Best Patio Heater
Patio heaters are an essential fixture for outdoor spaces when you need to create enough usable heat to warm up gathering areas for family and friends. The nature and size of the area you'd like to heat will dictate the size ad type of heater you need. A small table-mounted electric model would be perfect for am outdoor dinner table arrangement while a larger free-standing propane unit would be better for large gatherings under the stars. Regardless your wants and needs, we've assembled a range of the best patios heaters available for you to choose from. To help narrow down your search we've also provided a helpful patio heater buyer's guide below.
Best Electric Patio Heater:
Although generally made for outdoor use, an electric patio heater will provide heat indoors and outdoors. With no fumes or flames to worry about, there may be no better choice for heating a covered patio or recreation area. Electric patio heaters cannot possibly put out the BTU capability of a gas powered unit, and therefore they’re only made to heat smaller spaces. Because these units are rated by wattage, the higher the watt rating, the more heat they’ll give off but the tradeoff is a higher energy bill.
Any type of atmospheric conditions like wind or airborne moisture will affect the heating power of these electrical heaters. Regardless of how much heat these units put out, in windy situations, the warmth will likely not reach the occupants beneath the heater. Heating effectiveness may depend just as much on the unit as it does on your own personal cold/heat tolerance.
These best electric patio heater offer effective directional heat, provide ease of use and offer reliable function over form. Ultimately, there are many different heater designs and in some cases, you may have to be subjective in what design and heating ability works best for you.
The AZ Patio Heater Electric Parasol Heater is perfect for mounting beneath your patio umbrella, but its versatility means it can be mounted in places other heaters can't. It features three heat settings for variable warmth, and has a stainless steel body for durability. It can be used both inside and outside, and comes with a 30 day return policy. Read Full Review
The EnerG HEA-21068 Water Resistant Infrared Heater can be hung anywhere there is a suitable place to screw in a hook. It gives off 1500 watts of non-adjustable heat, and is made for exterior use. It comes with a one year warranty. Read Full Review
The Howard Berger NuLine Ceiling-Mount Quartz Heater has 2 heat settings for versatility. It comes with a 90 degree adjustable mounting bracket and can be used in both interior or exterior conditions, provided it’s mounted beneath covering. Read Full Review
The Bromic Tungsten Smart Radiant Infrared Electric Patio Heater, 4000-watt is far and away the most expensive heater on this list. Although it will heat an area up to 120 square feet, you'll need a dedicated 220 volt outlet and a deep pocketbook to pay for the electrical energy that it uses. Read Full Review
The Endless Summer New Orleans Indoor/Outdoor Electric Tabletop Heater puts out 1200 watts of heating power and works best heating up the area adjacent to a patio table. Good for both indoor and outdoor use, it will heat up to a 12 foot radius. Read Full Review
Best Propane Patio Heater:
Propane patio heaters, also known as LP gas patio heaters, are made to comfortably heat your patio and other outdoor recreation areas. By doing this, they allow you to extend the seasonal time that you spend outside so you can enjoy your deck, patio, or virtually anywhere outside.
These units are not made for indoor use, and as such their effectiveness depends on the atmosphere and the weather conditions around them. Windy days are going to limit the effective areas which can be heated while both light rain or snow will cool off the radiant umbrella and therefore affect overall heat output that gets to you.
Virtually all of them have built-in umbrella reflectors to send the heat down and out to where you are sitting, but remember that the further away you are from the heater, the less heat you will feel. All patio of these heaters are designed to do just that, so their overall ease of use has been considered as well as functional design and affordability. We will also have a best bang for your buck heater on this list, and it’s capabilities will definitely surprise you.
The Thermo Tiki Premium Floor-Standing Propane Outdoor Patio Heater w/ Cover comes with a one year warranty, weighs about 40 pounds and will run for nearly 10 hours on a tank of gas. It puts out a true 41,000 BTU's of heat, and comes with a Piezo electronic ignition. Read Full Review
The AZ Patio Heaters HLDS01-GTSS Quartz Glass Tube Patio Heater is the most visually striking heater on this list. It puts out a rated 40,000 BTU's of heat and will last 8 hours or longer on a tank of gas. It comes with a one year warranty but you'll need at least some mechanical skills to assemble this heater properly. Read Full Review
The Garden Sun HPS-C-SS Table Top 11,000 BTU Propane Powered Patio Heater With Push Button Ignition comes in several different colors, features a Piezo electronic ignition, and comes with a 1 year warranty. It throws usable heat out to 15 feet and weighs about 20 pounds. Read Full Review
The Lava Heat Italia Ember Mini Patio Heater throws off 10,000 BTU's of usable heat, and can be used as a light source at lower heat settings. Although not inexpensive, it is beautiful to behold and will be the center of attention on any patio table where it’s placed. It will run for up to 6 hours on low heat with a standard 1 pound can of propane, and is protected by a 1 year warranty. Read Full Review
The AmazonBasics Havana Bronze Commercial Patio Heater comes in several different colors to match any decor. Although rated at 46,000 BTU's, it is closer to 40,000 in actuality. This heater comes with a one year warranty, has a Piezo electric ignition and weighs about 44 pounds. Read Full Review
Patio Heater Buyers Guide
Patio heaters are umbrella or mushroom shaped heaters which evolved from regular space heaters and propane shop heaters. They can be either gas or electric, floor, or table mounted, and some can be used safely indoors as well as outdoors.
These units all work on the principle of reflected heat being cast downwards to where people might be sitting or standing. Larger gas powered units may give off 40,000 BTU's of heat, or more, while smaller units, particularly the electric types, may only give off up to 10,000 BTU's.
