14 Min to Read

8 Best Outdoor Patio Electric & Gas Heaters of 2021

Patio heaters are a great way of keeping your outdoor space usable during fall, winter, or cool summer or spring nights. PropertyNest names the best must-have outdoor patio heaters of the year. Learn all about what you need to look for in a good outdoor heater for your yard or patio.
shutterstock_1571241055.jpg

If you're looking to enjoy your outdoor space all year round, it's best to invest in some heat source for those potentially chilly afternoons or evenings.

Many homeowners and renters gravitate towards a fire pit, however, they're certainly not for everyone.

Purchasing an outdoor heater is a great option for those who want to stay warm but not bother with starting a fire, smoke, or ash clean-up.

An outdoor patio heater makes keeping warm outside easy without making it the centerpiece of your yard or patio.

PropertyNest made shopping for a patio heater easy with our list of the best outdoor heaters for the year.

Hampton Bay 48000 Btu Stainless Steel Patio Heater: Best Overall

Hampton Bay 48000 Btu Stainless Steel Patio Heater

This patio heater is made from stainless steel, making it look stylish and professional.

The durability and high quality of stainless steel allow you to keep the heater outside because it can withstand the elements without worrying it may get damaged.

We chose this Hampton Bay as best overall for three reasons.

One, the 48,000 BTU burner that runs on liquid propane keeps you warm for up to 200 square feet, extending life outdoors during cool months.

Two, it’s powerfully warm. The unit includes an adjustable heat control system that lets you set its heat output to the temperature you prefer.

Three, it’s reasonably priced.

Essentially, what you are getting is a heat lamp that restaurants with outdoor seating use. So, you know you are getting a professional quality heater.

Pros and Cons of Hampton Bay Patio Heater
ProsCons
Sleek modern appearanceMay require additional stakes or sandbags for windy days
Easy assemblyAlso may require sandbags when the tank is nearly empty. If not, the hearer will tip over or even fly away.
Light in weight but completely durable, you can easily pick the heater up to move it without any help.Doesn’t come with wheels.

AZ Patio Heaters 48,000 BTU Stainless Steel Propane Patio Heater: Best for Safety

6452845cv13d.jpeg

Beyond the impressive heat output of 48,000 BTUs, we chose this AZ model for safety.

The aluminum construction feels heftier than other comparable models. This is good because this outdoor heater won’t tip over in the wind.

The mushroom-style heater is also safe due to three anchor ports that you can secure to the ground.

This AZ also comes with a pair of wheels so you can easily move it inside your home or anywhere it will be safe if there is high winds and hurricanes.

Another safety measure is that if the heater starts to tip over, it will automatically shut off.

Pros and Cons of AZ Patio Heaters Stainless Steel Propane Heater
ProsCons
Excellent customer service.The mushroom top deflects the heat downwards, which results in uneven heating.
Comes in a variety of finishes, so you can find something that fits your home.Cover is needed, but you have to buy that separately.
Even if the propane tank weighs down the base, it’s easy to move and the wheels help.Can be tricky to light.

Thermo Tiki Deluxe Outdoor Propane Patio Heater: Best For Design

Patio-Heater---Outdoor-Patio-Heater---48000-BTU-Propane-Based---Stainless-Steel-Construction---Pyramid-Design-with-Glass.jpeg

This Thermo Tiki deluxe pyramid-style patio heater is of commercial-grade value and is stylishly designed to fit in with any exterior décor.

Made from steel and aluminum, this heater has a dancing flame in a pyramid column.

The beautiful glowing flame is a conversation piece and will entice you and your loved ones at night.

Meanwhile, the 38,000 BTUs will keep you warm when the weather is cool.

This commercial-quality heater is more expensive than similar models and has a lower BTU output than most. But that’s because the heater was created to last season after season.

For example, the heater was designed to withstand extreme climates, from harsh sun to falling snow.

And the rust, fade, and corrosion-resistant finish make the pyramid very durable.

