Testing the Best Patio Heaters for Your Outdoor Space

Add cozy warmth to an outdoor living area with a heater suited to your needs and budget.

Best Overall

The AZ Patio Heaters 87-Inch Tall Patio Heater With Table on a white background.

AZ Patio Heaters 87-Inch Tall Patio Heater With Table

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Best Bang for the Buck

The EnerG+ Hanging Outdoor Electric Patio Heater on a white background.

EnerG+ Hanging Outdoor Electric Patio Heater

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Best Electric

The East Oak E-Glow Wall & Standing Electric Heater and remote on a white background.

East Oak E-Glow Wall u0026amp; Standing Electric Heater

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Investing in a patio heater is a great way to extend the entertaining outdoor season any time of year. We recently tested 10 outdoor heaters of various sizes, styles, and power sources to see which could add enough warmth to make staying outdoors comfortable, even when the temperatures are chilly. We ate dinner near them, gathered our chairs nearby, and used them to enjoy our deck well after dark on a cold fall night.

The best patio heater enhances outdoor living enjoyment and provides heat exactly where you need it. Each of the top picks below was selected after an in-depth review of the market and thorough product vetting. Ahead, learn the important features of the best outdoor heaters before shopping, and find out why our testing revealed the following products are worthy of a second look. Then start the grill, light some tiki torches, and let the best patio heaters keep you warm and toasty.

  1. BEST OVERALL: AZ Patio Heaters 87-Inch Tall Patio Heater With Table
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: EnerG+ Hanging Outdoor Electric Patio Heater
  3. BEST ELECTRIC: East Oak E-Glow Wall & Standing Electric Heater
  4. BEST PROPANE: Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU Stainless Steel Patio Heater
  5. BEST WOOD PELLET: Solo Stove Tower Patio Heater
  6. BEST TABLETOP: AZ Patio Heaters Outdoor Tabletop Patio Heater
  7. BEST WALL-MOUNTED: Dr. Infrared Heater DR-238 Carbon Infrared Heater
  8. BEST PORTABLE: Outland Living Mega Fire Pit
  9. BEST HEATER AND TABLE: Best Choice Products Wicker Propane Fire Pit Table
  10. BEST PYRAMID: AZ Patio Heaters HLDS01-GTSS Quartz Glass Tube Heater
The best patio heater option set up in a yard and exhibiting a beautiful enclosed flame.
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Patio Heaters

We rated patio heaters by the output of BTUs (British thermal units), maneuverability, and overall style. To test the heaters, we assembled them according to the manufacturer’s instructions and measured their ability to warm an outdoor space by noting the farthest distance one could stand from each unit and still feel the warmth. Overall, we found that the tower-style heaters with dome or “mushroom” reflective covers distributed heat most efficiently at a distance. Infrared patio heaters were less powerful overall but also less affected by changes in wind speed and direction.

Fortunately, many of the larger heaters were easy to maneuver thanks to wheels on the base. Models without wheels are best placed and stored in a single location. For patios without overhead coverage, a heater that has a cover for protection is strongly recommended during wet weather.

The best patio heater option glowing with warmth on the corner of an outdoor patio.
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

Our Top Picks

Consider power source, material, design, safety features, and more to find the best patio heaters to keep warm. The following patio heaters are all at the top of their respective categories, and any of them would be a great choice for most users.

Best Overall

AZ Patio Heaters 87-Inch Tall Patio Heater With Table

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For those looking for a heater that pushes out plenty of heat, this mushroom-style patio heater is the way to go. The steel-constructed heater offers a diameter of warmth between 10 and 12 feet. It also features a table with an adjustable height for added usability and a wheeled base for maneuverability on paved surfaces. The heater has a clearly marked ignition mechanism that allows the user to easily and safely start the heater.

Overall, we found this heater to be convenient and efficient. Its construction was primarily sound, except for the cylinder access door for the propane tank at the base, which is somewhat flimsy. However, we wish this unit came with a rain cover to help keep it clean and dry when not in use.

Product Specs

  • BTU rating: 48,000
  • Dimensions: 87 inches tall by 17 inches in diameter
  • Power source: Propane

Pros

  • Wheeled base for easy moving on paved or rough surfaces
  • Incorporates an adjustable-height tabletop for drinks or added accessories
  • Hinged door built into the base allows convenient access the gas cylinder
  • Adjustable flame is easy to control; temperature can be set as desired

Cons

  • No rain cover, so it will need to be moved during bad weather
  • Bulky size may make it difficult for some users to store or move
  • Cylinder access door is somewhat flimsy and can catch on frame

Get the AZ Patio Heaters patio heater with table at Tractor Supply Co., The Home Depot, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, or Build With Ferguson.

