Title:
Methods and Apparatus for a Patio Heater
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A patio heater that supports an object placed on the patio heater by a user and that provides heat to the user. The patio heater includes a tabletop, a deflector, and a dispersal unit. The tabletop supports the objects placed on the patio heater by the user. The deflector is positioned between the tabletop and a source of heat to regulate a temperature of the tabletop. The dispersal unit is positioned below the deflector, encircles the source of heat, and cooperates with the deflector to regulate the temperature of the tabletop. The tabletop includes an uppermost surface of the patio heater. The deflector deflects a heat from the source of heat away from the tabletop and the dispersal unit disperses the heat away from the deflector and from the source of heat, thereby regulating a temperature of the tabletop and providing the heat to the user. The deflector and the dispersal unit maintain the tabletop at a temperature that does not burn the user.



Inventors:
Eckhardt, Justin (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Application Number:
12/032652
Publication Date:
08/28/2008
Filing Date:
02/16/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
165/104.31
International Classes:
F24C3/04; F28D15/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAMILTON, FRANCES F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LETHAM LAW FIRM, LLC (914 N. TUCANA LANE, GILBERT, AZ, 85234, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A patio heater for supporting provided objects placed on the patio heater by a user and for providing heat to the user, the patio heater comprising: a tabletop for supporting the objects placed on the patio heater by the user; a deflector positioned between the tabletop and a source of heat to regulate a temperature of the tabletop; and a dispersal unit positioned below the deflector, encircles the source of heat and cooperates with the deflector to regulate the temperature of the tabletop; and wherein: the tabletop includes an uppermost surface of the patio heater; the deflector deflects a heat from the source of heat away from the tabletop and the dispersal unit disperses the heat away from the deflector and from the source of heat, thereby regulating a temperature of the tabletop and providing the heat to the user; and the deflector and the dispersal unit maintain the tabletop at a temperature that does not burn the user.

2. The patio heater of claim 1 wherein the dispersal unit comprises a body having a plurality of bores.

3. The patio heater of claim 2 wherein the bores are tapered from a smaller size on an interior of the body to a larger size on an exterior of the body.

4. The patio heater of claim 2 wherein the bores are angled downward from a horizontal plane from an interior of the body to an exterior of the body.

5. The patio heater of claim 1 wherein a surface of the dispersal unit comprises a compound that decreases a transfer of heat to the dispersal unit thereby maintaining the surface cool to a touch of the user.

6. The patio heater of claim 1 further comprising: a fan; and a conduit; and wherein: the tube is positioned through an opening in a center of the source of heat; and the fan moves air through the tube.

7. The patio heater of claim 6 wherein the conduit comprises a metal conduit that conducts at least a portion of the heat provided by the source of heat.

8. The patio heater of claim 1 wherein the tabletop comprises a flat surface.

9. The patio heater of claim 1 wherein the tabletop comprises a convex surface.

10. The patio heater of claim 1 wherein the tabletop is angled from a horizontal plane.

11. The patio heater of claim 1 wherein the source of heat comprises a gas burner.

12. The patio heater of claim 2 wherein the heat disperses through the holes.

13. The patio heater of claim 1 further comprising a fan to disperse the heat.

14. A patio heater for providing heat to a user from a provided source of heat, the patio heater comprising: a deflector for redirecting a heat from the source of heat; and a dispersal unit for dispersing the heat away from the deflector and the source of heat, the dispersal unit having an interior, an exterior, and a plurality of bores; and wherein: the deflector is positioned above the source of heat; the dispersal unit encircles the source of heat; each bore of the plurality of bores is tapered from a smaller diameter on the interior to a larger diameter on the exterior; and each bore of the plurality of bores is angled downward from a horizontal plane from the interior to the exterior thereby directing the heat downward; the heat disperses through the plurality of bores to the user.

15. The patio heater of claim 14 wherein a surface of the dispersal unit comprises a compound that decreases a transfer of heat to the dispersal unit thereby maintaining the surface cool to a touch of the user.

16. The patio heater of claim 14 wherein a surface of a side of the deflector proximate to the source of heat comprises a compound that decreases a transfer of heat to the deflector.