Pros and Cons of Thermo Tiki Deluxe Patio Heater
ProsCons
Withstands abrasive salt air.Propane tank not included.
4" diameter ceramic-glass column.Heat radiates straight out and isn’t directed down to heat the area.
Safety shut-off valve and pilot lighter for safer startup/shutdown.Sleek modern design may not complement traditional homes and traditional outdoor furniture, including sofas, tables, and chaises, for example.
Trim pieces like wheels and the wire mesh covering the glass cylinder are harsh white, not stainless steel.

Fire Sense Telescoping 1500 Watt Electric Standing Patio Heater: Best Adjustable Electric Patio Heater

Telescoping+1500+Watt+Electric+Standing+Patio+Heater.jpeg

This popular Fire Sense heater has a slim pedestal base that’s much less bulky than other similar outdoor heaters.

We chose this patio heater because of its telescoping feature.

The telescoping feature allows you to adjust the heater’s height with its tension knobs.

That way you can adjust the heater on your porch to the height of an outdoor sofa so you and your guests who are sitting on the sofa can be covered with rays of heat.

And if you are having a party and everyone is standing, you can easily adjust the height to the tallest setting so that the heat is in line with everyone.

Operating at 90% heating efficiency, this infrared patio heater runs on regular household electric current and is substantially less expensive to operate than propane patio heaters.

This model also has wheels for portability and a protective cover that many heaters lack.

Pros and Cons of Fire Sense Telescoping Electric Heater
ProsCons
No UV rays, silent operation.Keeps the chill away, but most likely you’ll have to wear an outdoor jacket to feel warm.
100% heat production within seconds.Difficult to assemble.
No wasteful heating of the air.The electric cord could be longer.
Automatic Safety Shutoff.
5,000 hours lamp life.

EnerG+ Infrared Electric Outdoor Heater with Remote: Best Outdoor Weather-Resistant Heater

91W3DD7HkyL._AC_SL1500_.jpg

This free-standing infrared heater features 1500 watts of radiant energy. Because this heater receives its power from electricity, it can be set up in no time after you plug it into a standard 120V AC wall outlet.

So that means no more gas or other flammable fuels to worry about.

We chose this model because it can oscillate heat to everyone nearby. Most heaters we looked at didn’t have this feature.

There are three heat settings: 500, 1000, and 1500 watts of instantaneous radiant heat.

We also chose this model because it’s not affected by the wind, as well as some rain.

That’s because this heater is IP44 certified.

This means it’s weatherproof and was made for the outdoors.

It is very hard to wear against extreme weather conditions.

And it is safe to use in wet or rainy environments and is protected from low-velocity sprays of water.

The IP44 rating also means that this heater will remain rust and corrosion-free.

As an added plus, you don’t have to get up to adjust the heat setting. The handy remote control allows you to change the setting from a distance.

It also has tip-over and overheating protection, making the heater very safe.

Pros and Cons of EnerG+ Infrared Electric Outdoor Heater
ProsCons
Water and dust resistant.Daunting to be put together.
Silent operation.Customers complain that the manual is indecipherable.
Just plug it into an electrical outlet; no need for an electrician.Won’t work in wide areas; designed for small spaces.
Durable carbon coil bulb can resist a fall.
Low operating cost, only pennies per hour.
Bulb lasts an average of 5, 000 hours, providing years of enjoyment.

Hiland HIL-1500DI Electric Patio Heater, 1500 Watts w/Variable Heat Control: Best Budget Patio Heater

81AvWxkcS+L._AC_SL1457_.jpg

We chose this Hiland because it’s the least expensive outdoor heater on the market. At below sixty-five in cost, the freestanding heater works just as well as higher-cost heaters.

And it doesn’t skimp on features.

The most important feature of this heater is that it’s tall and can adjust up to 79 inches in height.

Black in color and with an oval LED head that glows bright orange, this heater feels sophisticated despite its low price.

Featuring variable control, the heater comes with an anti-tilt switch for safety.

Because it’s electric, it is less expensive to operate than a propane or gas heater. And you don’t have to keep changing the propane whenever the flame goes out.

The Hiland is safe to use indoors, not just outdoors.