Best Bang for the Buck

EnerG+ Hanging Outdoor Electric Patio Heater

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Hang this overhead heater over a patio or under a porch or gazebo for extra warmth in cool, damp weather. The EnerG+ hanging patio heater is IP24 certified for use in dusty and rain-exposed environments, so users won’t need to worry about moving it on account of inclement weather. Its adjustable hanging chain allows users to suspend it at any height from an overhead support. High and low power settings produce 750 or 1,500 watts of silent radiant heat, and a pull chain on/off switch controls the heater.

The EnerG+ electric patio heater was inexpensive, easy to install and operate, and produced a warming effect across an 8-foot diameter. To adjust the temperature, we selected between the high and low settings and raised or lowered the hanging height. It worked well inside our covered deck when hung 7 feet above the floor over a cluster of chairs, but at that height, it needed to stay on the high setting for us to feel the warmth in ambient temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. We could have lowered the height for a stronger effect if it had been over a dining table or near a corner where no one could bump their head walking around it, but that would have shrunk the heated diameter accordingly.

Product Specs 

  • BTU rating: 5,119
  • Dimensions: 11 inches tall by 16.73 inches in diameter
  • Power source: 110-volt power outlet

Pros

  • Warms the area without taking up floor space or getting in the way of foot traffic
  • Provides energy-efficient infrared heat that is less affected by wind than radiant heat
  • IP24 water-resistant and rated for outdoor use in all weather conditions
  • Convenient choice for covered patios and decks, porches, or gazebos

Cons

  • Does not induce the same warm-to-the-touch sensation as radiant heat

Get the EnerG+ patio heater at Amazon.

Best Electric

East Oak E-Glow Wall u0026 Standing Electric Heater

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Electric patio heaters are budget-friendly and offer loads of flexibility. The East Oak E-Glow outdoor electric heater boasts an IP65 water-resistant rating for all-weather use, offers three heat settings for quiet warmth, and comes with both an adjustable stand and wall-mounting hardware. The included remote control allows users to power on/off, change the temperature setting, or set the 24-hour timer.

We assembled the East Oak E-Glow patio heater on its stand and tested the low (1,000 watts), medium (1,200 watts), and high (1,500 watts) power settings at different heights. Unlike tower-type heaters that send out heat on all sides, this one emitted directional heat, making it a better option for use near or on a wall.

At the lowest height, about 40 inches, it was perfectly aligned for placement behind a bench or a row of chairs. The tallest setting, about 70 inches, was a better configuration for a cluster of three to six people standing within 8 feet. The best heating effect was within a 64-square-foot area, up to 8 feet from the heater and 4 feet to either side of the heater’s center point. As with other electric heaters we tested, this one produced a pleasant warming effect on the highest power setting in cool temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The warming effect in really cold temperatures would likely be minimal.

Product Specs 

  • BTU rating: 5,118
  • Dimensions: 40 to 70 inches tall (5 height settings) by 18 inches in diameter (base) by 31 inches wide (heater)
  • Power source: 110-volt power outlet

Pros

  • 1,500-watt corded electric heater warms up to 64 square feet
  • IP65 dust- and water-resistant rated for safe use outdoors in all weather
  • Flexible setup, either wall-mounted or freestanding on the included adjustable base
  • Suitable for use indoors or outdoors, including covered and enclosed patios

Cons

  • Heats a relatively small area when compared with propane and wood-fueled patio heaters
  • Top-heavy design presents a tip-over risk when assembled on the stand

Get the East Oak patio heater at Amazon or East Oak.

Best Propane

Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU Stainless Steel Patio Heater

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Similar to the AZ Patio Heaters mushroom-style heater, Hampton Bay’s version offers a 48,000- BTU heat output. It’s built almost identically to the AZ heater, with a couple of exceptions. This heater comes in a stainless steel finish and does not have an adjustable table or wheels, but it does have three anchor points where it can be staked to the ground or fastened to a wooden deck.

