compared to other heating options. As they can be better incorporated into the deck design, working synergistically with passive deck heat elements, resulting in even greater effectiveness.
Commonly installed on the walls of a small alcove, creating a warm and protected space during the coldest winter months. Shielded from the wind and bathed in soothing infrared rays, you’ll be amazed at the remarkable level of comfort you can experience 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. Installed 6’ or 8’ above the deck’s surface.
Powered by either electrical, propane or natural gas. Depending on your local market and the amount of heat needed for your deck.
Installation may also limit which fuel source works best for your deck.
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. The good thing about electrical heaters is their high energy efficiency rating, some as high as 90%.
Propane heaters often don’t require professional installation, but propane generally costs more and includes regular trips to the gas station to refill the propane. But provide instant heat with flames as opposed to electrical coils.
1. Overhead Ceiling Deck Heater
Often installed between pergola rafters 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 is limited in application on a deck but is great for seating areas and warming guest gatherings around a table under a pergola.
2. Wall Mounted Deck Heaters
It is similar to the ceiling heater but mounted on a house or privacy wall on the deck, about 6’ (1.8m) above the deck. It is limited to walls on a deck in application but provides warmth without obstructing the sunshine.
3. Floor Standing Patio Heaters
Heated from above but without being attached to a wall or roof. Positioned 6’ to 8’ (1.8-2.4m) from the deck on a pole or pyramid-shaped cone. Ideally suited for the centre of the deck. 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 will 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 designed 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
Installed on a wall, creating 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 fireplaces can heat between 400 to 1000 square foot room.
Outdoors have similar results but are limited in effectiveness by wind and open skies.
But they are 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 Electric Patio Heaters
A portable deck heater heats with infrared rays.
Heating you, not the air around you. Making you feel warm even when the air is cool.
Portable electric heaters are smaller; they must be directed toward you with precision during use. As the small zone 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 to provide warmth as needed.
8. Tabletop heaters
A better-looking option than a portable deck heater. Looking like a lamp while providing warmth around it. Using infrared heat radiates warmth around the table.
Place it in 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 offers beauty while focusing the heat on those below.
Electrical heat is the safest and most convenient to use, but hanging heaters can also be fueled by propane or kerosene.
Hang from a secure hook and location, plus account for clearance.
They will produce a significant amount of heat, which, if incorrectly directed, could start a fire. As with any heat source should not be left unattended.
10. Portable Firepits
Experience the warmth and ambiance of a campfire without the need for an actual fire pit. A cozy propane flame contained within a protective bowl creates a soothing atmosphere akin to a barbecue. Safely connected to a propane tank via a hose, it offers both the comforting heat and captivating beauty of a campfire right on your deck.
The heat generated under the fire bowl requires a fire pad on wood and composite decks. Preventing accidental damage or fires on the deck.
The ease and joy around a campfire is an excellent addition to your deck for a cooler winter evening. An attractive feature on your deck.
11. Heated Deck Floor Matts
It is often used in winter to clear ice without damaging the decking, but it can also be used for limited heat on a deck. An electrical heat mat provides warmth for your feet while outside in the winter. A floor mat will not warm surfaces with infrared ray heat but remove the chill of the decking under your feet.
Heaters are one option, but there are other ways to create a cozy and comfortable environment on your deck in the cooler months.
Methods, which I refer to as “Passive Deck Heat.” Designing your deck to capture and radiate heat from the sun, naturally warming the space.
Including both individual warmth and overall deck comfort.
Passive Deck Heat
Passive heat cannot be controlled, and its warmth is dependent on nature. If the sun is 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 increases the comfort level of your deck.
A wind wall does not technically heat a deck, but blocking the wind on your deck will increase comfort and warmth. Improving the temperature from shivering outside to relaxing, sheltered from the wind.
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, like stones, may be good to release heat later in the evening, but you want reflective material to heat your deck now.
Wood and tinted glass are good reflectors of the sun’s warmth.
14. Insulated Roof above the Deck, Trapping Heat.
Insulating the roof above the deck can be used in conjunction with heaters to warm your deck in the winter and can replace the sun’s warmth with on-demand heat.
Insulating overhead is the most efficient method for retaining heat. Placing an insulated roof above your heaters will greatly enhance the amount of heat trapped on the deck.
15. A skylight in your deck roof allows the sun to warm the deck below
You will lose some of the insulation value of a roof but allow the sun’s rays to heat the deck passively. The air trapped under the deck roof is passively heated by the skylight.
On sunny days, the temperature on your deck will be significantly improved.
16. Enclosing the wall and ceiling of 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’s 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 spending time outdoors.
19. Seasonal Wall Panels
Many of these passive ways to heat your deck in the winter are permanent structures on your deck. Leading to overheating your deck in the summer. Collecting heat when it is already hot.
Seasonal panels can be set up when the temperature drops, providing a reflective deck wall to warm you when needed.
But removing the wall panel when warmer temperature returns.
Free your deck from the clutter and excess hear during the summer.
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 onto 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.
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 by snow. With the silly pleasure of 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 a 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
A heat blanket on a deck chair can provide some extra heat in winter. Keep 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 comfortable on your deck chair.
23. Rearrange Seating on your Deck
Think of the hot spots are your deck. During cooler winter months, arranging your deck chairs will be advantageous.
Such as, moving your deck chairs closer to reflective walls provides a warmer seating area.
Or arranging the chairs around a patio heater. Creating a warm zone for sitting in.
Ways not to heat your Deck
Woodfire pits or anything that can throw sparks onto 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 the top, but the risk is too large that while you are adding wood, a spark will fly out onto the deck.
Always provide sufficient clearance for heaters so as not to melt the composite decking. Some blowers 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
With 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. Actively controlled heat, passive deck protection, and wise furniture arrangement for warmth.
In order to effectively heat a deck during the winter, active heating methods are necessary. While passive deck heating can provide some comfort and raise the temperature slightly depending on sunlight exposure, utilizing proper heating methods is key.
A few quick answers about Heating your Deck
First, expectations 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 it’s 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.
Do patio heaters work in the winter?
Yes, but only if sufficiently sized and will only raise the temperature a few degrees.
Gas patio heaters will generate heat more quickly than electrical, but in extreme cold, propane fuel will condense in the tank, slowing the fuel supply and lessening 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; in 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 creates 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 BTU heater will heat up to 6’ around the heater. Our table of six will need a 5000 BTU heater.
Roughly for every 1,000 additional BTUs adds 1’ of distance from the heater being heated. A 10000 BTU heater will heat up to 10’ around the heater. Over 10 000 BTUs heaters start to lose their effectiveness. Effective heating reduced to roughly ½ foot for every additional 1000 BTUs beyond the 10’ radius.
|BTUs of Patio Heater
|Effective Heating Distance
|Heated Deck Area
|100-150 sq. ft.
|150-250 sq. ft
|250-300 sq. ft.
|300-350 sq. ft.
|350-400 sq. ft.
|400-450 sq. ft.
|700-1,000 sq. ft.
|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.
Stay warm, my friend and enjoy your deck all year long.