Pros and Cons of Hiland HIL-1500DI Electric Patio Heater
ProsCons
At its lowest height, it can stand on a table and will still be over your head to warm you.The heating element is a fixed head and not adjustable.
Automatic overheat protection.Customers complain that the heater can trip a circuit breaker even if it is powered by a dedicated outlet.
Safety bars included.Some parts are plastic, making it flimsy.
Assembly required.
8-inch electrical cord is too short.

Kuton 1500 Watt Electric Mounted Patio Heater: Best Mounted Outdoor Heater

Kuton Mounted Patio heater

If there is a particular spot you know you'll need heated, a mounted heater may be the right choice for you, especially, if you don't have a lot of ground space or tabletop room.

Kuton's 1500 Watt Mounted Patio Heater gets the job done.

It comes with three heat settings, a remote control, and even has a safety features- automatic power shutoff if it overheats. It's also safe for indoor mounting and heating.

The best part of Kuton's mounted heater is rapid heat feature, so if you're freezing you don't have to wait long for the heater to warm up.

Pros and Cons of Kuton 1500 Watt Electric Mounted Patio Heater
ProsCons
InexpensiveMust be mounted to ceiling or wall by customer or professional.
Include remote control with timer and 3 heat settingsStationary--cannot swivel or move once mounted.
Good quality
Automatic safety shutoff

Star Patio 1500 Watt Electric Tabletop Patio Heater: Best Electric Tabletop Patio Heater

Star Patio tabletop heater

Tabletop heaters are ideal for dining out on a cool night.

We chose Star Patio's 1500 Watt Electric Tabletop Heater because it heats up to a diameter of 12 feet and can sufficiently warm up 4 to 5 people at a time.

We also like the safety features which include an automatic shutoff in case of a tip-over and an extra heavy base to prevent tip overs.

This heating unit is a no-frills unit that turns on and off simply with the yank of a chain. Its simple domed design also makes this a stylish choice for indoor or outdoor settings.

Pros and Cons of Star Patio 1500 Watt Electric Tabletop Heater
ProsCons
InexpensiveNo remote
Weather-resistantOnly one heat setting
Minimal Assembly
Safety features

How We Decided

A few considerations went into deciding which outdoor patio heater was going to make the cut.

These are important factors that most consumers would weigh when making a shopping decision.

We specifically looked for models of either heat source that were weather-resistant, had high BTUs, and had high surface coverage.

Price

Whenever possible we looked at the affordability of an outdoor heater. If a model costs $400 or more, we narrowed our list to include those that were under that cost, specifically targeting the $150 to $300 range.

It’s possible to get a patio heater that’s less than $150, but then you have to look at the details to see if the lower-priced models have the same or similar features in comparison to more expensive models.

These include portability and if the unit has safety features.

Safety

Obviously, when you are dealing with outdoor heaters, you need to consider how safe they are.

Electric heaters are generally safer than propane heaters because they were designed to be used in covered areas, such as a covered porch, and you can use them both indoors and out.

So, we considered heaters only if they were designed with safety in mind.

A few propane models were removed from our list if they were hot to the touch or delivered flames that were higher than normal.

If a model had a good amount of safety features, such as a tilt shut-off or automatic shutoff, we put it on our list.

Reviews

Real customer reviews are always an important consideration when choosing any product. We looked carefully not just at positive reviews but also negative ones to assess how well-rounded a heater is.

Durability

We focused on outdoor heaters that were made of durable materials. Most come in stainless steel or aluminum and since they are hard-wearing, we did not include heaters made from inferior materials.

Heating

How high can a patio heater get? With that in mind, we kept track of BTUs and wattage, as well as the claimed coverage area.

What Are Patio Heaters?

A patio heater is designed to heat up an outdoor space when the temperature drops, or on summer nights when the weather gets cooler.

Patio heaters use fuel (propane or gas) or electricity to provide heat.

A patio heater is also convenient.

If you get a model with wheels, you can easily move it around your outdoor space, such as when you want to move it from the garden so you can place it on your patio.