17. A method performed by a patio heater for supporting an object provided by a user on the patio heater and for providing a heat from a source of heat that does not burn a human user, the method comprising: supporting the object an uppermost surface of the patio heater; generating the heat from the source of heat; deflecting heat from an underside of the uppermost surface to regulate a temperature of the uppermost surface; and dispersing heat from the source of heat and from the underside of the uppermost surface to regulate the temperature of the uppermost surface and to provide heat to the user; and wherein: the temperature of the upper surface does not burn the user; and the temperature of the heat dispersed to a user does not burn the user.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein deflecting comprises reflecting the heat from a deflector positioned below the underside of the uppermost surface.

19. The method of claim 17 wherein dispersing comprises moving the heat away from the source of heat through a plurality of bores.

20. The method of claim 17 wherein supporting comprises supporting a weight and maintaining a position of the object.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims benefit under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/903,261 filed Feb. 23, 2007 herein incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention pertains generally to methods and apparatus relating to heaters, in particular to outdoor heaters.

2. Description of Related Art

Patio heaters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Common patio heaters provide either convective or radiant heat using a fuel such as propane or natural gas. Many heaters position the heating element near head level and heat unevenly such that the head is too hot and the feet are too cold. People who are at least as tall as the height of the heating element may be affected more than others because they must move away from the heating element to avoid being burned. Furthermore, many current heaters do not protect people near the heater from the high temperature of the burner. People who use heaters could benefit from a heater that provided the source of heat at a level nearer the feet and provided less direct exposure to the heat of the heating source.

A heater that positions the heating element and heat deflector between six and nine feet above the ground hinder visibility, interfere with locating a person visually at a social venue, and block the natural setting and beauty of the venue. People who use heaters could benefit from the improved visibility provided by a lower profile heater. Furthermore, only a portion of the heat from heaters that have the heating element positioned between six and nine feet above the floor ever reaches the users.

Most available heaters use sheet metal to construct the heater. While sheet metal may be painted, people who use heaters could benefit from a design that uses materials that are complementary to outdoor venues and available outdoor furniture. A heater that more easily blends in with a venue may be more aesthetically desirable. Furthermore, utilizing a material to form a heater that may be readily customized as to texture, color, shape, and size without the expense of retooling sheet metal molds provides flexible, economical manufacture.

People who user heaters could also benefit from a heater that provides additional functions desired at a venue where heaters may be employed. For example, generally at a venue for a social event, tables are provided for guests to eat, drink, and be seated for relaxation. A heater that functions both as a table and a heater may save space and provide a more open, less cluttered venue thereby improving the aesthetic beauty and enjoyment of the venue.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A patio heater that supports an object placed on the patio heater by a user and that provides heat to the user. The patio heater includes a tabletop, a deflector, and a dispersal unit. The tabletop supports the objects placed on the patio heater by the user. The deflector is positioned between the tabletop and a source of heat to regulate a temperature of the tabletop. The dispersal unit is positioned below the deflector, encircles the source of heat, and cooperates with the deflector to regulate the temperature of the tabletop. The tabletop includes an uppermost surface of the patio heater. The deflector deflects a heat from the source of heat away from the tabletop and the dispersal unit disperses the heat away from the deflector and from the source of heat, thereby regulating a temperature of the tabletop and providing the heat to the user. The deflector and the dispersal unit maintain the tabletop at a temperature that does not burn the user.

A patio heater that provides heat from a provided source of heat. The patio heater includes a deflector and a dispersal unit. The deflector redirecting a heat from the source of heat. The dispersal unit disperses the heat away from the deflector and the source of heat. The dispersal unit has an interior, an exterior, and a plurality of bores. The deflector is positioned above the source of heat. The dispersal unit encircles the source of heat. each bore of the plurality of bores is tapered from a smaller diameter on the interior to a larger diameter on the exterior. each bore of the plurality of bores is angled downward from a horizontal plane from the interior to the exterior thereby directing the heat downward. The heat disperses through the plurality of bores to the user.

