Why would you need to find the best patio heater? When you think about the living space in your home you may often find yourself wishing you had more space to entertain, relax, and just live in. This is one of the big reasons people are embracing outdoor living in ways like never before. Not only do you get to enjoy the great outdoors, but it can drastically increase the amount of living space you have in your home.
Of course, when trying to create that perfect outdoor patio, there are plenty of factors to keep in mind. These factors are seating, lighting, an outdoor grilling area or an outdoor kitchen, greenery, and your and your guest’s comfort factor. While it would be great if each day and night was warm and comfortable, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Especially as the sun goes down and a chill hits.
Patio and Deck Heaters
In order to extend your use of your outdoor space, a patio heater can be a great option. The best patio heater units are able to provide significant amounts of heat.
This can take your patio from unusable to a completely comfortable space even on cooler days and nights.
Before rushing out to buy one of these units, it’s always a good idea to do some research and understand what a patio heater is.
What is a patio heater meant to do, what types of heaters are available, and what features you should be looking for?
There will be a huge difference between a patio heater for home use versus professional and commercial use, such as an outdoor patio at a restaurant.
You will need to become an informed consumer to find the best patio heater for your needs.
When it comes to the best patio heater, there isn’t usually a one-size fits all model. Rather, it’s about understanding your own needs, wants, and expectations.
This guide is meant to help you through the process in a much smoother manner.
Buying Guide: How to Buy The Best Patio Heater
The first question people may have is why they need to buy the best patio heater in the first place. All you have to do is look at how you use your outdoor space. Chances are you enjoy your patio on warm sunny days. But on those days that are a bit overcast and chilly, and then when the sun goes down you may find yourself heading indoors.
There’s no reason to have to go inside because the weather isn’t as warm. Instead, a patio heater can keep a consistent temperature that you feel is comfortable. It’s all about extending the use of your outdoor space. It’s not for summer use either.
If you live in an area where spring and fall can still be comfortable but a bit chilly, then the best patio heater of choice is going to allow you to get outdoors.
This is, even more than you already do.
All too often people sit around waiting for summer to arrive so they can be outdoors.
It is common to protect yourself from mosquitoes, but how about giving yourselves comfort by providing heat all year around?
In reality, as long as you’ve got comfortable seating available a patio heater can transform the way you use your outdoor space. Sometimes spring and fall are more comfortable for being outdoors anyway because they can have fewer bugs and pests to contend with.
While there are many reasons a patio heater makes sense to use at home, there are also businesses that can make good use of the units. Think about how many restaurants, bars, and pubs offer an outdoor patio space. It may be for dining or lounging. This can help free up indoor space and allow the business to serve more customers at once. Unfortunately, if it’s too cold outside patrons aren’t going to want to be out there. Again, the best patio heater for business use can make a huge difference.
It’s not unusual to see businesses with a few units strategically placed around their patio area giving off consistent and reliable heat. Again, with the use of these devices businesses can extend their patio use taking advantage of the space in spring, summer, and fall.
Now, your needs will be very different depending on if you want a patio heater for a business versus your own patio at home. This will impact the size of the unit, the type of unit, the fuel, the features, and the budget. Being specific about your needs is what will ensure you find the best model.
Types of Heaters
You may not have been out shopping for the best patio heaters in the past. This means you may not realize there are so many different types of patio heaters! They all set out to do the same thing – keeping you warm and comfortable. But the design and style of each is different. Again, it’s about offering different options that work with different sized patios and specific needs.
Here’s a look at the various types of heaters that are available. Keep in mind more than one style may work for your needs, as some are quite versatile.
Standing Patio Heater
A standing style patio heater is often the most well-known model. For those who have never bought a patio heater before, or researched them, there’s still a good chance you’re familiar with a standing model.
These particular units stand on the ground, as the name implies, and are usually large but compact at the same time.
They tend to be tall, but thin so they don’t take up a ton of space. There is a base on the unit, then a stand, and then the top of the unit where the heat is generated.
Some are very basic in design whereas others have a decorative quality about them so they can actually double as decor in your patio space. These particular models can be used for your home patio as well as for restaurant patios since they are so versatile.
Commercial use is also common for the more powerful outdoor heater models, as the standing outdoor heater design gives some space to engineers to squeeze out as many BTUs as possible.
