We get it. You want to make the most out of your outdoor areas throughout the entire year. That’s easy enough to do during the spring and summer, but late fall and winter are a different story. When the temperature plunges, you’re usually forced to retreat inside. That means fewer (or no) family gatherings, no cookouts, and less fun overall.
There’s good news! Patio heaters give you the warmth you need to ensure that outdoor space can be used throughout most of the year. If you live in a more temperate area that doesn’t see much in the way of annual snowfall, you might even be able to live outdoors all year long! Imagine grilling burgers in January, or hanging out on the deck in comfort with your family and friends for New Year’s Eve.
Of course, you’ll need the right patio heater(s) for the job, and it can be challenging to choose between the various models on the market. There are plenty of options out there, from standing heaters to wall/ceiling mount options and more. Some use propane, and others are electric, while yet others burn wood pellets. Which is right for your needs? We’ll help you make an informed decision with our patio heater reviews, head-to-head comparisons, and patio heater buying guide below.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Outdoor Patio Heater for 2020
- 2 AmazonBasics Commercial Outdoor Patio Heater
- 3 Hiland HLDS01-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Propane Heater
- 4 Hiland HLDS01-SSHGT Patio Heater
- 5 PAMAPIC Outdoor Propane Patio Heater
- 6 Sunjoy Lawrence Floor-Standing Patio Heater
- 7 Legacy Heating CAPH-7-S Patio Heater
- 8 Big Timber Elite Wood Pellet Outdoor Patio Heater
- 9 Dr. Infrared Heater
- 10 Trustech Electric Patio Heater
- 11 Star Patio Electric Patio Heater
- 12 Belleze Premium Outdoor Patio Heater
- 13 Golden Flame XL Series Patio Heater
- 14 Buying the Best Patio Heater: A Buyer’s Guide
- 15 In Conclusion
Best Outdoor Patio Heater for 2020
|AmazonBasics Commercial Outdoor Patio Heater||46,000||89 inches||20-pound LP Tank||Standing||18-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Hiland HLDS01-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Heater||40,000||90 inches||20-pound LP tank||Standing||15-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Hiland HLDS01-SSHGT Patio Heater||48,000||87 inches||20-pound LP tank||Standing||19-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|PAMAPIC Outdoor Modern Patio Heater||46,000||88 inches||20-pound LP tanks||Standing||18-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Sunjoy Lawrence Patio Heater||47,000||88 inches||20-pound LP tank||Standing||20-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Legacy Heating CAPH-7-S Patio Heater||47,000||88 inches||20-pound LP tank||Standing||18-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Big Timber Outdoor Patio Heater||90,000||144 inches||Wood pellets||Standing||24-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Dr. Infrared Patio Heater||Not listed (up to 1500 watts)||47 inches (length)||Electricity||Wall/ceiling mount||Not listed||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Trustech Electric Patio Heater||Not listed (up to 1500 watts)||25.3 inches (length)||Electricity||Wall/ceiling mount||Not listed||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Star Patio Electric Heater||5100||17.9 inches (length)||Electricity||Wall/ceiling mount||Up to 15 square feet||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Belleze Premium Outdoor Patio Heater||48,000||87 inches||20-pound LP tank||Standing||15-foot diameter||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Golden Flame XL-Series Patio Heater||46,000||89 inches||20-pound LP tank||Standing||18-foot diameter (estimated)||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
As you can see, there are lots of patio heater options on the market. Most are standing-style, but you will also find ceiling/wall mount models that can help you make the most of your outdoor space, whether we’re talking about your home patio or deck, or outdoor space at a commercial venue.
Of course, our head-to-head patio heater comparison only does you so much good. We’ll need to dig deeper to really help you understand what each of these heaters can offer in the way of style, design, performance, and other features. We’ll dive into just those topics with our patio heater reviews below.
AmazonBasics Commercial Outdoor Patio Heater
The best patio heater on our list, this model is also one of the most affordable, as you would expect from the AmazonBasics line of products. It stands 89 inches tall, making it a good fit for most outdoor applications. It also puts out 46,000 BTUs of heat. While it might not be the most powerful heater on our list, it certainly is one of the most capable, with an estimated heating diameter of 18 feet.