A method for supporting an object provided by a user on a patio heater and for providing a heat from a source of heat that does not burn a human user. The method is performed by a patio heater. The method includes in any practical order (1) supporting the object an uppermost surface of the patio heater; (2) generating the heat from the source of heat; (3) deflecting heat from an underside of the uppermost surface to regulate a temperature of the uppermost surface; (4) dispersing heat from the source of heat and from the underside of the uppermost surface to regulate the temperature of the uppermost surface and to provide heat to the user. The temperature of the upper surface does not burn the user. The temperature of the heat dispersed to a user does not burn the user.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more complete understanding of the present invention may be derived by referring to the detailed description and claims when considered in connection with the figures, wherein like reference numbers refer to similar elements throughout the figures, and:

FIG. 1 is a side plan view a heater according to various aspects of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective plan view of the heater of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a side plan view of a frame of the heater of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is perspective plan view of the frame of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a side plan view of a top portion of the heater of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is an expanded side plan view of the top portion, according to various aspects of the present invention, of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a cross-section plan view of a dispersal unit according to various aspects of the present invention taken along the line 7-7 of FIG. 6 where arrows indicate the direction of airflow through dispersal holes;

FIGS. 8-10 diagrams are perspective plan views of the top portion of FIG. 6;

FIG. 11 is a side plan view of a tank housing with the base separated for clarity;

FIG. 12 is a perspective side plan view of the base of FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is a perspective plan view of a bottom portion of a heater; and

FIG. 14 is an expanded perspective plan view of a bottom portion of the heater of FIG. 1 showing a tank hatch removed to provide access to the tank.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY IMPLEMENTATIONS

A heater provides heat. A heater, according to various aspects of the present invention, supports objects on a top surface (e.g., tabletop) without burning a human user. A heater disperses heat in an area around the heater to provide warmth and heat to users. For example, heater 10 of FIGS. 1-15 includes an upper portion 76, a lower portion 78, and a frame assembly 80.

An upper portion provides heat, disperses heat, and deflects heat away from a top surface (e.g., tabletop) accessible to human users. An upper portion permits human users to touch or support a portion of their body on the upper portion of the heater without burning the user. An upper portion provides a top surface for supporting objects (e.g., food, drink, personal effects) for use by human users.

In one implementation, heat provided by upper portion 76 warms users and the surroundings providing a comfortable environment. The support provided by upper portion 76 provides convenience to the users and permits creation of a social environment where the objects placed on the surface, for example food and beverages, attract users around the heater.

Upper portion 76 provides heat generated by a source of heat (e.g., burner, resistive element) in the area around heater 10. Upper portion 76 mixes and/or disperses the heat provided by the source of heat with air surrounding heater 10 to provide heat in the environment and on the surfaces of heater 10 at a temperature that does not burn (e.g., user contact with a surface) or make users uncomfortable (e.g., user proximity to heater).

Upper portion 76 provides support for objects by providing a surface (e.g., tabletop, upper surface of tabletop) for supporting objects. Upper portion 76 enhances the usability of the surface by maintaining a suitable temperature of the surface. A suitable temperature may include a temperature that warms objects without overheating, a temperature that does not burn food, and a temperature that does not burn human users.

Upper portion 76 may maintain a suitable temperature of the upper surface by defecting heat from the top surface to reduce surface temperature, deflecting heat from an underside of the upper surface to reduce heat transferred to the upper surface, forming the upper surface from a material that reduces the transfer of heat, or moving heat (e.g., using a fan) away from the top surface to reduce heat transfer to the top surface.

A lower portion supports the upper portion, provides a base for the heater, houses a fuel supply (e.g., canister, battery), provides fuel (e.g., electricity, flammable gas, flammable liquid) to a source of heat, provides a control for a temperature of a source of heat (e.g., regulate flow of fuel), and houses an energy supply (e.g., battery). For example, lower portion 78 includes frame assembly 80.

In one implementation, lower portion 78 provides suitable support to upper portion 76 and frame assembly 80 and fuel storage. Lower portion 78 provides support by providing a foundation suitable to support upper portion 76, frame assembly 80 and the source of fuel (e.g., fuel supply). Lower portion 78 further provides support by providing structure that cooperates with frame assembly 80 to provide stability, ease of assembly, inter-changeability (e.g., replacement of parts), and maintainability.

