Outdoor fire and heater running costs (Pros, cons and more)

Thinking about installing an outdoor heater or fire? Concerned about the running costs? This article compares the top options, costs, pros, cons and more.

The cost of an outdoor heater or fire is more than just the purchase price. You will also want to consider the ongoing running costs.

This article answers common questions about outdoor heating running costs for the main fuel and power sources – electricity, gas and wood. After reading, you should have a good idea how much each type of heating should cost to run. Bear in mind, running costs are only one aspect of outdoor heating. Other important considerations such as ambience, design and aesthetic qualities, clean fuel options and eco-friendliness, should also be factored into the decision-making process.

So, which is the most cost-effective – electricity, gas or wood? Keep reading to find out.

Disclaimer - Prices for average electricity rates were accurate at the time of writing while others are stated as estimates. Please check with your local power provider for accurate prices. Please contact your outdoor heater retailer for current fuel prices.

What are the main fuel or energy types for outdoor fires and heaters?

The most common types of fuel and energy sources for outdoor heating are electricity, gas and wood.

People are also increasingly turning to clean-burning biofuels like bioethanol, as they weigh up environmental costs alongside running costs.

What is energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency is about using less energy to produce the same result. Therefore outdoor heaters that are energy efficient will cost less to run than other alternatives and have less impact on the environment.

Which is cheaper - electricity, gas or wood?

If you’re comparing different heat and energy sources and wondering which is cheaper – it will depend on a range of factors.

For example:

  • What type of heater or fire is it?
  • What quality of heater is it?
  • How energy efficient is the heater?
  • How much does fuel cost in your area?
  • Where will the heater be located?

Learn more about the different options and their running costs below.

Wood - Firewood, depending on your location, can cost hundreds of dollars to buy or it can be free. This therefore can make a wood fireplace among the cheapest types of outdoor heaters to run. Bear in mind that wood needs to be in a suitable condition if you are conscious of reducing emission levels and it can take months to years for wood to be dry enough to burn. You also need an adequate supply of wood.

Electricity - Working out how much it costs (cents per hour) to run an electric heater will depend on a number of factors such as where you live, how often you use the heater, its location outside and type of heater. Electricity rates regularly change, as mentioned earlier in this article, but you can make electricity a cheaper option by opting for an infrared heater which provides direct heat. The use of solar panels to create electricity can also lower running costs because energy sourced from the sun is free.

Gas - LPG gas may be a cheaper option because you are not paying the daily fixed charge to use natural gas. It’s important to keep in mind that there are other costs associated with using natural gas such as installation and servicing.

Now you know a little more about the different heat and energy sources, let’s take a look at the energy efficiency of the main types of outdoor heaters:

  • Outdoor wood fireplaces
  • Outdoor electric heaters
  • Outdoor gas heaters

How much does an outdoor wood fireplace cost to run?

There’s nothing quite like the heat and ambience of an outdoor fireplace. If you’re after this traditional type of heating, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when it comes to fueling it.

In general, wood fires are a cheaper outdoor heating option compared with modern alternatives like gas and electricity. However, it does depend on the cost and availability of firewood in your area.

For example, if you live rurally you may have a good source of free wood - which is ideal for keeping running costs down! However, not everyone is this lucky. If you’re like most of us who live in urban or residential areas, you’ll need to order and pay for a regular source of wood to keep your fire burning. Depending on your location, a trailer load of wood can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands. If you can’t imagine outdoor heat without a roaring flame – this might be a small price to pay.

Be aware, wood is not an environmentally friendly option. Along with running costs - you may also want to consider the environmental cost. Emissions from wood burners can contribute to air pollution, may annoy your neighbours and aggravate health issues like asthma. If clean energy and reducing impact on the environment is important to you, you may be interested in the range of EcoSmart™ outdoor fires that we offer.

If you end up choosing a wood fire and want to keep running costs down, the first thing is to ensure you use the right kind of wood. Look for dry or seasoned hard timber that’s cut to the correct size for your fireplace. Along with increasing the energy efficiency of your fire, burning seasoned wood is also better (although not great) for the environment.

How much does an outdoor electric heater cost to run?

Electric outdoor heaters are one of the easiest and most convenient outdoor heating options. While electricity can be expensive, you can keep heating costs down by choosing an infrared radiant heater connected to solar panels.

Infrared heating could be a great option for you if your main priority is energy efficiency and low running costs. However, bear in mind that infrared heaters are typically designed for function not form, and for this reason are not the most attractive outdoor heating option. They are also often installed out of view.

While infrared and electric heating might be affordable and convenient, there’s nothing like a flickering flame to provide ambience, warmth and wow factor. If aesthetics and design are important to you, and you’re looking to enhance your backyard and create a focal point – then we’d recommend either a fire table or fire bowl.

Electricity rates are constantly changing and vary depending on what region or state you live in. You can work out the running cost more accurately by multiplying your local cost per kilowatt-hour (noted on your electric bill) by the heater’s kilowatt rating and how much you use your heater.

How much does a gas heater cost to run?

Gas is a popular fuel source and used for both indoor and outdoor heaters. There are two types of gas options used to fuel outdoor gas heaters - LPG and natural gas.

  • LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is a bottled gas that is commonly made up of propane and butane. Propane gas (LPG) has a high heat value compared to natural gas and can be considered more efficient as you require less fuel to produce heat.

  • Natural gas (also known as mains gas) and commonly made of methane, connects to your home's plumbed gas supply.

This makes bottled gas a handy option. Keep in mind the gas bottles need to be refilled or exchanged which is an ongoing cost and can take time and effort if you are replacing the bottles yourself.

The running cost of a LPG gas outdoor heater comes down to its gas consumption rating. Gas for appliances is measured in Mj (megajoules).

According to Elgas, a 9kg gas bottle in Australia contains around 441mj.

To calculate how many hours a 9kg gas will last, divide 442 by the MJ rating of the heater. You can then divide the retail cost of the gas bottle by these hours to work out the running costs per hour.

How much does it cost to use natural gas?

According to Genesis Energy, the running costs of using a gas cylinder are broken into parts - a daily fixed charge and a variable charge. The daily fixed charge (cents per day) is made of the fixed costs of supplying gas to your property. The variable charge is the amount of gas you use (per kilowatt hour charge).

If you like the flame from a gas fire but not the environmental cost such as the greenhouse gas emissions from methane – you could try an eco-friendly fuel option such as biofuels like bioethanol.

Summary

Now you have a greater awareness on running costs for an outdoor heater, the main fuel sources, pros, cons and cheapest options, you should have a better idea of what outdoor heater could be the best fit for your space.

Before you make a decision to buy, keep in mind where you want to place the outdoor heater, how large the area is that you want to heat, your budget for ongoing running costs, how much maintenance you are prepared to take on to keep the heater in good condition and ease of use.

Still have questions such as - What should I consider when choosing outdoor heating? or Best heating for a small space? - Click the article link below to learn more.

For further information about outdoor heating, visit your nearest Spa World™ showroom and have a chat with our friendly, knowledgeable team.

You can also make contact by using the online form on our website.

Disclaimer: In this article, we’ve used brand names not affiliated with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd, the parent company of Spa World™. All information, including pricing and product details, was accurate at the time of writing (February 14, 2022) and may change without notice. The following registered trademarks are owned by companies not affiliated in any way with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd: EcoSmart™ trademark is owned by MAD Design Group. Affiliations: Vortex® Spas, Fisher™ Spas and Spa World® are trademarks owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd. Spa World™ is a trademark owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd.

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