Wall-mounted Patio Heater
While not as popular as a standing patio heater, the wall-mounted versions also have their own set of pros and cons.
There you can mount it to a wall, or in some cases mount it to a ceiling. Make sure you look at the unit’s specifics before making that choice.
Some of these wall-mount versions also come with a stand so that you’ve got the option of using it either way.
Once mounted to the wall, it means you don’t have to worry about tripping over it. Neither needs to care about using up floor space in your patio, but at the same time, it’s stuck in that one position. These tend to work best for small to medium sized spaces, both for outdoor or indoor use.
Tabletop Outdoor Heater
Not quite as popular as the standing patio heater, but as versatile is the tabletop heater. These are small compact units that can actually be deceiving in how powerful they can be. While their size isn’t exactly imposing, they are capable of generating a fair amount of heat and doing an excellent job in small sized patios.
Tabletop patio heaters are very lightweight so you can move them around to where you want them to be. If you have different seating areas in your yard this can be a good solution as you can move it around as needed. These little units are so versatile that you can even use them in a work shed, a workshop, or other areas that could use a little extra heat.
Keep in mind these will need electricity to operate, and they are usually three feet or less in height.
Hanging Patio Heater
Then we have the hanging patio heaters, which are a unique offering. These take up no floor space at all and again can do an excellent job of dispersing heat in an equal manner. You can find hanging models that you can suspend from the ceiling of your patio.
There are even some models that can attach to the interior of your patio umbrella. While this style can help you save space, you may not find it as powerful or versatile as the traditional standing model.
Portable Patio Heater
A portable patio heater is a small version of the standing patio heater.
To make it portable and flexible, be sure to look for one that doesn’t need electricity to operate. This limits you on where you can place it and use it.
Portable patio heaters can be great for home use as well as at the cottage, on a campground, etc. not to mention that they tend to be much cheaper than full blown standing models.
This fact could make them the most popular and best patio heater around.
What Size Patio Heater Do I Need?
As you delve a little deeper into finding the best patio heater, it’s important to think about what size heater you need. There is no one-size fits all model which means you need to be specific about how much space you need to be able to heat. At the end of the day, you may even find you need a few different styles of units to meet all your needs, and work in different areas.
BTU: British Thermal Units
The majority of patio heaters use British Thermal Units (BTUs) or watts to measure how much heating power they have. This is the number you need to be aware of while shopping. As well the majority of models will also mention how many feet it is capable of heating. What this means is the lower the BTUs on the unit, the smaller the amount of space it is able to heat up. A standard measurement to keep in mind is that 1,200 BTUs is capable of heating up to 12 feet of space. This gives you a better idea of what kind of power you’ll need for your patio.
If you look back at the styles of patio heaters, the standing units are in fact the most powerful. A standard unit can offer 40,000 BTUs which means it’s more than enough to cover medium and even large sized patios. From there you can look at the tabletop heaters that offer about 12,000 BTUs. The ceiling mount and wall mount heaters tend to come in around 3,300 BTUs instead, which will only cover small-sized spaces. This gives you a better understanding of what size may work for your needs.
It’s also a good idea to spend a little time learning how patio heaters work. Again this helps you to be a more informed consumer and ensures that you buy the right model for your needs and your space requirements. The job of a patio heater is to generate heat. The heater can do this by using electricity or burning fuel (either natural gas or propane). From there the heat increases and distributes through heat directing materials.
Radiant Heat vs Fan
Space heaters use radiant heat rather than a fan. Radiant heat is actually much more effective in heating an area versus blowing hot air with the use of a fan. Radiant heat is able to travel through the air, warming up everything near and around it. It’s also able to heat in all directions, which again a fan isn’t able to do. With radiant heat, you don’t have to worry about hot spots and cold spots that the fan isn’t hitting.
Fuel Types of Outdoor Heaters
The type of fuel that the patio heater uses is another important factor in the decision making process. Patio heaters can use electricity, natural gas, or propane to operate. Each one comes with its own list of pros and cons, making some better for a certain type of patio over others. Let’s take a closer look.
