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    Patio heating and lighting

    Summary: Advice for exterior patio heating and lighting, discussing the types of patio heaters available and outdoor lighting to benefit your patio experience.

    Having spent time and money on the design and construction of your patio, it seems a shame to limit its use just to the summer months. This need not be the case as heating appliances and lighting for patios and gardens are now available through most DIY chains and garden centres.

    Set the atmosphere for your patio with a lighting scheme and outdoor heating. As well as serving a practical purpose, lighting can be used to determine mood and highlight garden features. To make the most of your new patio, you may want to add a patio heater to maintain a pleasant temperature on cooler days or evenings. When choosing lighting and heating, you will need to balance aesthetic appeal with practical concerns: consider the complexity of the installation, the volume of heat and light produced, and the running costs and energy efficiency of the appliance.

    Patio heating

    There are three popular methods of heating a patio. Gas fired patio heaters are easily operated and can be moved to different seating areas. They tend to be similar in shape and are available in a variety of finishes from natural colours to polished metallic finishes. Heat reflectors can be added to direct heat more accurately. Tabletop heaters can attach to tables like an umbrella at the required height.

    Electric heaters are becoming more popular than gas heaters as they are more environmentally friendly and efficient. Style varies greatly from free standing umbrella heaters to wall-mounted, table-mounted or floor heaters and most are lightweight and portable. Short wave heaters are the most efficient as they work by radiating infrared heat to people rather than heating the atmosphere as gas heaters do. They are also odourless, silent, and create a warm glow. Some use halogen bulbs to increase energy efficiency and have multiple settings to control the level of heat.

    For a rustic look, spend your summer evenings gazing at the glowing embers in a garden stove, fuelled by coal or wood. There are various designs on the market, including raised firepits and braziers or Mexican Chimineas, many of which can double up as barbeques. Chimineas are traditionally made from clay, but modern versions also come in iron and aluminium and have removable chimneys. Garden stoves are often preferred to gas and electrical heaters as they are cheaper to run and less damaging to the environment, particularly when used with sustainably produced wood and charcoal.

    Mexican Chiminea
    Gas patio heater

    Patio lighting

    Just as theatre lighting brings a stage to life, so it can have the same affect on your garden, creating a dramatic or romantic mood, or subtly illuminating attractive features. Give your imagination a free reign and then find out if your ideas are possible, consulting electricians for quotes.

    Whatever the style of your garden, you will find light fittings to suit from lanterns to LEDs, lampposts, security spots to solar-powered lighting. For economical running choose low voltage lighting, and illuminate specific features or create a subtle all-round glow by lighting trees, shrubs, paths, steps and garden buildings.

    Accent lighting can be placed on the ground or mounted and angled to the right position. To help you design your lighting scheme, here are some of the effects that lighting can produce:

    Washing - position the lights at the base of walls and hedges to cast a soft wash of light over the area. This highlights the patio area and gives it a warm welcoming effect.

    Shadowing - by placing a light in front of an object, the object will be illuminated and its shadow cast on the surface behind. The lower the light the more subtle the shadow.

    Down-lighting - emphasize specific features by lighting them from above. Down-lighting is often used around doorways and archways and can create shadowy effects. To produce a moonlight effect, position the light in a nearby tree so that shadows from the tree create a dappled light on the patio surface.

    Cross-lighting - angle two lights on an object from different sides to illuminate it with a mellow light. By lighting both sides of a step, a soft light is created over the whole step.

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