The best patio heaters are a 2020 essential. These outdoor heaters make it possible for you to extend your evenings in the yard. Many of the best patio heaters also give off light that can illuminate your evenings without the need for individual patio lights. We’ve included the best propane patio heaters in this guide, and they’ll work well in commercial spaces and smaller yards. We’ve also found the best electric patio heaters for small-scale use, and these heaters don’t need to be used overhead, meaning you can place them on your wall for easier installation.
Patio heaters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and you can place them inside a garden parasol for year-round use. When buying the best patio heaters you should consider the strength you need. This is measured in BTU (British Thermal Units), and the more BTU a patio heater offers, the more heat it will give off.
You don’t need to spend a lot to get one of the top-rated patio heaters of 2020. There are some affordable tabletop patio heaters that will work perfectly for entertaining in the evenings or extending cocktail hour this festive season. We’ve also found some high-end patio heaters with enough BTU to warm a larger space, suitable for even commercial areas. These heaters even offer some ambiance through smart designs. The Thermo Tiki Deluxe Patio Heater has a sleek dancing flame design that generates both light and heat.
1. Fire Sense Commercial Patio Heater: Best patio heater overall
Our pick for best patio heater overall is the Fire Sense Commercial Patio Heater. A sturdy freestanding outdoor heater powered by a standard 20-pound propane tank, its 46,000 BTU of heat will heat up to 225 square feet of patio, according to Fire Sense.
Constructed from commercial-grade steel, the Fire Sense Commercial Patio Heater is available in an extensive range of different finishes to complement your patio décor, including Aqua Blue, Matte Black and Hammered Mocha/Bronze.
Its Piezo electric ignition system makes lighting the patio heater as simple as pushing a button, but a particular selling point is the 'Pilotless' Burner System, which is more reliable in windy conditions and also reduces fuel wastage.
2. AmazonBasics Commercial Outdoor Patio Heater: Best value patio heater
If you're set on buying a freestanding propane patio heater but have a relatively tight budget, you can't go far wrong with the AmazonBasics Commercial Outdoor Patio Heater. We think it's the one of the best value patio heaters around.
Closely matching the size, style and power of similar outdoor heaters, such as the Fire Sense Commercial Patio Heater above, this affordable option has the most detailed customer feedback of any patio heater on this list, with well over 1,000 reviews on Amazon.
While the volume of feedback inevitably means more negative points are highlighted, users are generally pleasantly surprised by its performance, especially considering the price and 'Basics' brand positioning.
3. Bromic Smart-Heat Electric Patio Heater: Best efficient patio heater
Our pick for best high-end patio heater isn't the most expensive option on this list, but we recommend the Bromic Smart-Heat Electric Patio Heater for its winning balance of power, eco-friendliness, and quality of design and build.
Available in four different models, from 2000W to an impressive 6000W, the wall-mounted Bromic Smart-Heat Electric Patio Heater uses state-of-the-art infrared radiant elements to provide efficient directional heating for your patio.
Bear in mind that this outdoor heater generates less heat than propane. It needs access to an electrical socket, too. But it's efficient at heating spaces, and we love its sleek, modern design.
As well as the excellent Smart-Heat range, Bromic has also introduced an ultra-thin, premium Platinum range to take an already high-end patio heater to the next level. Both ranges include gas-powered units too.
4. Hiland Parasol Electric Patio Heater: Best affordable patio heater
If you have outdoor seating with a parasol, and would like to extend its use into the cooler months, the Hiland Parasol Electric is an excellent patio heater to consider. Produced by well-known brand AZ Patio Heaters, it's very discreet, fixing neatly onto your parasol pole, and offers variable temperature control.
Bear in mind that the Hiland Parasol Electric Patio Heater is designed to add some extra warmth in a very specific area beneath the parasol canopy, rather than to heat a larger space. However, if that's exactly what you need, it's a very effective and affordable outdoor patio heater.
5. Fire Sense Table Top Patio Heater: Best tabletop patio heater
Need a smaller outdoor heater that can sit neatly on your patio table, rather than taking up valuable floor space – or that can accompany you on camping trips or picnics? The Fire Sense Table Top Patio Heater ticks both boxes. It's one of the most portable patio heaters you can buy.
A scaled-down version of its freestanding cousin, the Fire Sense Table Top Patio Heater runs off a one-pound propane tank – although it is possible to hook it up to a larger tank if you prefer. It uses a lot of fuel, and isn't the most eco-friendly option, but at 10,000 BTU this patio heater also puts out a lot of heat relative to its size.
6. Thermo Tiki Deluxe Patio Heater: Best design patio heater
While heat output is clearly important, patio heaters can play an aesthetic as well as functional role in your outdoor space. This is where the Thermo Tiki Deluxe Patio Heater excels. Although this pyramid patio heater struggles to generate the same level of warmth as the other freestanding patio heaters on this list, the stylish, eye-catching 'dancing flame' feature is sure to attract attention and generates an atmospheric flickering light.
Like other pyramid-shaped patio heaters, the Thermo Tiki Deluxe Patio Heater puts style over substance to some extent. There are certainly more efficient ways of heating your patio. But if creating ambience is high up your list, this is one of the best patio heaters out there.
7. Sundate Electric Heater: Best affordable
If you have a tight budget and just need a simple, straightforward way to inject a little extra warmth into a small outdoor space, at under $150, the Sundate Electric Heater is more affordable than some of the patio heaters on the list. It can be used indoors, too, says the maker.
