The Ultimate Buyers Guide to Patio Heaters: Everything You Need to Know 

Published: May, 2022

Everything You Need To Know About Patio Heaters

If you’re like most people, you love spending time outdoors when the weather is nice. But sometimes, it’s just too cold to enjoy yourself. That’s where patio heaters come in! They give you the freedom and flexibility to spend time with family and friends outdoors.

In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about patio heaters. We’ll help you figure out what you need to consider before making your purchase and put all the background information in one spot to make the research easy for you.

We’ll talk about the different types of patio heaters available on the market, as well as how to choose the right one for your needs. We’ll also give you some tips on how to use your patio heater safely and effectively. So whether you’re looking to buy your first patio heater or just want to learn more about them, this guide has got you covered!

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Why Consider a Patio Heater?

Why consider a patio heater

There are a few reasons why you might want to consider adding a patio heater to your outdoor space. First, they can extend the amount of time you can spend outside. If you live in an area with colder winters, a patio heater can help you enjoy your patio or deck for a longer period of time each year and effectively increase the liveable space of your home as it gets colder. Additionally, patio heaters can provide a source of heat if you have an outdoor event or party. They can also create a cozy and inviting atmosphere for your guests.

COVID has seen that people are locked inside and socially isolated. Getting outdoors in fresh air is positive for health and can also have friends feeling more comfortable getting together as they are not confined indoors. This creates a greater connection which is really important when people have been isolating.

If you are selling your house, you’ll want it to look as inviting and homely as possible to potential purchasers to attract a higher sales price. Patio heaters and firepits create a positive emotional connection with buyers (if coupled with outdoor furniture) and can help you sell your house.

How do Patio Heaters Work?

There are two main ways that patio heaters work:

  • Heat the space by radiating heat to create warmer air. This means that people (and objects in the space around it), will also be warmed. Warm air will dissipate without there being walls (or perhaps a ceiling) on your patio. These heaters will run on gas or wood.
  • Warm the person, not the space. These heaters direct heat on the target so whatever is in the path of the heat will become warm. This means that if you are sitting on a chair with the heater directed towards you, you’ll be warm but the air and people around you will be cold. This type of outdoor heater is referred to as an infrared heater and they run on electricity.

The best patio heater that will work for you will depend on what you intend to use it for and how people use the outdoor space. If you are entertaining and there are multiple people moving around and talking in the area, you’ll want the space heated. When people are in fixed locations (eg. sitting on a chair), infrared heaters can direct the heat onto them which will be more efficient. And a combination of different heater types can be used however just consider the running costs and environmental impact of doing so based on how often you’d want to do this.

What Fuel do Patio Heaters Run With?

There are two main types of patio heaters: gas and electric. Gas patio heaters use either propane or natural gas as their fuel source, while electric patio heaters use electricity to generate heat. Both types of patio heaters are effective at providing warmth, but there are some key differences between them you should be aware of before making a purchase.

  • Natural Gas Patio Heater – If you have an existing natural gas supply, these heaters can be a good option. They will need to be professionally plumbed into your natural gas line making the initial cost higher than other heater types. Natural gas burns cleaner than wood and tend to be more powerful so can heat the space in a larger area. So they’re a good choice if you’re looking to heat a large area and many people in the space. As they are connected to a gas line, they are not portable so you should plan out the ideal location first.
  • Propane Patio Heaters – These run off a propane gas tank making them easy to instal and use. They can be moved around the area and heat the space quickly. They are more expensive to run than natural gas heaters and less convenient due to the need to have propane gas tanks on hand. It’s always a good idea to have a spare 20 pound propane tank on hand so you have the gas available when you want to use your heater. Due to the emissions, it is generally not recommended that they are used in a covered area as good ventilation is required. Manufacturer specifications will cover this – and we will also address it for specific models in our reviews.
  • Electric Patio Heater – Electric heaters can be either plugged directly into your power socket or hardwired meaning they are professionally installed. When the heater is hardwired, it produces more power than a plugin heater but will not be portable. Plug-in heaters have the benefit of portability to move them around your space but do consider where you will use them and the risk that comes with power cords. As they do not create emissions, they are a good option to use in enclosed spaces like garages. Electric heaters use infrared or halogen to direct heat onto the person rather than into the space meaning they are more efficient than gas options.

Lastly we will mention wood fired heaters such as fire pits. These are becoming more popular however they should only be used in open areas as smoke will build up in a confined space. They should not be used in a patio with a cover unless it is a fireplace with external flueing. They are also more difficult to regulate and contain creating a fire risk. We’ll cover detailed research on wood outdoor heaters in our information on backyard heating.