Electric Patio Heaters
One of the great benefits of using electricity is the fact you won’t be emitting any harmful emissions into the environment. As for the cost to operate one of these, it will depend on the size of the unit, and how often you are using it. In general, though, they tend to be the middle of the road between propane and gas operating costs. With electric heaters, you’ll find that they do an excellent job of producing consistent and reliable heat. Also, you can shop for an energy saving model.
Of course, the major con with these units is the fact you need to plug them in. This limits you on where you can place one. You may even need to have an electrician put in the wiring in your yard so you can plug it in.
Natural Gas Patio Heater
If you’re looking for the most economical way to operate your cheap patio heater, then natural gas is the way to go. Another huge pro is that the flow of natural gas is constant, so you won’t have to worry about re-filling the fuel or running out during an outdoor event.
The one major downfall of natural gas is that you will need to have it installed by a professional. Messing around with the natural gas line is not something you want to be doing and is extremely dangerous. This means there will be an added expense though.
Propane Outdoor Heater
For many people, propane models are the most flexible option. Because they use propane you don’t need to have them plugged in, nor do they need to be professionally installed. You can fill them with propane yourself. Unfortunately, because the cost of propane can fluctuate so much, it can end up being the most expensive option to operate. As well you never quite know when you’re going to run out of propane, so some people choose to have a backup tank ready to go, just in case.
Safety and Tips for the Best Patio Heater
While a patio heater can be a great addition to your patio, it’s also important to be aware of safety tips. Some common ones to keep in mind include:
- Look for a unit that has an automatic shutoff switch. What this means is that if the unit gets too hot it will automatically shut off. This can prevent it from causing a fire.
- Look for a unit that has a cool to the touch glass screen. This is especially important if your pets or young kids are curious and like to touch things. Without this safety feature, the unit can cause very serious burns to the skin. The majority of outdoor heaters do have this feature on them, so it shouldn’t be hard to find.
- Look for a unit that offers tilt-over protection. Again this is important with kids and pets running around that could accidentally knock the heater over. Tilt protection will shut off the heater the moment it is knocked over, thereby preventing a fire hazard.
- Look for a unit that meets all safety approvals and has been tested. It should state that it has been CSA and UL tested.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to place the patio heater in a spot that is out of the way of traffic. Speak to everyone in the house about proper safety procedures. This means not touching it, and not allowing kids to plug it in or adjust the heat. Respect the fact that it can pose a fire hazard if not used properly.
Top 7 Best Outdoor Patio Heater
The selection of patio heaters is vast with plenty of options for consumers to choose from. What this means is that it’s easy to feel bogged down and confused by what’s out there. To help you out here’s a look at seven patio heaters worth noting that may fit your needs and requirements.
Best Commercial Heater: AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater
This particular patio heater is the popular standing style of unit.
As its name suggests this one is powerful enough for commercial use, but can also be used in your home. This unit offers 46,000 BTUs, which is suitable for homeowners with large sized yards and patios.
There’s no need to worry about if this propane patio heater tips over, as it does have the anti-tilt automatic shut off feature.
You’ve also got the ability to move the unit around with ease thanks to the fact it is on wheels. The Belleze patio heater is made from steel which is able to hold up to the hot sun with ease.
Standing at just over seven feet in height, its bronze, stainless steel, and black finish tend to work well with a wide variety of backyard decor.
Fire Sense Commercial Patio Heater
This is another extremely powerful standing unit, offering 46,000 BTUs. Ideal for home and commercial use, it’s got all the same safety features that the other models have.
Additionally, this commercial patio heater is available in various colors, from a unique and decorative traditional bronze finish through stainless steel to aqua blue.
This commercial outdoor heater uses propane, and the tank is concealed in the base so it still looks decorative. On average you can expect to get up to 10 hours worth of use out of a 20 lbs tank of propane.
AZ Patio Heaters Portable Table Top Heater
For those who like the idea of a patio heater but don’t have the space or the need for a large standing unit, this particular portable table top unit could be a better solution.
It is CSA approved and had the anti-tilt safety device.
This portable patio heater features 11,000 BTUs which is a fair amount of power in its 38″ tall design. It’s available in gas or propane with an adapter hose (not included).
The AZ tabletop heater is available in bronze, bronze/gold, black and silver colors.