This Hampton Bay heater did not come with a rain cover, and we found the wheelless base made it difficult to move. However, the biggest frustration was removing the protective film from the stainless steel base when unpacking the heater. Overall, the Hampton Bay is a good heater for those who don’t plan to move it often, but it’s a good idea to also buy a cover.

Product Specs

  • BTU rating: 48,000
  • Dimensions: 86.6 inches tall by 31.5 inches in diameter
  • Power source: Propane

Pros

  • Lift-up housing allows for easy tank access or replacement
  • Adjustable 48,000-BTU flame is easy to control or adjust as needed
  • Durable stainless steel construction makes the heater suitable for long-term use

Cons

  • No wheels built in; may be difficult to move or store
  • No rain cover; heater may need to be brought indoors during inclement weather
  • Heater’s bulky size may take up a lot of space and make it difficult to store

Get the Hampton Bay patio heater at The Home Depot or Walmart.

Best Wood Pellet

Solo Stove Tower Patio Heater

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Nothing beats the feel of real wood heat. The Solo Stove Tower patio heater offers a fast, clean, and easy way to heat an outdoor living space with environmentally friendly wood pellet fuel. The 6.5-foot-tall tower gives off 72,000 BTUs of full-height warmth without gas or electricity. It’s equipped with an automatic-feed pellet hopper that holds 25 pounds of pellets. After the user lights the fire, it burns for up to 3 hours with no stoking, poking, or feeding.

The Solo Stove Tower patio heater can be thought of as a wood stove for the patio. It was easy to light with a small dab of fire-starter gel and produced a good amount of heat within 5 minutes. Unlike the gas tower heaters we tested with burners at head height, the Solo Stove Tower’s burner is near ground level. It radiated heat from its base all the way to the top of the chimney, providing a much more even heat from about knee-high and up and covering about 314 square feet or 10 feet in diameter.

Although the Solo Stove patio heater was priced higher than others we tested, operating it was competitively cost-effective. We paid under $8 for 40 pounds of wood-stove pellets, which provided about 5 hours of burn time at a cost of about $16 for 10 hours of burn time. In comparison, a standard propane tank provides about 10 hours of burn time for a 48,000-BTU propane tower heater. Propane tank exchanges range in price from about $18 to $25, or up to about 30 percent more than the price of heating with wood pellets.

Read our full review: Solo Stove Tower Patio Heater

Product Specs 

  • BTU rating: 72,000
  • Dimensions: 80.5 inches tall by 19.8 inches wide (base) by 23.3 inches deep
  • Power source: Wood pellets

Pros

  • Durable 304 stainless steel and cold-rolled steel construction
  • Fueled by standard wood pellets, yet produces extremely low smoke and ash
  • 16-liter automatic-feed hopper holds 25 pounds of wood pellets for 3 hours of burn time
  • Radiates heat the full height of the unit and over a 10-foot radius

Cons

  • At 104 pounds, it is heavy and difficult to reposition
  • Sides become dangerously hot to the touch during operation
  • Questionable finish durability on the cold-rolled steel components

Get the Solo Stove patio heater at Solo Stove,Academy Sports + Outdoors, or BBQGrills.com.

Best Tabletop

AZ Patio Heaters Outdoor Tabletop Patio Heater

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When cool weather rolls in, it’s still possible to share a meal with friends or cozy up with a good book on the patio. The AZ Patio Heaters tabletop patio heater, powered by a 1-pound propane bottle, produces up to 11,000 BTUs of warmth that keeps the cold at bay. It is made of durable stainless steel and features a weighted base, push-button starter, adjustable heat output, and anti-tilt safety shutoff. The mushroom-style top reflects heat downward and outward to cover a 3.5-foot radius or about 10 square feet.

Essentially a miniature tower patio heater, this tabletop heater did a great job heating our 4-foot dining area. Its narrow body and high dome reflector minimally obstructed eye contact across the table. We also liked that the propane bottle was hidden inside the base of the heater because it made it possible to set up the unit anywhere, unlike other tabletop heaters that require a fuel connection through an umbrella hole.

We also used this heater on an end table to heat a pair of side chairs. The heat level was pleasant on a damp, 50-degree-Fahrenheit morning. The runtime was a little less than we would have liked, at a few minutes under 2 hours on the high setting—but this was still our favorite tabletop model.