This heater also offers a number of other benefits. The Havana Bronze finish is lovely and adds a touch of luxury to any outdoor setting. Under the bronze powder coating, though, you’ll find the strength and durability of steel. The unit also features a piezo ignition for easy lighting, and there is a safety auto shutoff feature that turns the heater off if it tips over. To adjust the heat, you simply need to turn the knob to your desired setting.
The base is wide to ensure stability, and can also be filled with sand or water to add weight and to help prevent tipping. There are wheels on the side to allow the heater to be easily rolled out for use and then put back into storage without having to pick the entire thing up and carry it.
Note that this unit uses a 20-pound LP tank – the same as your gas grill – but the tank is not included, so you will need to purchase one. Also note that because it is a gas heater, it cannot be used in any enclosed area without ventilation. Screen porches/patios are fine as long as they are vented sufficiently.
● Powder coated steel for durability and good looks
● Conventional LP gas for fuel
● 18-foot diameter heat production
● One-button ignition
● Not as powerful as some heaters on the market
● Some customers have reported being unable to use the igniter with the control knob in certain positions
Hiland HLDS01-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Propane Heater
One of two Hiland models to make our list, the HLDS01-WGTHG is a pyramid-style patio heater that offers a touch of Art Deco design for your patio, deck, or porch. Available in a hammered bronze color, this is one of the best outdoor heater models for those seeking good performance combined with unique aesthetics.
The Hiland patio heater offers 40,000 BTUs of heat production, so it is a little less powerful than our top-rated option. It also stands 90 inches tall, so it’s a little bit taller. It also offers a single push, piezo ignition for easy lighting on cold nights. To adjust the heat, you simply turn the knob – choose from low, medium, or high heat output settings.
One of the most interesting things about this particular patio heater is that the control knob and igniter button are tucked away out of sight. You’ll find them located behind the bottom access door, which ensures a more streamlined, artistic style for your patio or porch.
Unlike other patio heaters, the heating filaments with this model are located in the mid-section. Most outdoor patio heaters have them located at the top. Because of the central location, the heat radiates out around waist level, helping to warm your entire body. It also gives the pyramid heater a unique look during operation as the mid-section of the heater glows with life.
In terms of safety, this unit also features a safety auto shutoff valve that activates when the unit tips beyond 30 degrees. Note that the propane tank is not included with purchase. Also note that other colors are available, including matte black and stainless steel, although the price differs.
● Unique aesthetic and form factor make this as much a piece of art as a heater
● Uses a conventional 20-pound LP tank
● Offers good heat output
● Reliable ignition
● Less power output than other models
Hiland HLDS01-SSHGT Patio Heater
The second Hiland patio heater on our list, this one ranks under the previous Hiland model purely on aesthetics. Where the other one is a stylish pyramid, this model uses a conventional design. However, there are plenty of reasons to consider this patio heater for your home or business.
While the body style might be the same as most other patio heaters on the market, you’ll find that the Hiland HLDS01-SSHGT offers some unique benefits. One of those is the large base that holds not only the 20-pound LP tank, but also sand to balance the heater. Above the base, you’ll find a small table that’s large enough to hold a couple of drinks or small plates. Note that the table height can be adjusted to suit your needs. The entire thing is made from hammered bronze powder coated steel for beauty and durability, as well.
The heater stands 87 inches tall, which makes it a little shorter than the model above. It puts out 48,000 BTUs of heat, though, which is one of the highest outputs in the industry. The aluminum shield at the top measures 33 inches to help deflect heat down and out to warm you and your family while you’re using it.
This heater features wheels on the side of the base so you can easily roll it out and then put it back into storage. It also features an automatic shut off feature if the unit tips over. Like the other models we’ve reviewed, it uses a conventional 20-pound LP tank (not included with purchase). It does come with the regulator and even a cover to protect the unit when it’s not in use.