However, keep in mind that patio heaters are an expensive investment, and can cost around $200 or $300, and can go up to the thousands.

It’s not like the expensive models have special features.

Prices go up depending on how high the BTU is.

And the higher the BTU, the more heat the unit will give off.

There are many styles of patio heaters to choose from, with the most popular being the mushroom-shaped models you frequently see on restaurant patios.

But which patio heater should you get?

There are many considerations to be made.

Do you want a heater that covers more square footage to extend the heat?

What fuel type do you want to use? Propane or electric?

How safe is a patio heater?

Does it come with safety features like if the heater tips and it automatically shuts down?

Figuring Out What Size Heater You Need

Before you buy an outdoor heater, you need to decide on the size of the area you want to heat.

Look for a model that’s 200 square feet or more, which means a model that can heat your entire outdoor dinner party.

Patio heaters have a heat radius of 6-10 feet from the base of the heater, so you can gauge the amount of heat to each sitting area based on the proximity to the heater.

If it’s just you and a few friends covered in outdoor clothes on your patio, you possibly only need a table heater.

But if you’re dining out with a large group of family and friends on a long table and underneath a pergola, you’ll need a big freestanding outdoor heater or two standard ones, all of which will emit more heat than a table heater.

What are BTUs?

Patio heater output is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs. 

A BTU is a standard unit of measurement for heat.

For a patio heater, the BTU refers to the amount of heat that the heater can generate.

As mentioned earlier the higher the BTUs the higher heat output.

So, as a general rule, the higher the wattage or BTU, the better it is to heat or cover a large area.

And the more BTUs you have radiating, the warmer you’ll feel.

So look for an outdoor heater that has at least 1500 watts. This wattage comes standard in models that cost over $200, but you can still find that wattage in less expensive models.

The standard wattage that a heater comes with is 500, 1000, and 1500 watts.

What is Radiant Heat?

It’s best to get a model with radiant or infrared heat.

This means more heat coverage for you.

A radiant or infrared heat is when the heat comes out to absorb your clothes or skin without distributing it into the air that surrounds you, and where the air is constantly moving, such as wind.

But this only works if there are no obstacles in the way. Say you’re seated at a table and your upper body is warmer than your lower body.

That’s because the table is in the way. It will be stricken with infrared energy.

To eliminate this, don’t let furnishings get between you and the heat, and try to stay near the heat but not so close that you can almost feel the flame.

Electric vs. Propane

Before you buy, you need to determine the fuel type that heats your unit.

There are three fuel types on the market. Propane fuel, electric, and gas.

We focused on electric and propane-fueled heaters as both are the most common and user-friendly options.

In addition, both electric and propane heaters dominate the market.

Electric Outdoor Heaters

Customers choose electricity because these heaters offer ease of use, portability, and can be safe to use in enclosed spaces.

Electric heaters are a good choice because they are more reliable than propane-fueled heaters.

All you need to do is plug the heater into a standard 120-volt wall socket to make the heat work.

But keep in mind that some heaters may require higher voltage so they can create an abundance of heat at once.

The bad news is that if you have a heater that requires higher voltage, you need to hire a professional to have the wiring installed.

Electric is convenient, as there’s no need to refill a propane tank.

Electric patio heaters can be used both indoors and outdoors because they don’t require ventilation.

And since they create zero carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, they are good for the environment.

Unlike propane heaters, which needs ventilation because it gives off carbon dioxide.

However, electric has forced-air heat, which means the heater warms the air around it. To be effective, you need to be in front of the heater.

Electric heaters require little maintenance. A fuel-type heater needs to be inspected and cleaned to make sure that debris and bug nests, for example, are not blocking the burner or the burner screen.

Plus, the wind can easily blow out the burner.

The bad part about electric heaters is that they need to be close to an outlet.

Most homeowners don’t have an outlet outside, so you have to inconveniently plug a long cord into your interior outlet and extend it toward the outside where you then can plug the heater in.

Propane Outdoor Heater

A standard 20-pound propane tank (which is what you need, regardless of the model) lasts for about 10 hours.