Product Specs 

  • BTU rating: 11,000
  • Dimensions: 38 inches tall by 13 inches in diameter
  • Power source: Propane

Pros

  • Produces 11,000 BTUs, which is more than 2 times the heat output of electric heaters
  • Short enough to heat the seating area; tall enough to minimize visual impact
  • Sturdy stainless steel and aluminum construction withstands the elements
  • Compact size makes it portable for tailgating, picnics, or camping

Cons

  • Short runtime per 1-pound fuel bottle; about 1.75 hours on the high setting

Get the AZ Patio Heaters tabletop patio heater at Amazon, The Home Depot, Walmart, BBQGuys, or Best Buy.

Best Wall-Mounted

Dr. Infrared Heater DR-238 Carbon Infrared Heater

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For delicious warmth in an enclosed patio or three-season room, shoppers will want to check out the Dr. Infrared Heater carbon heater that runs on electricity and emits up to 1,500 watts of infrared heat. The unit measures about 6 inches tall by 35 inches long and weighs just 7 pounds, making it well suited to installation on a wall or ceiling (mounting brackets included).

The Dr. Infrared Heater features adjustable heat output and plugs into a standard 120-volt household outlet, so there’s no need to fill and haul propane tanks. It includes a remote control, features a programmable timer, and also boasts an automatic overheating shutoff. The electric heater is designed for exterior use but only in a protected location, as it can’t come into contact with precipitation.

This electric heater required minimal assembly, and it offered decent heat output. However, we felt that the legs on the tripod stand seemed flimsy, and it took a bit of maneuvering to get the heater to sit level. We liked the heater’s portability, but an extension cord will be required if it’s moved away from an outlet.

Product Specs

  • BTU rating: 5,200
  • Dimensions: 6.27 inches tall by 34.6 inches wide by 3.33 inches deep
  • Power source: 110-volt power outlet

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight; features an adjustable base for ample versatility
  • Easy to set up and store; will not take up a lot of space in a garage or shed
  • Works with any electric outlet; no need to buy gas
  • Convenient operation; includes a remote control for quick, hands-free adjustments

Cons

  • For sheltered outdoor use only; not suitable for damp weather
  • Requires a power outlet and extension cord for proper operation
  • Needs weights to secure the base (empty sandbags are included)

Get the Dr. Infrared Heater patio heater at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Wayfair, Walmart, or Target.

Best Portable

Outland Living Mega Fire Pit

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The Outland Living fire pit includes a 10-foot propane hose so users can position a propane tank out of sight while enjoying the lava rocks and glowing flames inside this rustic fire bowl. The fire bowl generates up to 58,000 BTUs of heat, and the heat output is adjustable to suit the outdoor temperature. Once heated, the lava rocks (included) retain and radiate heat.

This patio heater is relatively compact and portable, measuring 13 inches tall and 24 inches in diameter and weighing 34 pounds. It comes with a cover and carrying straps for easy portability.

In our tests, we found the tank hose to be the biggest drawback. Although the hose is 10 feet long, that still leaves the exposed propane tank relatively close to the sitting area. The hose presents a tripping hazard, and the exposed tank is unattractive. However, the heat emitted from the fire pit is excellent, and its portability makes it an attractive option for those who prefer not to deal with wood fires.

Product Specs

  • BTU rating: 58,000
  • Dimensions: 13 inches tall by 24 inches in diameter
  • Power source: Propane

Pros

  • Suitable for colder climates; excellent heat output with help of included fire rocks
  • May be used on uneven surfaces; sturdy feet can accommodate rocky terrain
  • Includes rain cover for excellent rust protection in case of inclement weather
  • Smokeless alternative to a traditional fire pit; will not cause any eye or sinus irritation

Cons

  • Fire rocks stay hot after the fire is out, so caution is advised
  • Low height and exposed flame is dangerous for unsupervised children and pets
  • Tank hose could be a tripping hazard, so it should placed out of the way as much as possible

Get the Outland Living patio heater at Amazon, Wayfair, or Walmart.

Best Heater and Table

Best Choice Products Wicker Propane Fire Pit Table

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Users can pull up a chair and pour a glass of wine or iced tea to enjoy at the Best Choice Products fire pit table that serves as both a patio heater and a table for holding food or beverages. This table-style patio heater measures 24.75 inches tall by 52 inches wide by 34 inches deep, making it well suited to casual gatherings with friends or family.