● High heat output
● Beautiful hammered bronze finish
● Tip over shut off valve
● Adjustable table for drinks/plates
● Some customers report it takes a long time to purge air from the lines when you install a tank
● Not commercial rated
PAMAPIC Outdoor Propane Patio Heater
The yin to the previous model’s yang, this outdoor patio heater from PAMAPIC is decked out in a silver hammered finish over stainless steel. It offers outstanding durability for a long use life, but it also looks good at the same time.
This outdoor heater puts out 46,000 BTUs of heat, which is capable of warming a space with roughly an 18-foot diameter. The tank chamber is located in the base and holds a standard 20-pound LP tank. The igniter is a one-push piezo style affair, and all you need to do to adjust the heat production is turn the knob from low to medium or high.
This patio heater actually offers three forms of protection. Like the others we’ve covered, it includes an automatic shut off valve in case the unit tips. It also includes protection against gas dumping, as well as anoxic protection.
The base includes two wheels on the side so you can easily roll the heater into and out of storage whenever is needed. However, the included heater cover means that you may be able to leave it outdoors for longer periods without worrying about corrosion. The burners are stainless steel and feature double mantles for better burning, as well. Note that PAMAPIC also offers this heater in bronze and white, although prices may vary.
● Good heat output
● Plenty of safety features
● Hammered silver finish is aesthetically pleasing
● 18-foot diameter heating capability
● No table or other extras
● Not rated for commercial use
Sunjoy Lawrence Floor-Standing Patio Heater
The only Sunjoy product to make our list, the Lawrence is a lovely outdoor patio heater that looks equally good on a deck, in your garden space, or just about anywhere else you might want to put it. The hammered bronze finish is contemporary, and it overlays solid steel construction to deliver the durability and performance that you need.
Like the other heaters we’ve covered so far, the Sunjoy Lawrence patio heater offers a wheeled base so that you can easily tip it up and roll it back into storage when the weather warms up. It also features a double-layer of stainless steel on the protective head, and the base is made from iron. That means there’s no need to add sand or other weights to ensure the heater stays balanced and upright. The base anchors to the body of the heater with three anchor arms and set screws.
When it comes to safety, this patio heater offers tip-over shut off protection. It also produces 47,000 BTUs of heat to keep you and your family warm on chilly nights. Lighting the heater is as simple as opening the tank valve and then pressing the piezo igniter button. There’s a simple knob to adjust heat output from low to medium and high. Note that this unit does not come with a gas tank – you’ll need to purchase a 20-pound tank to use it.
● Plenty of heat output for residential needs
● Powder coated finish resists weathering and corrosion
● Iron base means no need for sand or other weights
● Costs less than many other models
● Does not include a cover
● Cannot be converted to natural gas
Legacy Heating CAPH-7-S Patio Heater
Love the look of hammered metal but not interested in bronze or silver? The Legacy Heating CAPH-7-S offers the look you want in black. It’s sleek, stylish, and capable of giving you and your family the heat you need to make the most of your patio or porch all year long.
This outdoor patio heater stands 88 inches tall and puts out 47,000 BTUs of heat, which puts it in line with most of the other models we’ve reviewed. It uses a standard 20-pound propane tank, which is not included with the purchase. The base has wheels so you can easily move it inside or out as needed based on weather and usage needs.
The primary difference between this outdoor heater and others is in the design of the head. This unit features polished stainless steel for better radiant reflectivity, and the piezo igniter button is located under the head at an angle, rather than being directly under the control knob. A single push is all that’s needed to get it up and burning, though, and you can turn the knob to choose from low, medium, or high heat output.
Another interesting difference here is that there is no pilot light. That’s good news for those who’ve struggled with the pilot light consuming fuel or blowing out in windy conditions. This unit works just like a gas grill – open the tank valve, set your heat output, and push the igniter button – voila!
● Excellent heat output
● Simple and easy to use
● No pilot light to waste fuel
● Uses standard 20-pound LP tank
● Durable steel construction
● More expensive than some options
● Does not come with a cover
Big Timber Elite Wood Pellet Outdoor Patio Heater
While the pyramid-shaped body of this patio heater might look somewhat similar to other models, this is not your standard outdoor heater. It’s far more powerful and it uses a different fuel source. In addition, the entire heater warms up – it’s more like a metal chimney than what you’re used to with gas heaters.