Lower portion 78 provides suitable fuel storage by providing a location to place a source of fuel, by covering the source of fuel with a protective covering, by providing access to operate the source of fuel, and by providing ventilation. Lower portion 78 further provides an aesthetic appearance to enhance its desirability with users.

A fame assembly supports an upper portion, couples to a lower portion, provides an area for coupling controls of the source of heat, and provides an area to transport fuel (e.g., electricity, flammable gas, flammable liquid) from the lower portion to a source of heat in the upper.

In one implementation, frame assembly 80 provides suitable support for upper portion 76, fuel transport from the source of fuel in lower portion 78 to the burner in upper portion 76, and control over the heat provided by upper portion 76. Frame assembly 80 provides support for upper portion 76 by supporting the weight of upper portion 76, positioning upper portion 76 for a particular use of upper portion 76 (e.g., level, at an angle), separating upper portion 76 from lower portion 78 to provide access to the fuel source and the burner controls, and setting the distance of upper portion 76 from the ground to provide heating and surface height characteristics.

Frame assembly 80 provides fuel transport by providing a channel (e.g., within, on a surface) that permits fuel to travel from the source of fuel located in lower portion 78 to the source of heat located in upper portion 76. Frame assembly 80 may provide control over an amount of heat produced by the source of heat by controlling transport of fuel (e.g., valve, adjustable resistive element) to upper portion 76.

In one implementation, referring to FIGS. 5-6, upper portion 76 includes tabletop 40, deflector 42, top ring 44, and dispersal unit 46. Tabletop 40 may be formed of any material that provides suitable support for objects and/or suitable thermal characteristics for heating the area surrounding heater 10. In one implementation, tabletop 40 is cast from a lightweight concrete mixture of one part each of Portland cement, perlite (amorphous volcanic glass, e.g., a lightweight additive), and peat moss.

Any combination of materials that provide a relative lighter weight construction and/or desirable heat transfer characteristics, when compared to materials such as steel, concrete, clay and ceramic, while maintaining structural integrity may be used. For example, materials that may be used in combination include concrete/cement, mortar, plastic cement, vinyl cement, aerated concrete, clay, terra cotta, lime, porcelain, aerated porcelain, ceramic, aerated ceramic, styrofoam, vermicelli (a soil additive similar to perlite), fiberglass insulation (shredded or fiberglass material), ceramic fiber (e.g., fibers woven to be similar to conventional building insulation), silica (e.g., woven to be similar to conventional building insulation), steel wool, vinyl strands and plastic strands. In one implementation, Portland cement provides a structure and strength. Perlite is relatively light and conducts low amounts of heat, and peat provides resistance to cracking while also being relatively light weight. In another implementation, portions of heater 10 are formed of Portland cement, shredded fiberglass, and perlite.

In one implementation, steel wire mesh is added before casting upper portion 76 to increase the strength of the concrete. An outer edge of tabletop 40 may be shaped to match the shape of other portions of heater 10, for example the curve of tank housing 60 and base 70. Top ring 44 protects the exposed edge of tabletop 40 and also provides an aesthetic element.

Deflector 42 deflects heat from tabletop 40. The amount of heat deflected by deflector 42 regulates, at least in part, the temperature of tabletop 40. The conductivity of the material for deflector 42 may provide a temperature of tabletop 40 in the range of the temperature of the surrounding environment to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit, preferably maintaining the temperature of tabletop 40 close to the temperature of the surrounding environment.

In one implementation, deflector 42 is made from aerated concrete. In another implementation, materials added having low heat conductivity either alone or in any combination, such as fiberglass mesh, aerated porcelain or aerated are added to the concrete to set the heat transferred to tabletop 40 and accordingly the temperature of tabletop 40. Deflector 42 couples to tabletop 40 in any suitable manner. In one implementation, deflector 42 fits into a cavity in tabletop 40.

