Why Patio Heaters are "Environmental Obscenities"

why-heaters are evil

That is what the former Energy Minister in Britain called them. A former energy spokeperson for the UK Liberal Party called them "an absurd invention" saying that "It is ludicrous that people are trying to heat the open air".

Yet commenter Dan, reading our earlier post Miami Beach Still Loves its Patio Heaters, suggested "I mean seriously, this is absurd - this issue is too small beans to be spending time writing about. As I always say, focus on the big issues first, and avoid nitpicking on these kind of trivial subjects that will do nothing to promote a stronger eco-movement.."

No Dan, it isn't absurd, and here is why.1) It adds up. A 12 KW patio heater produces 2.6 kg of CO2 per hour. That isn't a great deal, but it is not exactly providing an essential service. Multiply it by the eight visible in this restaurant and the dozens in others, and you get a lot of carbon dioxide.

Norman Baker of the UK liberal party notes that:

"Patio heaters are an absurd invention. It is ludicrous that people are trying to heat the open air, as well as being irresponsible in the light of the climate change challenge we face. Instead of reaching for the gas canister people should reach for another jumper [sweater] instead."

2) It is so unnecessary. Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said: "It is hard to imagine a device that inflicts more gratuitous damage on the environment." [leaf blower, anyone?]

More statistics courtesy of the Telegraph:

The Energy Savings Trust estimates:

* A propane patio heater with a heat output of 12.5kW will produce around 34.9kg of CO2 before the fuel runs out (after approximately 13 hours). This is equivalent to the energy required to produce approximately 5,200 cups of tea (or 400 cups for every hour of operation).

* 2.3 million domestic patio heaters would emit the same amount of CO2 in a year as driving from Lands End to John O' Groats 200,000 times.

* The average patio heater uses the same amount of energy as a gas hob uses in six months and emits around 50 kg of CO2 per year. But while a hob is an essential item used every day in most kitchens patio heaters are typically only used for two months of the year, mostly in July and August.

* A modelling exercise by MTP on the energy use of the 630,000 UK domestic patio heaters calculated that they could produce a total of 140,000 tones of carbon dioxide per annum. This is roughly equivalent to the CO2 emissions from all the homes in Bath.

* Unlike cars, patio heaters are not fitted with filters to reduce the gases they produce. A standard 13kg canister of gas will warm an area outside of up to 25 sq m for 12 hours, whereas the same canister used in a gas fire could heat the same area indoors for 10 times longer.

You could very easily say that the fact that I flew my mom to Miami Beach makes me a complete hypocrite for complaining about the little bit of CO2 generated by a patio heater, and no doubt some will. But transport is an essential service, whereas sitting on a patio without a sweater isn't.

Related Content on Treehugger.com