Best Infrared Patio Heater: Versonel Wall Mount Infrared Indoor Outdoor Heater
If you’re after something more compact that won’t take away from floor or table space, then this wall mount unit from Versonel may fit the bill.
The infrared patio heater can be mounted on the wall not just on your deck, but even in your garage or workshop to provide heat.
Optionally, there are other Versonel Infrared Heater models with remote control, which makes it easy to operate so you won’t have to reach up on the wall to adjust it.
This infrared model uses electricity and has a six foot cord. There are no fumes, chemicals, or odors produced since it uses reflective heat technology, making it available for indoor use.
Best Electric Patio Heaters – AZ Patio Weatherproof Outdoor Electric Heater
This AZ Electric Patio Heater is designed to work with patio umbrellas and parasols. It boasts 1500 watts, 3 burners, variable temperature control, and a safety anti-tilt switch.
It is CSA and ETL approved.
For those who don’t have a large space to heat, don’t have a lot of available floor space, and yet want something unique and effective then the electric parasol heater could be a good option. This one is able to heat up to 15 sq feet of space and can be used outdoors and indoors.
It offers 1,500 watts of power and is IP certified waterproof. The temperature controls mean you can decide just how warm it gets. This one is meant to be installed on the interior of your patio umbrella.
Best Outdoor Propane Heater: Mr. Heater MH15T Single Tank Outdoor Propane Heaters
Sometimes you’re after heat but you don’t really want to deal with a large heater, or mounting anything on the wall or ceiling.
If that’s the case the extremely versatile and portable Mr. Heater MH15T Single Tank Top Propane Heater would work well.
This heater can be placed anywhere you need it, and offers instant warmth. Now keep in mind that it isn’t able to heat up a lot of space, so this isn’t meant for a large yard or patio.
On the other hand, this is the cheapest patio heater on our list. This means you can buy two or three of these little heaters and place them conveniently around the patio, instead of buying a large and expensive standing heater.
Conclusion – Finding the Best Outdoor Heater
Finding a perfect patio heater isn’t a one-size fits all approach. There should be a fair amount of research done in advance. It’s important to take measurements of the space you wish to heat, and you need to give plenty of thought to things such as the budget.
Also important is how much space you’ve got to actually place the heater and the type of fuel source you wish to use.
Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor and Patio Heaters
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the best patio heaters.
How much does it cost to run and operate a patio heater?
It’s impossible to answer with just one basic price as each unit is going to be different. The cost depends on the amount of BTUs or wattage and what kind of fuel it uses. In general, if you’re looking for the most cost-effective option, then natural gas is the way to go. Keep in mind though, that not everyone has a natural gas line roughed in or available outdoors and you’ll need to have your unit professionally installed.
The most expensive is propane, especially with gas prices so volatile and always on the rise. The Fire Sense one offers 46,000 BTUs and can offer up to 10 hours worth of heat with a 20 lbs tank of propane. That can add up pretty quickly if you’re using your heater on a regular basis. If you want to be able to use propane, only buy as many BTUs as you’ll need.
How many patio heaters do I need?
How many patio heaters you’ll need depends on the size of the space you are trying to heat. For most residential patios and yards, typically you can get away with one standing patio heater. If you prefer the table top or wall mount units, then you may need a couple spread around the space.
It’s a good idea to take not just the amount of space you want to heat into consideration, but also the configuration of your patio and yard.
Which patio heater is the best?
Choosing the best patio heater is no easy task. As you can see by this in-depth guide there is plenty to consider before making your choice. What it comes down to is finding a unit that is able to heat your space effectively and efficiently. Ideally, it should also offer a variety of safety features on the device.
How to light patio heater manually?
If your patio heater doesn’t have a pilot light ignition system then it will be up to you to light it. You’ll want to make sure that the heater is off and the propane tank is closed. Next, attach the propane tank and then slowly open it. Turn the gas knob to the lowest position and then press the ignition button. Usually, you will need to press it a few times. Be sure you keep the gas knob depressed for a full 30 seconds, then release it and set the temperature.
What clearance is required around a patio heater?
In general, it’s a good idea to allow 18″ from the top of the heater and 24″ from the base when it comes to a traditional standing unit. Unless it’s a wall mount heater, giving proper clearance is essential to ensuring that it is safe to operate.