Pros: Provides portable heat for any outdoor event
Cons: can't be used indoors, you'll need back-up tanks for longer events
During the colder evenings when you're entertaining, it's a very good thing to have a heat source for some folks who can't seem to stay warm. Some backyards have fire pits and still others have a portable heat source. Most restaurants with outdoor seating have tall area heaters that run on the same principle but for larger areas.
Before I go on, I must point out that this product (itself) is not a heater. It is a head unit, that when attached to a propane tank, will burn the propane and create heat. This 8,000 to 14,000 Btu heater supplies an ample supply of heat for a small group of people. If a larger area with more people needs to be warmed, simply adding more units will suffice. The reason this heater head is rated at between 8,000 and 14,000 is due to the control knob being set at low or high or any setting in between. The higher the knob is turned, the more propane is burned. I prefer a few heat sources in lieu of one higher Btu unit. If you have budget restraints and don't wish to run many tanks at once, there are double and triple heater head units available that burn at higher Btu rates and will warm larger areas.
What is a Btu? It stands for British Thermal Unit. In other words, the energy it takes to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. The higher the Btu rate, the larger an area it can effectively heat. Since it's measured in Fahrenheit, why not call it an Atu for American Thermal Unit?
Once you hook this head unit up to any 5 gallon propane tank (some larger sizes will also work) you've got portable heat for most any outdoor party or event. Simply screw the adapter nut onto the tanks receiver and open the valve. Once the gas is flowing a simple push of the striker ignition creates a spark that ignites the gas into a constant flow of heat. The Btu rate is adjusted by simply closing or opening the valve a bit. Unfortunately, on these less expensive units, there's no way the gauge exactly how many Btus you're burning. There are, however, small monitors available to do that very thing but it's not quite necessary.
Keep in mind, an empty tank won't weigh very much but when filled with the propane gas, the tank will become significantly heavier so plan accordingly. Also, when transporting the filled tanks, take caution to secure them from rolling around in your vehicle.
I use these at work to keep actors warm on exterior sets. They love the heat on cold night shoots and I come out looking like a hero to them. The heaters do make a bit of "whooshing" noise so they need to be shut off during filming with sound.
Suggestions: There are a few companies that make a handy propane monitor for any tank. It attaches between the heater's head unit and the tank itself. Some models show a digital read-out of a percentage of gas remaining while other models have a green LED light for good, yellow to indicate that the gas is almost empty and red for the tank is completely empty and needs replacement or refilling.
Refilling is easily done at any gas station or hardware store that sells propane. If you're planning a party or event, have ample spare tanks standing by for quick replacements. Of course, the tank's supply will depend on how high the Btu flow rate is set to and for how long it runs. Propane can be quite costly if you're filling several tanks at a time. But look at the bright side, these same tanks will run a barbecue grill when not needed to supply a heat source.
Care should be taken with children around this heater when burning propane. While it does have a protective grill on the face of the heater, the grill gets hot and can easily burn fingers or ignite clothing. If children will be present at your event or party, I would suggest renting or buying the taller heater towers like the ones used at restaurants because the heating elements are up high.
Another thing about this type of heater, NEVER use it indoors or in an enclosed area. An open garage area is safe as long as the door remains open. Always remember that propane creates fumes that can become lethal in the right enclosed circumstances. This type of heater should also never be used near any kind of flammable liquids or ignition source like dried leaves or wood.
This type of heater head unit can be found at any home center or hardware store - and more readily in Fall and Winter months.