The first and most noticeable difference between this heater and other options is the style. Rather than the conventional body style, or even the style used by pyramidal gas heaters, this one is shaped like a pyramid, but uses solid sheets of metal with vents cut into it. It is fully constructed of stainless steel for durability, too.
Another difference here, although not visible at first, is the fact that the heater does not use gas to create heat. Instead, it uses wood pellets, which are gravity fed down into the combustion chamber. This simple change has huge impacts on the heater and its performance, though.
For one thing, this unit is able to put out 90,000 BTUs of heat, making it the single most powerful option on our list. It is capable of heating a circle with a 24-foot diameter. It requires no electricity and no gas. It also offers a unique ambiance – live flames dance within the steel structure, providing both light and heat from three sides. For those worried that live flame means lots of smoke, understand that the heating stove pellets used as fuel produce almost no smoke at all, so you get light and heat without the smell or annoyance of smoke. The hopper can hold up to 30 pounds of pellets, which allows you to use the heater for up to three hours at a time.
To control the heat output, you simply need to use the damper built into the front. When you’re ready to call it a night, simply dial the damper all the way down and wait five minutes for the fire to die out. Note that the heater does require about 20 minutes to cool off all the way, though. Note that this unit should be installed a minimum of three feet away from any combustible materials.
● Wood pellets are cheaper than LP gas
● 90,000 BTUs of heat output
● Largest heating diameter of any heater on our list
● Produces both light and heat
● Unique physical design and aesthetic
● Made from heavy-duty materials for outstanding durability
● Wood pellets may not be readily available in your area
● Requires significant space around the heater for safety
Dr. Infrared Heater
The first electric heater to make our list, the Dr. Infrared Heater is designed to offer good heat production indoors or out. It can be installed on a wall or the ceiling, and delivers the ability to instantly heat your space with infrared technology.
This indoor/outdoor patio heater offers heat production of 900 watts, 1200 watts, or 1500 watts to suit your needs. It is suitable for indoor or outdoor installation, so you can easily put it on your patio, or you can install it in a garage or any other indoor space where you need a little heat. It includes both a wall and ceiling bracket, too.
The body of the heater is made from durable aluminum. That also means it’s weatherproof – no corrosion or rust to worry about. It’s also lightweight and easy to install. In fact, it plugs right into a standard wall outlet. The included remote means you can turn it on or off or adjust the heat without having to get up.
For those concerned about humidity, the heater comes with a reservoir that holds 125 ml of water. It will last for about 1.5 hours. The humidifier can be turned on or off as you like to suit comfort needs.
● Lightweight and durable
● Can be mounted to the wall or ceiling
● Remote control offers handsfree operation
● Three power output settings
● Must be mounted to use the heater
● Cannot be used with an extension cord
● Electric operation
● Less powerful than stand-style LP-gas heaters
Trustech Electric Patio Heater
The second electric patio heater to make our list, this offering from Trustech delivers reliable operation, along with a few perks that aren’t available with any other heater on our list. If you’ve been looking for a simple to use, easy to install heater that doesn’t create any smell or burn fuel, this may be the right choice.
Like the Dr. Infrared Heater, the Trustech electric patio heater offers up to 1500 watts of heat production. It can also be installed on the wall or the ceiling, and comes with mounting brackets for each location. It also includes a remote control so you can operate it from a distance.
Unlike other options we’ve covered, this patio heater also offers a 24-hour timer so you can heat your space however you like. The unique design and use of carbon fiber gold-coated tubes also means that this unit can begin producing heat within three seconds of being turned on – no more waiting for elements to get to operating temperature.
In addition to offering instant heat and flexibility in terms of installation area, this patio heater also features safety technology for your peace of mind. It provides tip over protection so that if the unit tips or falls, it will immediately turn off without any threat of fire. In addition, this patio heater offers overheat protection so that if a short causes it to generate too much heat, it will immediately shut off.
Finally, this unit is rated for both indoor and outdoor use and is ETL certified, which means you can use it virtually anywhere you want without worrying about shorts or caustic fumes. Note that the unique carbon fiber filaments are rated for 12,000 hours of use, as well.