A deflector may cooperate with a dispersal unit to regulate a temperature of the tabletop. A dispersal unit may draw heat away from a source of heat and the deflector thereby regulating, at least in part, an amount of heat provided to the tabletop. Preferably, the deflector and the dispersal unit maintain the tabletop at or below a temperature that does not burn the user and/or objects placed on the tabletop by a user (e.g., 130 degrees Fahrenheit).

A dispersal unit disperses heat from the source of heat into an atmosphere proximate to the heater. A dispersal unit provides heat to a user neat the heater. A dispersal unit further shields the source of heat from direct user access. Dispersion of heat by a dispersal unit may be assisted by a movement of air (e.g., a fan).

User access to dispersal unit 46 may be additionally restricted by forming a heat resistant barrier around dispersal unit 46. The barrier (not shown) may be separated from dispersal unit 46 to permit heated air to exit bores 48 to the atmosphere. The barrier may be coupled to heater 10 in any manner. The barrier may cover any portion of dispersal unit 46. In one implementation, the barrier couples to tabletop 40 and descends from tabletop 40 to cover dispersal unit 46. The space between the barrier and dispersal unit 46 is related to the difference in diameter between tabletop 40 and dispersal unit 46. The barrier may be formed of any material suitable for the application, for example, flexible heat resistant material and rigid heat resistant material. Placing the barrier to reduce user access to dispersal unit 40 may provide additional safety for careless or unobservant users.

A bottom of dispersal unit 46 between the inner edge of dispersal unit 46 and post 50 may be open to the atmosphere, completely closed using a material having any heat resistivity, or partial opened. Material positioned at the bottom of dispersal unit 46 may be coupled to dispersal unit 46, post 50, and/or tank housing 60.

In an implementation, a heater may discourage user from placing objects on an upper surface of the heater, but not from supporting a user in a standing or seated position. For example, rounded tabletop 40 may discourage users from placing objects on tabletop 40, but not from leaning on tabletop 40. A tabletop 40 having a pointed shape with relatively steep sides (e.g., pyramidal shape) may further discourage placement of objects on an upper surface of heater 10, while still permitting a user to touch upper surface of heater 10 to receive warmth.

In an implementation, dispersal unit 46, referring to FIGS. 1-2 and 5-7, disperses heat from a burner (not shown) and heat reflected from deflector 42 into the atmosphere surrounding heater 10. In one implementation, dispersal unit 46 couples to deflector 42. Dispersal holes 48 through dispersal unit 46 allow heat from the burner to pass through dispersal holes 48 into the atmosphere. In one implementation, referring to FIG. 7, heat dispersal holes 48 are tapered from smaller size to larger size thereby enhancing heat dispersal. Dispersal holes 48 may also be formed at an angle to enhance or retard the flow of warm air.

In an implementation, referring to FIG. 7, dispersal holes 48 are formed at an angle with respect to dispersal unit 46 such that the opening of the hole on the inside of dispersal unit 46 is smaller and positioned higher than the opening of the hole on the outside of dispersal unit 46. A downward flow of heated air increases heating effectiveness.

Dispersal holes 46 may have any size or shape. Dispersal unit 46 may have any number of dispersal holes 48 suitable to provide heat dispersal for the application.

Dispersal unit 48 may have any thickness and have holes 48 in any pattern. In an implementation, dispersal unit 48 is formed of expanded steel coated with a compound (e.g., reflective ceramic powder, heat reflective paint, heat insulating paint) that reduced heat transfer to the steel to reduce a temperature of the dispersal unit 48 to a user's touch.

In one implementation, a dispersal unit coated with heat reflect paint maintained the surface of the dispersal unit accessible to the user cool to the user's touch.

In an implementation, the inner radius of dispersal unit 46 is larger than the area in a conventional burner housing, thereby further mixing and/or dispersing warmed air from the burner before exiting dispersal holes 48. Dispersal unit 46 may couple to frame assembly 80. In one implementation, referring to FIG. 10, assembly holes 47 permit dispersal unit 46 to accept vertical posts from upper assembly 42.

Dispersal of heat from a source of heat may be assisted by a movement of air. Deflection of heat from the tabletop may further be assisted by a movement of air. A movement of air may be provided by a shape the dispersal unit that promotes a flow of air and/or by mechanical means (e.g., fan).