Atmospheric conditions and placement of the heater will generally determine how much available warmth there is, regardless of any BTU rating. For example, if you’re sitting on a patio in windy weather, even at a minimal of 5 miles per hour, the radiant area that is heated will be halved.
In other words, if your heater is rated to heat up a surrounding area out to 20 feet, it may only make usable heat at up to 10 feet in this scenario. In a 10 or 15 mile per hour wind, unless you are sitting or standing directly under the heater, or it is next to you on a table, there will be little to no heating benefit. Rain, snow and ambient temperature must also be taken into consideration and these factors will also limit how much heat you feel.
However, in optimum conditions when there’s no wind and the temperature is in the low 60's to mid 50's, a patio heater will live up to the manufacturers specifications and raise the temperature by as much as 20 degrees or more over the stated performance area.
Patio Heater Types
Free-Standing Floor Models
These are the most common types available, essentially looking like a thick pole with an umbrella top hat. They all have a safety shut off switch if they were to tip over, wheels for portability, and these models come in both electric and gas models. The gas models have the highest BTU output so they have the capability to heat up a larger area. Also, gas models overall are far more energy efficient than electric models, but their downside is you'll always need to refill the propane tank when it runs out.
Free-Standing Table Models
These are essentially miniature versions of their floor standing cousins, available as either gas or electrically powered units. They sit on top of a patio table and are capable of warming only the people sitting around the unit. The gas models are the most economical heaters to use, and they are the least affected by adverse environmental conditions.
Virtually all of these types are electrically powered and depending upon what design fits your needs, they can be mounted beneath eaves, beneath a patio umbrella, hung like a swag lamp, or attached to the ceiling. They use infrared heat that effectively heats you and not the surrounding air. These are the most expensive patio heaters to run, with some consuming up to 6000 watts of power each time they’re turned on.
The most common fuel type is propane. Large free standing units have their own propane tank storage in their base, but they can also be hooked into your regular home-fed propane tank. Smaller table top units use propane cylinders for their fuel which can be found at department stores, hardware stores, and at most specialty home/garden shops. Propane models are the most cost effective units to run, and they have the highest BTU models available.
Most of these types can be used both indoors and outdoors, and the design varies from the traditional free-standing umbrella style, to long rectangular under-eave models, hanging lamp types, and flower petal designs that fit beneath a patio umbrella. Although they’re the most expensive types to run (with models consuming between 1500 and 6000 watts of power) they can be placed in spaces a gas fueled unit can't. Plus, you'll never have to worry about running out of fuel unless you don't pay the exorbitant electric bill you'll get while running them.
Natural gas units are directly attached to your home gas piping system. In this scenario, they’re generally permanently placed fixtures. These are the most economical units to operate, but virtually all of them will be essentially free-standing floor units.
Every unit will have some type of thermostatic control. The simplest types will be a “low” and “high” setting on a rotary knob. The more advanced types will have an actual temperature range that you can set and forget. Mounted models can be designed to have a wall mounted thermostat while free-standing and table models will have the control on their body.
Piezo Electric Starter
Virtually every modern gas fueled patio heater will have a piezo electric starter. Just turn on the gas and hit the red “start” button. You'll have instant flame lighting at your finger tips. Higher end models that are thermostatically controlled, will automatically turn off when the set temperature is reached, and restart when the temp drops below the setting.
Adjustable Reflector Top
Many of the tops on umbrella style heaters can be tilted to concentrate the heat towards a certain area. This feature can come in handy if there’s a concentration of people in one section of the patio. You can maximize the heating capability in that one particular area so there’s no wasted heat directed at an empty area.
Aesthetics can be an important aspect of patio heaters. Basic models look like towers and have a stainless steel or powder coated colored exterior. But higher end models can have glass centers, so you can watch the flames shoot upwards, with others resembling pyramids or lanterns, as well as a host of other designs that will mesh well with the décor of your patio.
What's Best for You
Function and effectiveness will be your main reason for getting a patio heater, while cost to run it may also come into play.
These are the hardest areas to heat, since they are exposed to the elements. A basic rule of thumb is to get the largest gas powered BTU unit that you can afford. Most free-standing gas heaters are rated to heat up to 20 feet. If your patio is 40 feet long, you'll need at least 1 of these heaters to effectively bring up the temperature within that area, and in optimum conditions, 1 will do the job. Ideally, 3 units would be perfect: 1 at each corner and 1 in the middle. That would effectively cover both the length and width of your patio. However, if there is even so much as a moderate wind, your patio heater effectiveness will drop considerably.
If you just want to heat up the area around an outdoor table, a single table top patio heater will do the trick. You'll maximize heat potential if you have an umbrella that will capture the rising heat. To that end, an under umbrella mounted electric heater may also work for you. They funnel heat downwards to anyone sitting around the table while capturing heat that rises beneath the umbrella.
These spaces are the easiest places for a patio heater to heat. The ceiling captures rising heat, and the shelter of the semi-enclosed patio design lends itself to optimum heating conditions. Mounted electrical heaters work equally well in this scenario, but gas powered units would still be the most economical to use. Semi-enclosed patios also are the best places for thermostatically controlled units, since the heat retention of this design means the heater does not have to run continuously.
Your only real option here is to go electric since you can’t run a gas powered unit inside of a confined space due to the fumes emitted when they burn. Thermostatically electric units are best here, and if you're only interested in heating up the area around a table, a hanging electric heater would be ideal for that purpose.