A rectangular panel at the top of the table lifts away to reveal a fire bowl filled with sparkling glass rocks that add brilliance to the flames within. The heater runs on propane, and a 20-pound tank fits in the bottom cabinet. Producing a hefty 50,000 BTUs of heat, the Best Choice Products fire pit table will keep outdoor diners toasty warm. The table weighs 71.5 pounds when empty and includes a durable nylon cover for protecting the unit from the elements.

The biggest drawback to this patio heater during testing was the assembly. The directions were unclear, and it took a significant amount of time to put together. We also found placing the propane tank inside the table after assembly awkward. Overall, the heat output is terrific, and the style is attractive. The wicker base is difficult to clean, but it does come with a rain cover for protection.

Product Specs

  • BTU rating: 50,000
  • Dimensions: 24.75 inches tall by 52 inches wide by 34 inches deep
  • Power source: Propane

Pros

  • Attractive wicker and aluminum construction provides a sleek and modern look
  • Included ornamental glass rocks capture and radiate ample heat
  • High heat output and metal burner lid for added safety and protection
  • Includes a rain cover in case of storms and inclement weather

Cons

  • Long assembly with unclear instructions; may require more than 1 set of hands
  • We found the somewhat awkward propane tank access door hard to work with
  • Wicker base may be somewhat difficult to keep clean

Get the Best Choice Products patio heater at Amazon, Walmart, Target, or Best Choice Products.

Best Pyramid

AZ Patio Heaters HLDS01-GTSS Quartz Glass Tube Heater

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Dancing flames flicker up and down the glass at the heart of the AZ Patio Heaters HLDS01-GTSS quartz glass tube heater. This stainless steel, pyramid-style propane heater stands 91 inches tall and offers an adjustable heat output. The solid cabinet base of the pyramid is designed to conceal a 20-pound propane tank (not included).

This pyramid heater weighs 65 pounds, tapers in width from base to top to prevent tipping, and features wheels for easy transport. It delivers 40,000 BTUs of heat and comes equipped with a tip-over safety shutoff. The top reflector shield reflects warmth, while a metal safety grid prevents accidental contact with the quartz glass tube.

Although the design is strikingly attractive, we noted that the heat produced by the AZ Patio Heaters quartz glass tube heater was less effective than what was produced by the mushroom-style heaters. It was somewhat awkward to move, even with the wheeled base. Rather than considering it a primary outdoor heater, we think it’s a nice decorative accent that also happens to add a bit of warmth.

Product Specs 

  • BTU rating: 40,000
  • Dimensions:  91 inches tall by 20 inches square
  • Power source: Propane

Pros

  • Radiates warmth outward to an 8-foot perimeter or 201 square feet
  • Ornamental flame inside quartz glass tube adds cozy ambience and contemporary style
  • Lightweight design with wheeled base allows users to move it without removing the propane tank

Cons

  • Radiates less heat than the “umbrella” type tower patio heaters
  • Even a gentle breeze virtually eliminates its warming ability

Get the AZ Patio Heaters glass tube patio heater at Amazon, The Home Depot, or AZ Patio Heaters.

Jump to Our Top Picks 

What to Consider When Choosing a Patio Heater

Some patio heaters are large and serve as a focal point on the patio around which merrymakers gather, while others are strictly functional—they heat the area but don’t add much to the ambience. Choosing the outdoor heating option that best suits a specific patio is mostly a matter of individual taste, but a few factors are worth considering.

Power and Fuel Sources

When the temperatures drop and a chill is in the air, having a source of outdoor heat makes outdoor activities more enjoyable. Patio heaters are well suited to northern climates, where the mercury plunges as soon as the summer sun drops beneath the horizon. They’re also beneficial in warmer regions, day or night, during the winter months. When shoppers are hunting for the best outdoor heater, there are several options for the type of power required to operate the unit.

Propane

Propane patio heaters can warm up spaces quickly. Some are quite large and will hold up to a 20-gallon propane tank—a boon when users wish to heat a large area for an extended period. These outdoor heaters are often portable, depending on the style, and many include wheels.

Due to the risk of carbon monoxide buildup, it’s important not to use exterior propane heaters in an enclosed area, such as a greenhouse or enclosed patio, unless a clear safety feature is built into the unit to prevent operation under insufficient oxygen levels.

Natural Gas

Gas heaters fueled by natural gas are more likely to be considered permanent fixtures on the patio than propane heaters because they connect to a home’s natural gas line. Depending on local building codes, running a natural gas line to the patio probably requires the services of a licensed plumber.