What are the Different Types of Patio Heaters?

Now that you are aware of the types of fuel available, we’ll cover the different types of outdoor patio heaters.

Freestanding Patio Heaters

freestanding patio heater 3

Freestanding heaters are the most popular type of patio heater. They are easy to set up and take down, and they can be moved around to different areas of your patio or deck. Freestanding patio heaters come in a variety of styles and such as mushroom style heater and pyramid heaters. Tall standing patio heaters are the best choice for large patios or decks.

Tabletop Patio Heaters

Tabletop Patio Heaters

Tabletop patio heaters are great for small patios or decks. They are easy to set up and take down, and they can be moved around to different areas of your patio or deck. Tabletop patio heaters come in a variety of styles, including electric, gas, and propane models.

Wall Mounted Patio Heaters

Wall mounted patio heaters

Mounted patio heaters are attached to a wall or ceiling, and they provide a steady stream of heat to your patio or deck. They can either be professionally installed in a permanent location or mounted onto a fitting and plugged into a wall socket. Higher price point models can be recessed into your wall or ceiling for a more streamlined modern look. Mounted heaters will tend to disperse the heat in the direction they are pointing.

Hanging Patio Heaters

Hanging Patio Heaters

These heaters are professionally installed from your ceiling and hang into your space usually above tables to create warmth to people sitting around them.

Infrared Patio Heaters

Infrared patio heaters

Infrared patio heaters are the newest type of patio heater on the market. Infrared patio heaters use infrared technology to provide a steady stream of heat to your patio or deck. Infrared patio heaters are available in electric and propane models.

What Size Patio Heater do I Need?

Working out what size patio heater is needed is not easy but let’s start with looking are how power is measured and an explanation of BTUs, or British Thermal Units which is how the energy output for gas patio heaters is typically measured.

One BTU is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. So with that in mind, here’s the steps you can take to calculate

So to work out what how many BTUs are needed when choosing a patio heater, you can take these steps:

  • To work out how many BTUs to heat a patio, multiply the cubic footage of the patio by the number of degrees you want to raise the temperature.

So this means you should think about what the average temperature is likely to be in the cooler months when you’d want to use an outdoor heater, and to what temperature you’d want the patio to be heated.

As an example, in Iowa, the average temperature in January is around 35 degrees Fahrenheit. If you wanted the temperature on your patio to be 70 degrees, that’s a difference of 35 degrees.

  • To work out the cubic feet of your patio, multiply the width, length and height you want to heat to go to.

So if your patio is 22 feet by 32 feet and you want the heat to go up 6 feet in height, that’s 4,200 cubic feet of space you want to heat, Now multiply this by the rise in temperature you would want with your patio heating – 4,224 multiplied by 35 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature is a total of 147,840 BTUs to heat the space of your patio.

Once you have established the heating power you require, the next step is working out how many heaters will best suit.

How Many Patio Heaters Do I Need?

You’ll find the number of BTU’s on the heater and rather than aiming to buy a more powerful heater that heats the whole space, it’s a good idea to think about whether two or more heaters would work better.

Some of the things you should think about when considering how many heaters you need are:

  • How many people are likely to use patio and where will they gather?
  • Will people be in one central location or are there a few different areas (for example, at a dining table and on a lounge)?
  • Do one or two people spend an extended amount of time in a particular area of the patio such as an outdoor kitchen?

You can expect that freestanding patio heaters will have between 30,000 to 50,000 BTU and you may be able to adjust the power output giving you some flexibility to adjust the power down if there are fewer people or the temperatures are not as cold.

A single free-standing, high BTU output patio heater can be expected to heat an area around 1500 square feet so so if people are more likely to be in one area, this may be adequate for the space.

    How to Maintain Patio Heaters

     A patio heater is an investment that can significantly extend the usability of your outdoor living space, but like any appliance, it requires regular upkeep to ensure optimal performance and longevity. From routine cleaning to off-season storage, and from replacing parts as needed to implementing safety precautions, proper maintenance plays a key role. Here’s the main areas to focus on to maintain your patio heater.


    Routine Cleaning and Maintenance

    • Keep the burner and other components free from dust, debris, and spider webs using a soft brush or cloth. Clean the reflector and dome with a mild soap solution and a damp cloth.
    • Regularly inspect the heater for loose connections, screws, or bolts, and tighten them as required.
    • Carefully check the hose and regulator for signs of wear or damage and replace them if necessary.