That’s a short period, which means you have to keep buying more propane, which drives up the cost of your propane heater.

The good news is propane is easy to get. Most gas stations will offer propane tank exchanges.

More good news. No matter what the model or price, propane tanks come hidden in the base of the heater, which means they are not visible to you and your guests.

Propane emits more radiant heat than an electric model. It tends to cover more people, and if you put everyone in a circle, for example, the radiant heat will cover everyone.

The downside is that assembly and hook-up are required, and you can’t just plug it in like an electric heater.

Types of Patio Heater Models

Patio heaters come in different forms and models.

Freestanding patio heaters are the most popular and most wanted.

Free-standing heaters are easy to use and don’t require any special equipment to set them up.

They usually come with a pole and a top.

They have stable bases that allow them to stand on their own, and some models are adjustable so you can choose the height of the heater.

Below are the most commonly found ones.

Types of Outdoor Heaters
ModelDescriptions
FreestandingThe most popular and easiest to set up and place. They usually come with a stand, pole and top.
TabletopSmaller unit meant for smaller spaces.
MountedIntended to be a permanent unit installed by a professional.

Where Should You Place the Patio Heater?

If you want to be safe, you need to know the proper placement of your patio heater.

Electric patio heaters are designed to also work in covered areas, such as if you have some sort of covered space on your deck or patio. Other covered areas include screened porches and garages.

Garages typically have no heat source, so putting a patio heater inside of it is an added plus.

In contrast, propane heaters are designed for open spaces or uncovered patios and decks.

They are specifically designed for outdoor use.

That’s because the heat output of propane heaters produces carbon dioxide that can be harmful if you breathe it in.

So, your propane heater should be placed in a well-ventilated space.

In addition, you should keep your heater away from materials susceptible to flames, such as nearby bushes and trees, furniture, and outdoor pillows, to name a few.

Design and Materials

Freestanding patio heaters come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

But two different designs are the most popular and most coveted.

They are the mushroom-top outdoor heater or the pyramid tower heater.

Some pyramid towers have a dancing flame in a pyramid column, allowing for a beautiful glow that’s sure to be a conversation piece.

The mushroom top heater is what you’ll see in restaurants that have outdoor seating. In this way, if you buy the same one, you know you are getting a professional quality heater that will last for years.

Whatever design you choose, your patio heater is usually constructed from steel or aluminum and has weighted bases (for sand, for example), so that they don’t tip over or fly away.

How Much Do Patio Heaters Cost?

Prices range from $150 to upwards of $2,000.

At $150, you can get a patio heater that covers around 100 square feet.

But you don’t have to spend a lot to get the best heater.

We found a model that we put on our list that costs less than $70.00 and was comparable in quality and in features (such as safety measures) to a model that costs around $250.

Safety

Obviously, because we're discussing an appliance that gives off heat, it's always critical to consider safety features.

Safety Approvals

Look for heaters that have been approved for safety.

UL- and CSA-tested are common safety approvals.

These heaters have been evaluated to ensure all safety requirements have been met.  

Safety Features

The best outdoor heaters have safety features.

The last thing you want is combustible materials near the heater that can catch fire.

Here are some examples.

If the heater gets knocked over, a tilt shut-off valve will shut off the heater.

Some models come with anchor ports that you can nail to the ground so the heater won’t move.

Automatic Shutoff

A switch on the heater shuts it down if it gets too hot and becomes a fire hazard. 

Cool-Touch Glass

This is recommended if you have kids or pets. A cool-touch glass heater makes it safe to use around your children and dog.

Stable Surface

Keep in mind that you should place your patio heater on a level and stable surface, like directly on your patio or deck.

Is Your Heater a Fire Hazard?

If your heater has bursting flames and is hotter than usual, this is an unsafe heater and a fire hazard.

If the heater is new or fairly new, you should return it and get a refund.

And the fire should not cause burns when handled.

Also, the ignition switch should be easy to handle and should not hurt the skin.

And remember to never leave your heater on when unattended.