● Can be mounted indoors or outdoors
● Can be mounted to the wall or ceiling
● Rated for 12,000 hours of use
● Up to 1500 watts of heat
● No smoke or fumes
● Less powerful than gas heaters
● Electric operation
● Cannot be used with an extension cord
Star Patio Electric Patio Heater
The third electric patio heater to make our list, this option from Start Patio offers a different style from the two previous options, as well as a few other benefits. If you’ve been looking for a compact heater that can be installed indoors or outdoors, this might be a good choice.
The Star Patio electric patio heater features 1500 watts of power, and is able to heat an area of up to 15 square feet. That’s ideal for small patios and porches, and can be useful in garages, or even interior rooms of your home. It delivers instant warmth, as well, with no need to wait for the elements to heat to operating temperature.
Like the other two electric heaters we’ve covered, this one is able to be mounted to the wall or the ceiling. However, unlike those other models, this patio heater features adjustability – you can tilt it up to 45 degrees to get the perfect angle for your needs. You will also find that this unit features a waterproof housing (edge only).
The exterior casing is made from silvered aluminum for good aesthetics and less weight. It is also IP55 certified and puts out 5100 BTUs of heat (slightly higher than the other two electric heaters we included). It is rated for 8,000 hours of use, which is slightly less than the Trustech model. Note that this unit does not include a remote control – instead, you’ll use a simple on/off switch with a pull cord.
● Good heat output for warming small spaces
● Simple operation
● Waterproof housing
● Can be mounted to the wall or ceiling
● Not as powerful as gas heaters
● No timer
● No remote
● Not rated for the same lifespan as other heaters
Belleze Premium Outdoor Patio Heater
Another stand-up style heater, this option from Belleze features a hammered bronze finish over solid steel construction for durability and corrosion resistance. It also features conventional gas-fired heater design with the heater head located at the top of a pole, surmounting a weighted base and covered by a reflector hood.
This outdoor heater puts out 48,000 BTUs of heat, making it a contender with most of the other options we’ve covered. It is capable of warming an area with a 15-foot diameter (175 square feet) and the base is wheeled so you can easily move it where you want or put it back into storage. The heater features a piezo ignition, so you only need to open the tank valve, turn the burner knob to your desired position, and then press the igniter button. Choose from low, medium, or high heat, as well.
Within the stylish base of the heater, you’ll find storage space for your LP tank (not included with purchase), as well as a weight bladder. This can be filled with sand or water. Note that if you experience sub-freezing temperatures, sand is recommended, as water expands when it freezes and may burst the bladder. The heater also features anti-tip safety technology. However, it does have a pilot light, which means it may use more fuel than you anticipate.
● Plenty of heat output for most residential needs
● Simple to use
● Runs on a standard LP tank
● Steel construction to prevent corrosion and rust
● Pilot light uses additional fuel
● Moderate heating radius
Golden Flame XL Series Patio Heater
The final patio heater to make our comparison list, the Golden Flame XL Series is available in a wide range of colors and finishes, although the mocha option is one of the most popular. It also features a number of advancements not found with other models on our list. The only reason it is ranked at the bottom of our list is the price – there are some significantly cheaper gas-powered patio heaters out there.
However, for those looking for the most features, this patio heater can deliver plenty. For instance, it uses a pilot-less lighting system that’s only found on one other model we’ve reviewed. That means less wasted fuel and lower operating costs. This heater puts out 46,000 BTUs and stands 89 inches tall.
It also has an “easy start” rapid spark ignition system, which delivers multiple sparks to ignite the heater faster. The sand reservoir at the bottom is larger than on other options (25 pounds), and it includes a drink table that can be adjusted up or down on the central pole.
In addition, this patio heater offers stainless steel burners with double mantle heating grids. The base is wheeled for easier mobility – just tip it and go where you want. It also features an automatic shut off valve that activates if the unit tips, plus overheat protection. Note that sand and the required LP tank are not included with your purchase.
