In simple terms, heating involves the transfer of thermal energy – the energy created as a result of an object’s temperature – from one body to another. Outdoor heaters utilize one of two different methods to transfer thermal energy: convection and radiant heat.
Convection heat occurs when warm air meets colder air. A convection heater operates in a similar fashion to a hair dryer, emitting hot air that mixes with ambient air to raise the average temperature of an area. This works fine in close proximity without external influence, but can be heavily impacted by drops in ambient temperature or whisked away by wayward winds.
Radiant heat works differently, delivering heat directly from a hot surface to the intended target via infrared radiant heat. This is the method that the sun uses to heat our planet. Rather than heating air, radiant heaters heat the target objects themselves as they come in to contact with waves of infrared light. This makes radiant heat the ideal method for outdoor heating as it does not rely on the movement of hot air that can easily be dispersed by environmental elements. Plus, any objects (tables, chairs, etc) will also absorb heat, radiating it back towards the people in the area.