The upside to a natural gas patio heater is a lower operating cost because natural gas is usually a less expensive power source than propane. For those looking for a reliable source for patio heat, a natural gas heater could be a cost-effective way to entertain outdoors, even during cool weather.

Electric

There’s no need to buy fuel for electric patio heaters, but users will need to plan to replace the heating lamps occasionally. With no open flame, electric heaters may be safer than other types for some families. Since they are usually smaller and less powerful, an electric patio heater may not generate as much heat as its propane cousin.

Shoppers looking for an electric patio heater will want to compare the heat output of different models while considering that a higher heat output means increased electricity usage and a larger electric bill. Also, it’s important to remember that electric patio heaters include a power cord, so having at least one outdoor electrical outlet is necessary.

Wood

There’s nothing quite like a wood-burning patio heater for an authentic campfire feel. This type of heater can generate a lot of heat, depending on the size of the firebox and the amount of wood it will hold.

Since wood fires can create smoke and ash, a wood-burning patio heater isn’t suitable for an enclosed patio. To reduce smoke, it’s important for users to burn only seasoned hardwoods, such as hickory, birch, and white ash. Some communities don’t permit open fire pits, so it’s a good idea to check with the local fire department before buying one.

Best option for patio heater showcased in an outdoor setting
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

Style

Just because it’s a patio doesn’t mean this outdoor space shouldn’t receive the same attention to aesthetics as any indoor room. A variety of good patio heater styles can add a unique decor feature to a backyard oasis.

  • Tower-style heater: Most tower-style patio heaters are 6 to 8 feet tall, with the heat source located at the top, middle, or bottom of the tower. Available in electric or propane versions, these patio heaters can warm a 5- to 10-foot radius, making them an excellent option for yards and larger patios.
  • Space heater: More about function than aesthetics, an exterior space heater is relatively small and designed to heat a limited space. A space heater tucked beneath the patio table may be sufficient for outdoor dining to keep diners cozy as they enjoy a meal. Space heaters may be powered by propane or plugged into an outdoor electrical outlet.
  • Tabletop heater: Smaller than freestanding heaters, tabletop electric heaters and tabletop propane units are often secured to a patio table (usually through the hole where a sun umbrella would fit). They offer the advantage of portability but tend to be less powerful, making them well suited to smaller gatherings.
  • Mounted heater: Available in wall- or ceiling-mounted options, these patio heaters are typically infrared (meaning they radiate heat) and are electrically powered. They are excellent for those with limited floor space but who wish to heat a large area.
  • Fire pit/fireplace: Perhaps the ultimate in outdoor ambience, fire pits and outdoor fireplaces offer the type of flickering light associated with a campfire, so it’s little wonder that they’re high on many outdoor entertaining wish lists. They may be powered by propane, natural gas, or wood and are ideal for being surrounded by patio chairs for a late-night s’mores session.

Area Size

The maximum area a patio heater will comfortably heat depends on several variables. Many large patio heaters are radiant, meaning they reflect heat waves rather than distribute heat via a fan. Radiant heat is more effective because it warms objects in front of it rather than just warming the air. On a breezy day, a fan-based convection heater won’t keep anyone warm if the wind blows away the heated air.

Depending on the power of the heating element, a patio heater can radiate heat 4 to 12 feet or even farther. Many feature the ability for the user to adjust the heat output—turning down the heater if only a bit of warmth is necessary or running it on the highest setting to heat a wider area.

Heat Output

A natural gas or propane patio heater’s heat output is measured in BTUs, while an electric heater’s output is measured in watts.

  • BTU estimation: To estimate suitable BTUs for a patio heater, multiply the patio’s square feet by 20. For example, a patio that measures 20 by 20 feet equals 400 square feet of space. Multiplying 400 by 20 is 8,000, so a gas patio heater with an 8,000-BTU output would effectively heat the area. Gas patio heaters range from about 5,000 to 40,000 BTUs, depending on style and size.
  • Watt estimation: Electric patio heaters offer a maximum of 1,500 watts—comparable to 5,100 BTUs—so they don’t generate quite as much heat as gas heaters, making them well suited to smaller patios. Alternatively, shoppers can consider using two or more electric patio heaters on a single patio if they desire additional heat output.