● Powerful heating operation
● Rapid start ignition
● Plenty of counterbalance weight
● No pilot light
● 46,000 BTUs of heat production
● Drink table included
● Does not include a cover
Whether you’re looking for a supplemental heat source for your patio or porch, or a way to add some heat to your business venue’s outdoor space, there’s something here for just about every need and budget. Of course, if you’ve never purchased or used a patio heater before, it can be challenging to determine which is the best option for your needs. We’ll run through some of the more important considerations in our patio heater buying guide below.
Buying the Best Patio Heater: A Buyer’s Guide
Looking for the best patio heater for your needs? It can be more than a little bit confusing, particularly if you’re not familiar with the terminology used in relation to heaters. In this guide, we’ll help you understand what’s what, and which features really make a difference in your experience, as well as in your buying decision.
What’s a BTU?
You’ll notice that most of the patio heaters we’ve covered list their output in BTUs. That stands for British thermal units, and is simply a measurement of how much heat is required to increase the temperature of a pound of water by a single degree F. So, the higher the BTU output, the more the heater generates. A unit that puts out 30,000 BTUs would be less effective overall than one that put out 46,000 BTUs. However, more heat production is not always better. You’ll also want to consider the area you’ll be heating.
How Does BTU Translate into Square Footage?
In order to get the right outdoor heater for your needs, you will need to know how much square space you intend to heat. For, instance, if you’re trying to heat a 10’ x 10’ patio, you have 100 square feet. A 20’ x 20’ patio would be 400 square feet. Not sure how big the space is? Just measure the length and the width, and then multiply them together to get your square footage (10 x 10 = 100, for instance).
There’s also a simple formula that will help you decide on the right heater. As a general rule of thumb, you want about 20 BTUs per square foot of space. So, if you’re trying to heat 100 square feet, you’ll want at least 2,000 BTUs. For 400 square feet, you would want 8,000 BTUs as a minimum.
Is That All You Need to Know?
Simply put, no. The 20 BTUs per square foot rule is really only usable for indoor space where you don’t have to worry about the wind blowing your heat away or most of it rising into the atmosphere. With outdoor patio heaters, you’ve got the forces of nature working against you.
If you take a look at the heating range listed in our patio heater reviews and compare them to the BTU output of the units, you’ll notice even though most of them put out between 40,000 and 48,000 BTUs, they only have an effective range of 15-18 feet or so. That’s because in an outdoor situation, there’s nothing to help retain the heat other than the reflector on top of the heater.
Because of this, we need to modify the equation we’ve been using. Determine your total square footage that you want to heat, and then divide it by 40 for temperate areas, or 30 for colder areas. This will give you the total square footage that the heater can handle. For instance, if you lived in a colder climate and were considering a heater with 40,000 BTUs, it could handle 1,333 square feet. Based on that, you could decide whether you wanted to go with a single heater, or if you would be better served by multiple outdoor patio heaters.
How Does a Patio Heater Work?
Patio heaters work by either burning a fuel like propane directly, or by heating up metal or carbon elements. All patio heaters use what is called radiant heat, rather than assisted heat, although a few electric models use radiant heat augmented by a fan.
For instance, with a gas-fueled patio heater, the unit operates a lot like your gas grill. The gas tank supplies fuel to the system, and the control knob allows you to adjust the heat output to your desired level. Electric heaters work similarly, although there is no actual burning. The heaters use infrared technology to heat the objects directly in front of them.
Patio Heater Types
You will find several different types of patio heaters on the market today. However, we’ve only included two in our reviews. The reason for this is that these are the most versatile options out there – tabletop heaters, which we do not review, are smaller, produce less heat, and require that you have a table on which to set them.
Free Standing: Most of the top-rated patio heaters on our list are of the free-standing variety. That is, they do not need to be mounted anywhere in order to use them. That offers mobility and convenience. It also means that these can be more powerful as they do not need to contend with potentially flammable paint or wood mounting surfaces.
Fire Pit: Fire pits might not be your first thought when it comes to patio heaters, but they do provide heat, along with light. Fire pits are most often equipped to burn natural gas rather than LP gas, but they work in a similar way to a gas grill. There is usually a hidden igniter, as well as several burners that let flames dance upward through whatever substrate is included in the pit. This might be gas logs, lava rocks, or even glass beads depending on the model that you ultimately choose.