In one implementation, a conduit (e.g., channel, tube, pipe) is positioned through an opening of a burner (e.g., open center, plurality of openings throughout burner, between burner elements). A fan moves air through the conduit. One end of the conduit may be positioned below an underside of the deflector and/or the tabletop. The fan may be positioned at either end of the conduit to move air through the conduit and in turn from the source of heat, through the dispersal unit into the atmosphere. A conduit may conduct at least a portion of the heat from the source of heat. A fan may move the air heated by the heat conducted by the conduit through the conduit.

In one implementation, the lower portion 78 includes base 70 and tank housing 60. Base 70 provides suitable support for frame assembly 80, top portion 76 (e.g., upper portion), and the source of fuel. Base 70 provides suitable support by supporting the weight of frame assembly 80, top portion 76, and the source of fuel. Base 70 may hold frame assembly 80 and the source of fuel into a position and couple to the frame assembly 80.

In an implementation, referring to FIG. 12, base 70 has cavity 75. Cavity 75 supports and positions the source of fuel. In an implementation, the source of fuel is a tank of gas (e.g., pressurized). In another implementation, cavity 75 supports and positions a battery that operates as the source of fuel by providing energy to produce heat and/or a flow of air for convection. Cavity 75 may support and position the source of fuel in any manner. The coupling between the source of fuel and cavity 75 may be such that the source of fuel cannot be removed without undoing the coupling. Cavity 75 may be shaped to conform to the shape of the container of the source of fuel.

Base 70 may be constructed of any material that provides suitable support. In one embodiment, base 70 is formed from a lightweight concrete mixture of one part each of Portland cement, perlite, and peat moss similar to that of tabletop 40. Cavity 75 and groove 74 may be formed during casting or by coupling material to base 70 after casting. Groove 74 may facilitate a coupling between base 70 and tank housing 60. In one implementation, referring to FIG. 11, groove 74 holds tank housing 60 into position. Tank housing 60 may be secured to base 70 or it may be held in position by its own weight with the support of groove 74. Base ring 72 protects the exposed edge of base 70 and also provides an aesthetic element.

Tank housing 60 provides a suitable cover for base 70, lower assembly 54 of frame assembly 80, and the source of fuel. Tank housing 60 protects the source of fuel from damage, tampering, and/or unauthorized removal. Tank housing 60 provides access to the source of fuel for operation and maintenance. In one implementation, tank housing 60 provides access to the source of fuel through access hole 68 and hatch 62. Referring to FIG. 2, access hole 68 provides access to turn on or shut off the source of fuel, for example to turn a valve on a propane tank. Hatch 62 permits more open access to the source of fuel than the access provided by access hole 68. Hatch 62 permits removal of the source of fuel for replacement or refueling.

Tank housing 60 provides cover, in one implementation, by surrounding the source of fuel, covering the base and lower assembly 54 of frame assembly 80. Tank housing 60 may have any size or shape to provide covering. In one implementation, tank housing 60 is substantially cylindrical with an open end. To facilitate placing tank housing 60 around the source of fuel and lower assembly, tank housing 60 has two pieces. Referring to FIG. 2, tank housing 60 has a left half and a right half. Access hole 68 is positioned in the right piece. The pieces along with hatch 62 are held together by housing ring 64. Referring to FIG. 13, the pieces may be separated and/or hatch 62 removed by raising housing ring 64 above tank housing 60. The pieces may be formed independently or cut from a single piece. Tank housing 60 may be formed of more than two pieces.

Housing ring 64 may included a handle (not shown) coupled to housing ring 64 to facilitate user removal of housing ring 64 manually. Housing ring 64 may further include protective material positioned between housing ring 64 and tank housing 60 to reduce marks left on tank housing 60 by movement of housing ring 64. The protective material may be of any type, for example felt, Teflon, rubber, and foam.