With three power settings from 500W to 1500W, this floor or wall-mounted unit will only heat the area directly in front of it. This makes it ideal for a balcony or enclosed patio where you're sitting underneath. However, for larger areas, you'll need to buy a number of these patio heaters, which will quickly escalate the cost. In that case, it would be more cost-effective to invest in a more powerful patio heater, like the Fire Sense Commercial Patio Heater above.
- Read our Sundate Electric Heater review
8. Sunglo A244 Suspended Patio Heater: Best long-lasting patio heater
From veteran patio heater brand Sunglo (est. 1961), this heavy-duty ceiling-mounted unit is a big-budget investment in your home. With an ornate wrought-iron frame and sturdy stainless steel burner, the Sunglo Model A244 Suspended Patio Heater requires a natural gas supply. This involves professional installation, making it a much more permanent fixture for your outdoor entertaining space than most of the others on this list.
A deep dish reflector creates efficient radiant heat that only warms people and objects, rather than the surrounding air – getting the most from this patio heater's impressive 50,000 BTU output. At over $1,200 for the basic model, however, it may be prohibitively expensive for many domestic customers. But if you've got the cash, this is one of the best patio heaters you can buy.
How to choose the best patio heater: Which type?
There are many types of patio heater to choose from. The main four varieties are:
- powerful freestanding units
- portable table top units
- ceiling-mounted, or hanging units
- wall-mounted units
Freestanding patio heaters tend to generate the most heat, often in the region of 40–50,000 BTU. Each BTU (British Thermal Unit) is the energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. They are a popular choice for heating whole patio areas, for larger groups.
We have included four freestanding patio heaters in our list, with prices ranging from under $150 to over $700. We have selected one model each from four different patio heater brands, but bear in mind that manufacturers offer similar heaters in several different styles. Our Fire Sense vs AZ Patio Heaters guide compares similar products from two particularly popular patio heater brands.
We have also reviewed two different 'table-top' patio heaters – a portable propane powered unit with an output of 10,000 BTU that sits on top of your table, and an innovative electric powered unit that is a table in itself. Both sit within a mid-range budget of $150-300 in terms of RRP, but are regularly discounted.
Ceiling-mounted patio heaters come in various configurations, and we've included two very different approaches catering to different extremes of budget. One is an electric unit for under $100 that fits inside your parasol; the second, top-of-the-range option is powered by natural gas, and is over $1,200 for the basic model.
Wall-mounted patio heaters provide directional heat for a small area, and tend to be significantly less powerful. They are usually electric, with 1500W (5,115 BTU) being a common output. Top-of-the-range units can be up to four times more powerful.
There are two wall-mounted patio heaters featured in our list below: a 1500W unit from Sundate for under $100, and a 4000W unit from Bromic for $700. Bear in mind that although one wall-mounted heater may be sufficient for a small enclosed area, if you have a large patio you may need multiple units so a more powerful heater may be a better investment.
How to choose the best patio heater: Which fuel?
Most freestanding patio heaters are propane powered, and will take a 20-pound tank. These are available at many local stores and supermarkets. You simply connect the tank, turn on the valve and ignite the heater. Run-time varies, but some patio heater brands promise up to 10 hours of operation on a single tank.
Natural gas patio heaters remove the need to keep purchasing and replacing tanks by connecting directly to the mains gas line, provided your property has one. While this makes them more expensive and time-consuming to install, and also restricts where they can be placed, they are cheaper to operate long-term.
Electric heaters are more eco-friendly than both their gas-powered counterparts, and generally cheaper to buy, and easier to operate. You just need to plug them in. But they also generate significantly less heat – even the top-of-the-range models – and need to be within reach of a power outlet.
How to choose the best patio heater: Which brand is best?
As our buying guide shows, different patio heater brands have particular strengths, and cater to different budgets, circumstances and priorities. Sunglo caters to larger budgets with ornate, traditional heaters, for instance, whereas Ener-G+ is more focussed on eco-friendly electrical heaters.
Bromic, meanwhile, offers a range of high-end patio heaters that run on both electric and gas power – but with a common factor of technical innovation with a slick, modern design aesthetic.
However the two most popular mid-range patio heater brands in the US – Fire Sense and AZ Patio Heaters – each offer an extensive and very similar range of products, and it can be difficult to choose which model is best for you in this category.
To make this task easier, we've provided a helpful Fire Sense vs AZ Patio Heaters guide, which will help you choose which brand is best for your particular needs.
Safety tips for using patio heaters
Using any heating device, especially one with an open flame, can be dangerous. “You want to make sure you can regulate the heat. That's an important part too. You don't want to overheat the room. Every day is a fire prevention day,” said Chief Michael Whitzel, with the Franklintown and Community Fire Company in York County, Pennsylvania to WHTM news.
“Make sure it has an automatic shut off on it, so if it does get tipped over, it shuts off for you,” Whitzel said. “Make sure you're plugging them into an outlet and not an extension cord if it's electric.”
Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room. For patio heaters, turning off the propane tank valve and making sure it is secured from tipping is a key safety point. Additionally, making sure you keep combustibles three feet or more away from the heater reduces the chances of fires significantly. Firefighter Robert Pomeroy, also with the Franklintown and Community Fire Company recommends following the heater's manufacturer guidelines, as well as keeping an eye on small children to keep them from burning themselves or knocking over the heater.