How to Heat Outdoor Gatherings in the Winter

As the Wisconsin winter approaches with many restrictions around indoor gatherings in place many events are being moved outside. Naturally holding an outdoor event during the Wisconsin winter requires a heat source, of which there are numerous options. For enclosed or semi-enclosed areas furnace heaters provide a steady stream of heat to fill a space. For more open areas heaters that radiate heat to create a consistent “bubble” of warm air may be more appropriate. Whatever the needs of your event there is almost guaranteed to be a solution for your event.  
 

Furnace heaters are the perfect solution for heating enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces such as tents, garages and enclosed porches. These heaters require a propane and electricity source. They sit outside of your tent or structure and heat outside air that is then blown into the structure through a duct. Furnace heaters may be direct-fired, meaning that combustions products are present in the heated air, or indirectly fired, meaning that no combustions products are present in the air. Both heaters provide air that is safe to breath, however, direct fired heaters do require some venting and may therefore require an opened window or a cracked open garage door. Tents do not require any additional venting as they are not an airtight structure. Furnace heaters come in a variety of sizes, and choosing the one that is the right size for you is essential to having a comfortably heated space.  
 

A furnace heater is a great way to heat a tent

To determine the proper size of your furnace heater there are several important factors to consider. First among them, is the size of the area you wish to heat. It takes approximately 300 BTUs of heat per square foot to raise the temperature of a tent structure by 40 degrees. To calculate this multiply the length and the width of the structure you wish to heat. Next, determine the amount that you wish to raise the temperature in your space. For example, if it is 20 degrees outside and you wish to have a 60 degree room you would be raising the temperature 40 degrees. Finally, multiply the square footage by the appropriate amount of BTUs to heat the area. The value you get will be the number of BTU’s per hour that you need to maintain your temperature increase.  
 

For example, if I wish to raise the temperature of a tent that is 20 feet wide, by 40 feet long by 40 degrees, this is how I would go about finding the number of BTU’s per hour that I need. First, multiply the width and the length to get the square footage. In this case 20ft X 40ft = 800sqft. Then multiply the square footage by the appropriate number of BTUs, in this case 800sqft X 300BTUs = 240,000BTU. Please keep in mind when selecting a furnace heater that this estimate assumes that your space is enclosed and has no insulation. Be sure to adjust your estimates if your situation is different!  
 

The other type of heaters that are common for outdoor events are radiant heaters that create a warm area around the source, regardless of if there is a structure around them or not. These heaters can take many forms, but the most common one is called a patio heater. These heaters work by burning propane to generate heat, and then using heat diffusers to heat the area directly around the heater. Most patio heaters generate a “bubble” of heat about 10 feet in every direction, and put off up to around 40,000 BTU/hour of heat. These heaters are ideal for outdoor smoking areas, waiting areas, or other small open-area public spaces.  
 

A patio heater can keep a cool night pleasant

With winter right around the corner a great way to extend the use of your outdoor spaces is by heating. For enclosed or semi-enclosed areas such as a tent, porch or garage a furnace heater may be the ideal way to continue using your space as the seasons change. If you simply wish to shed some additional heat on an open area a patio heater, or other radiant heat source may be ideal for you. Whatever your needs, look to heaters to keep your outdoor areas enjoyable for a little while longer! 

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