The best patio heater will be made with quality materials, but more importantly, will throw out enough heat to keep you warm on a chilly summer’s evening. Even after a balmy barbecue on your gas grill, the weather can turn a little chilly and one of the best outdoor heaters is ideal for keeping you warm.
Patio heaters may seem like a fairly simple thing to choose, but there are few things to consider before you part with your cash. When it comes to the different types of patio heaters, each has its own benefits. There are electric patio heaters, propane, and tabletop patio heaters which do vary in power and size.
The power of each patio heater, and essentially how warm it’s going to keep you, is measured in British Thermal Units (or BTU for short). The higher the BTU, the more heat it’s going to give out. Generally speaking, the best propane patio heaters have a BTU of 40,000 or above. Electric patio heaters can be measured in watts or BTU and tend to range anywhere from 5,000 to 14,000 BTU.
Tabletop patio heaters will have a smaller BTU, but that’s purely down to them being a lot smaller than a freestanding patio heater.
So, we’ve established that if you’re looking for power, propane is normally your best bet but you will need to factor in replacing the fuel, and take note of the emissions they give out. Electric heaters tend to cost more and you’ll need an electrical socket nearby, but you won’t need to keep buying fuel after your initial purchase.
How much do patio heaters cost? The patio heaters in our guide range from around $70 up to nearly $600. Whatever your budget, look for the highest BTU that you can afford.
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. Endless Summer Triple Dome Patio Heater: Best heat coverage patio heater
Proof that innovative design and engineering can have as much impact on performance as raw power, the Endless Summer Triple Dome Patio Heater works its 40,000 BTU output hard. This high-end freestanding patio heater offers the best heat coverage of any patio heater we looked at. It's powered by a standard 20-pound propane tank, but its innovative triple-dome design and ceramic-cone-lined emitter ensure efficient heat distribution, while minimising wasted heat.
This outdoor heater is significantly more expensive than the other freestanding patio heaters on this list, but Endless Summer promises up to 400 square feet of coverage – so if you have a large area to heat, this is one of the best patio heaters there is.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Ener-G+ Infrared Tabletop Electric Patio Heater: Best eco-friendly
The most eco-friendly patio heater we looked at is the Ener-G+ Infrared Tabletop Electric Patio Heater. It builds an efficient, economical infrared heater into the base of an attractive bistro-style table – complete with LED lighting in the top for added ambiance.
If you have a small patio or balcony that's short on floor space, and you prefer a clean, modern look and feel, this is a great patio heater. Given that the heat source comes from below, your feet and legs will be warmed up first, making this patio heater perfect for sitting outside for a drink on a cool night, without the need to waste energy heating the whole area.
9. 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
10. 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.