Tank housing 60 may be of any material, size, or shape suitable to provide cover and in any suitable manner. In one implementation, tank housing 60 is formed of one part each of Portland cement, perlite, and peat moss similar to that of tabletop 40 and base 70. In one implementation, tank housing 60 is formed of a single piece and cut to create two pieces. In one implementation, the size of tank housing 60 is sufficient to cover a 20 pound propane tank. Vent holes 66 provide ventilation of the interior of tank housing 60. Tank housing 60 may be decoratively formed to provide an aesthetic element to heater 10.

In one implementation, referring to FIG. 3 and 4, frame assembly 80 includes utility post 50, upper assembly 52, and lower assembly 54. Upper assembly 52 provides support to upper portion 76. Upper assembly 52 supports upper portion 76 by coupling to upper portion 76 and holding upper portion 76 in place. Upper assembly 52 may couple to upper portion 76 in any manner and may support upper portion 76 in any position. In one embodiment, as set forth above, vertical posts from upper assembly 52 enter utility holes 47 to hold upper portion 76 in place. The horizontal portions of upper assembly 52 support upper portion 76.

Utility post 50 provides a conduit from the source of fuel to the burner in upper assembly 76. The conduit may carry the fuel or provide a housing for a conduit for the fuel. Utility post provides a manner to control the flow of fuel and in the case where the fuel is combustible, a control to start combustion. In one implementation, a conduit for fuel enters gas knob 58 from a gas tank and exits gas knob 58 to the burner. Gas knob 58 controls the flow of fuel from the tank to the burner. Ignition knob 56 permits ignition of the gas to start combustion and the production of heat. The flow and ignition of fuel may be control by manual manipulation of gas knob 58 and ignition knob 56 or by a control device that incorporates a thermostat. Utility post 50 couples to upper assembly 52.

Utility post 50 may provide support to upper assembly 52 or may be in addition to any element that supports upper assembly 52. In one implementation, utility post 50 is formed of steel, accommodates an industry standard ignition knob 56 and gas control knob 58, houses gas lines from conventional flow valve (e.g., regulator) to conventional burner assembly, and is welded to upper assembly 52. Utility post 50 and/or upper assembly 52 may also support an additional deflector (not shown) positioned below deflector 42 and the burner.

Lower assembly 54 supports and positions upper assembly 76 and tank housing 60. Lower assembly 54 supports upper assembly 76 by coupling to and supporting utility post 50 and/or upper assembly 52. Base 70 supports and positions lower assembly 54 by coupling to lower assembly 54. In one implementation, lower assembly 54 couples to groove 74. Lower assembly 54 may be of any shape to cover the source of fuel and/or tank housing 60. In one embodiment, the shape of lower assembly 54 is smaller at the top portion than at the bottom portion to accept a tank of gas within lower assembly 54. Base 70 may have an opening (e.g., groove, bore), referring to FIG. 12, at its center that accepts the lower portion of a source of fuel (e.g., propane tank, battery). The opening may closely fit around the source of fuel to stabilize and support the source of fuel. The opening further permits the source of fuel to be positioned closer to the ground thereby providing heater 10 with a lower center of gravity and increasing stability of heater 10. Lower assembly 54 may be shape to permit coupling between lower assembly 54 and tank housing 60. Lower assembly 54 couples to utility post 50 and/or upper assembly 52 in any suitable manner. In one implementation, lower assembly is formed of steel and is welded to utility post 50.

A heater 10 according to the various aspects of the present invention may be of any size or shape to server a particular purpose. Implementation includes a small dining table and a coffee table. Burner and tank size may be adjusted to provide a suitable amount of heat and provide a suitable size of lower assembly 78 for each implementation.

Other implementations include heater 10 that is placed under an existing banquet table for example a 72″ round or an 84″ round table. A heater suitable to place under a table would include deflector 42 with suitable characteristics to protect people and the table from injury or harm, dispersal unit 46, dispersal holes 48, upper assembly 52, utility post 50, lower assembly 54, gas knob 58, and base 70.

The foregoing description discusses preferred embodiments of the present invention which may be changed or modified without departing from the scope of the present invention as defined in the claims. While for the sake of clarity of description, several specific embodiments of the invention have been described; the scope of the invention is intended to be measured by the claims as set forth below.