    Proper Storage During Off-Season

    • Always switch off the gas supply and disconnect the propane tank or gas line when not in use.
    • Allow the heater to cool down completely before disassembling or moving it.
    • Store the heater in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area, preferably indoors. Consider using a protective cover to shield the heater from dust, moisture, and other potential damage. Many of our recommended heaters include the option to purchase a perfectly fitted cover.

    Replacing Parts as Needed

    • Perform regular inspections of your patio heater for any signs of wear or damage. Swap out any worn or damaged components, such as the ignition system, burner, or reflector, as required.
    • Always use parts approved by the manufacturer for replacements to ensure optimal functioning and safety.

    Safety Precautions

    • Always position your patio heater on a stable, level surface and keep it a safe distance from flammable materials, walls, and overhanging branches.
    • Regularly check the heater’s safety features, such as the tilt shut-off valve, to ensure they’re in proper working condition.
    • Adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines for installation, operation, and maintenance for maximum safety and longevity of your heater.

    Patio Heater Safety Considerations

    Patio heater safety

    • Maintenance and use according to the manufacturer specifications
    • Plan the location of where you will use the outdoor heater first
    • Keep the patio heater dry – they can get wet but this will reduce their lifespan over time
    • Don’t position them on wet floor for use
    • Avoid using propane heaters in a covered patio
    • Don’t use wood heaters in a covered patio
    • Consider the amount of clearance with freestanding heaters to your patio cover
    • Professional installation for hardwired electric and natural gas patio heaters
    • Use freestanding heaters on level ground
    • Don’t leave them unattended when in use
    • Don’t position them too close to furniture or walls with flammable coverings
    • Beware of trip hazards from power cords if using plug-in electrical models

    Steps to Choosing the Best Patio Heater to Suit Your Needs

    1. Identify what you want to use your heater for – how many people and what parts of the space will be used?
    2. Decide whether you want a permanent installation or a portable heater. Can a natural gas heater be installed if you already have gas or will electric heaters installed to your ceiling or walls work best. Professional installation has a higher cost so the feasibility of this needs to be considered.
    3. Based on the planned usage, do you want the space or people to be heated? Heating of the space will give you the flexibility to have larger numbers of people moving around the area and feeling some warmth whilst infrared patio heaters will heat the person in the area they are directed and will be more efficient.
    4. Identify how much heat you need. How big is the patio where people will be that you want to heat and how cold are outdoor temperatures likely to be when you will want to be outdoors? Bigger spaces and colder starting temperatures will require more powerful outdoor heaters with higher BTUs.
    5. Based on your budget and having made decisions on the above points, work out the look and feel you are wanting to achieve for your space and the patio heater you want. The best outdoor patio heaters are becoming more stylish – but some of the most stylish models will mean a higher price tag.

    How Our Reviews Help you Choose the Best Patio Heater

    With so many options available for patio heaters and with the needs of people being so diverse, we conduct detailed reviews of patio heaters across a range of options. These will help you narrow down your search and make the decision of what suits you easier so you can choose the best patio heater that best suits you and your family.

    FAQs for Patio Heaters

    How much do patio heaters cost?

    Patio heaters can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 depending on the size and features. More upmarket syles may be an even higher price point. Most people choose a patio heater based on the area they need to heat. Small heaters are great for intimate gatherings or heating a single person, while large heaters can heat an entire patio or deck.

    What type of patio heater is most energy efficient?

    There are many types of patio heaters available on the market, but infrared and propane heaters are the most energy efficient. Infrared patio heaters work by heating objects instead of the air, so they are very efficient at providing direct heat to people or areas. Propane patio heaters are also very efficient because they use less fuel to generate heat than other types of patio heaters.

    What are the disadvantages of patio heaters?

    Patio heaters can be expensive to purchase and operate, and they can also be a fire hazard if not used properly. With the increasing price of fuel, running costs are increasing. Patio heaters should always be used with proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure you select the design and placement for a heater that will best suit how your space will be used so you reduce risk eg. you don’t want to place a patio heater in the main traffic area if you are entertaining.

    Can patio heaters get wet?

    Patio heaters can get wet, but they should not be left outside in the rain or snow. If a patio heater does get wet, it is important to dry it off as soon as possible to avoid rusting or other damage.

    Can I use a patio heater for a screened in porch?

    Yes, patio heaters can be used for screened-in porches. However, it is important to make sure the area is well ventilated to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Screened-in porches should also have a source of fresh air to prevent the build-up of fumes.

    How should patio heaters be stored when not in use?

    When not in use, patio heaters should be stored in a dry, protected area. Patio heaters can be stored indoors or outdoors, but it is important to make sure they are covered and out of the elements when not in use.

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