They have only been popular in the UK for little more than a decade, but patio heaters could become history if MEPs vote to ban them. The EU parliament is expected to back a resolution requiring the use of appliances with low energy efficiency to be phased out.
Patio heaters are specifically targeted in the motion, which calls on the EU to act urgently and introduce minimum standards for energy efficiency on such appliances as air-conditioning, television "decoder" boxes, and light bulbs. It also calls for the abolition of stand-by mode on electrical appliances.
The use of outdoor heaters increased with the new UK smoking ban, as well as growing use at home as garden accessories for the British summer. But now the heaters have been put in the same hall of environmental shame as the 4x4 vehicle.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that use of patio heaters is set to more than double this year, from 1.2 million appliances used to 2.6 million. An estimate by the Market Transformation Programm, which provides government data, puts their use at a more conservative 830,000. However, a climate change expert claims the impact of the patio heater is "minimal." Even if MEPs vote to abolish wasteful energy appliances, the move would not be legally enforceable.
Climate change expert, Dr. Eric Johnson, disagrees with the impact of patio heaters. Johnson, a national expert reviewer for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said plasma televisions produce more carbon dioxide than outdoor heaters when looking how each appliance is normally used. "The overall impact of outdoor heaters on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions is very minimal, and once you look at the domestic models used in homes, the impact is almost non-existent," he said. "Once comparisons start with well-known offenders such as airplanes, outdoor heaters dwarf in comparison. In actual fact, plasma TVs produce far more CO2 than patio heaters when you compare normal usage patterns. What constitutes a waste of energy is always going to be open to debate but it is important that the public is properly educated about environmental impacts in order to make informed decisions on their everyday activities."
Government figures put emissions from all domestic patio heaters at 22,200 tons of carbon dioxide—0.002% of the total UK carbon dioxide emissions.
Televisions in the UK produce 4.6 million tons of CO2 each year. Judged on stand-by mode alone, it would take an equivalent of more than five patio heaters to produce as much CO2 as one TV does in a year. (www.guardian.co.uk)