Aesthetic

While the main function of a patio heater is to maintain a comfortable outdoor temperature, many go the extra mile to help create a cozy or romantic feeling. Some tabletop styles incorporate glass rocks that reflect various light colors, while others produce flickering flames that add a dreamy feel.

Except for the smallest space heaters, most propane patio heaters feature a cabinet that conceals the propane tank to create a cleaner look. For the best aesthetics, users will want to select a material that blends with the style of the home and patio. A sleek stainless steel patio heater will enhance the look of a contemporary home with modern decor, while a cast-iron fire pit would better suit a rustic cabin getaway.

Safety

Anything that produces enough heat to warm a patio comes with some safety challenges. Manufacturers reduce the risk of burns by encasing patio heaters in materials that remain cool to the touch or placing the heating element above a level where humans can reach it (in the case of tower-style heaters). Still, it’s important for shoppers to consider the following tips to use a patio heater in the safest manner possible.

  • Move it away: Keep the patio heater away from walls, patio furniture, and flammable objects. The general rule is to position a patio heater with 3 feet of space on all sides.
  • Keep it level: Some patio heaters provide a safety shutoff if the heater tips, but not all models include that feature. Position the heater on a level spot to keep it from tipping over.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher: Patio heaters don’t present a significant fire risk, but a wood-burning heater can eject burning ash, or a space heater could tip over. Be prepared in case of fire by having an extinguisher handy.
  • Stay with it: Don’t leave a patio heater on without an adult present.
  • Keep it covered: Some patio heaters include a cover. If the heater chosen doesn’t, it’s a good idea to invest in one and keep the patio heater covered when not in use. A cover will keep bugs, dirt, and debris from blowing into the heating element, which can clog it or create a fire risk.

Portability

It will be much easier to move a patio heater from one side of the patio to the other or relocate it near a pool if the unit includes wheels.

The largest propane patio heaters can weigh 60 pounds or more—not including the weight of a 20-pound propane tank—so carrying one can quickly become cumbersome. Electric patio heaters are typically smaller and more lightweight, weighing up to an average of 20 to 30 pounds, but wheels will still come in handy.

The smallest portable heater may weigh only a few pounds and easily be packed in the trunk of a car or moved to any yard location.

Cost

When it comes to electric patio heaters, the real cost often comes in paying the utility bill because electricity can be more expensive than natural gas or propane. That said, electric heaters are initially a less expensive option.

Propane patio heaters run the gamut in price, from inexpensive space heaters to tall tower-style heaters, but operating them is generally more cost-effective than operating electric models.

Natural gas patio heaters are often at the top of the price line because they are frequently designed for installation in permanent outdoor kitchens and living areas. They’re among the least expensive to operate, but users may require the services of a licensed plumber for installation.

Wood-burning fire pits and fireplaces also span a large range in cost, from inexpensive fire pits to high-end fireplaces permanently built into outdoor entertaining areas.

FAQs

Having a heat source in an outdoor area offers the ability for users to entertain comfortably when the temperatures drop. For those thinking of buying a patio heater, some questions are to be expected.

Q. Which electric patio heaters are the best?

The Dr. Infrared Heater DR-238 carbon infrared heater is among the best options for those wanting convenient electric heat in an enclosed patio setting.

Q. How many BTUs do I need for my patio heater?

When it comes to patio heaters, one size does not fit all. Natural gas and propane patio heaters range from around 5,000 to 40,000 BTUs or more. Choose an option that best suits the level of desired heat output.

Q. How far should the patio heater be from the house?

Place a gas patio heater and a freestanding electric patio heater a minimum of 3 feet from walls and other items, such as furniture. However, some electric heaters are designed to be safe even if mounted on a wall or ceiling, so it depends on the type.

Q. Can you have a patio heater under a covered patio?

Most electric patio heaters are designed for use in sheltered patio conditions, like under a covered or enclosed patio. A small gas patio heater, such as a tabletop model, can usually operate safely under a covered patio, but a traditional tower-style model may stand too high (within 5 feet of the ceiling) for safe use.

Q. Can you put a patio heater under a gazebo?

It is safe to put a patio heater under a gazebo if it isn’t within 3 feet of the gazebo’s side walls or ceiling rafters.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Meet the Tester

Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with a background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor-living goods.

Additional research provided by Glenda Taylor and Debbie Wolfe.

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Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

WHY YOU CAN TRUST BOB VILA