Mounted: We included several wall or ceiling mounted outdoor patio heaters on our list. These are good options for those who need to heat very specific areas that aren’t too big. For instance, if you have a table near an outdoor wall and want to make sure that you’re warm while enjoying a meal during colder weather, a wall mounted patio heater could be a good choice. Wall and ceiling mounted heaters are usually electric and most use infrared technology.
There are several fuel types used in outdoor patio heaters today. Propane is the most common. All but one of the freestanding heaters we reviewed use propane tanks. And, while all of the heaters we looked at used 20-pound tanks, you’ll find other options out there. Some heaters are very small (tabletop models primarily) and use one-pound tanks. Others can use 40-pound tanks.
Wood pellets are another option when it comes to patio heater fuel. While only one heater we reviewed used pellets, it promised more heat output than anything else we reviewed. It also offered a slightly different take on the pyramid design, and provided both heat and light thanks to the live flames inside the heater.
Natural gas is another option for outdoor heaters, but these models are relatively rare. And, while they might be less common than LP or electric patio heaters, they usually come in lower in terms of operating costs. You’ll find quite a few fire pits and other natural gas heating options out there, too. You’ll usually need to connect them directly to your home’s gas lines, which will require the help of a professional (plumber or gas company service personnel).
Finally, we have electric heaters. These are still somewhat rare, but we’ve included three electric patio heaters on our best-of list. They’re usually wall or ceiling mount models, use infrared technology to heat the space in front of the elements, and can be installed indoors as well as outdoors (LP-burning heaters must be used outdoors only). Electric heaters are usually smaller and less powerful. Depending on the cost of electricity in your area, they may also be more expensive to use frequently than other options.
Important Safety Features
Anytime you’re dealing with artificial heating, you need to think about safety. This is particularly important when it comes to outdoor patio heaters, as they’re subject to a wide range of forces that don’t affect heaters used indoors. Look for safety features including the following before making a purchase decision:
Tip-Over Protection – Outdoor heaters can be tipped over by wind, by children playing, or even by accidentally bumping into one. While the freestanding heaters we’ve reviewed all have weighted bases to make them more stable, you should also make sure that the one you purchase has anti-tip protection. There should be a valve installed that closes when the unit tips beyond about 30 degrees. This will immediately shut off the heater and prevent accidents.
Overheat Protection – Some patio heaters offer additional protection in the form of an overheat cutoff. In essence, if the unit gets hotter than what its rated to handle, the overheat circuit will trip, turning the heater off and preventing it from catching on fire. You’ll find overheat protection primarily in electric patio heaters, but some propane-powered heaters also offer it.
Water Protection – Water won’t affect the performance of propane patio heaters directly, but if moisture gets into the igniter, it can cause damage. Electric heaters, while rated for outdoor use, should never be exposed directly to substantial amounts of water, either.
Finding the Right Option for You
Now that you have a little more information about the various options available to you when it comes to patio heaters, you should be better positioned to make an informed decision. First, determine how much space you want to heat. This will determine several things, including the capacity of the heater (BTU output) and more. You also need to think about a few other things. Do you intend to heat your entire patio or porch? Would you prefer to have multiple “heating stations” around the area so that you can offer more dispersed heat?
Next, decide if you prefer a particular type of fuel. LP fuel is the most widely available, and the simplest to use. You don’t need a professional to tie into your home’s gas system, and homes without any gas lines can use these heaters easily. They’re also more powerful than their electricity-powered cousins, and you’ll find quite a few of these available with additional features, such as drink tables.
When it’s all said and done, finding the right patio heater for your needs isn’t rocket science, but it is something that you’ll want to put some thought into. Do you prefer the look of a freestanding LP-fired heater? Do you want the romance of live fire with a natural gas-powered fire pit? Would you rather install a couple of wall or ceiling-mounted electric patio heaters to strategically warm specific spots around your patio or porch?
There are plenty of options out there, and there is no single “right” answer to every need. Determine your needs and preferences, figure out your budget, determine what fuel type you want to use, and then take a look at some of the best patio heaters on the market to find the option that will suit your requirements.