Best patio heaters 2019: heat up your garden parties

Best Patio Heaters 2019 - Propane, Gas, Electric Heater Reviews

If you are looking for a way to heat-up your garden parties, and extend them well into the nite, a patio heater is a great option. The best patio heaters will not only keep your guests warm, but are also decorative and functional. This practical, yet aesthetic approach make them an ideal outdoor heater. They’ll not only give your guests a warm reception, but something to talk about. 

As there are so many types of patio heaters. You can buy freestanding patio heaters that run on gas, electric patio heaters that go on walls or table top patio heaters. It can be confusing and hard to find the outdoor heater that suits your needs. 

This guide will talk you through the types of patio, detailing their strengths and weakness when compared to each. So, if you’ve ever wondered about the differences between a freestanding patio heater and wall-mounted model, or if the best patio heater is fueled by gas or electric, this guide will answer your questions. We have also collated some of the best patio heater brands and models on the market to help your search. 

If you are in a hurry, we can recommend AZ’s HLDSO1 patio heater. This is a budget model, but as it is a freestanding, gas patio heater it is super versatile. This outdoor heater can be moved around, placed anywhere easily and for a low price - it’s the ideal way to warm up a party, without cutting into the drink’s budget.

Best Value

AZ HLDS01

AZ HLDS01

Affordable
Adjustable built-in table
Six-foot heating radius
Can be hard to assemble
Vulnerable to the elements
One-year warranty

Our analysis of products available from AZ Patio Heaters showed there was one clear winner from their catalogue for value - the HDLS01. The HDLS01 is a freestanding patio heater that is easy to move around. These patio heaters are available in six colors including black, stainless steel and two variations each of silver and bronze.

This 87-inch propane patio heater can produce 40,000 BTU and heat an area of six feet away from the main unit. This is smaller than the heating range of some premium patio heaters, but is an excellent range for a budget patio heater. This heater has an adjustable built-in table for guests, in case you and your guests want to gather around the heater for warmth.

People who have bought this patio heater have reported that they found assembly process a little difficult, and had to follow the guide carefully. This AZ patio heater needs to be kept away from moisture when not in use as it can rust, and you can extend the life of your heater by buying a cover. This heater only has a one-year warranty, which is the standard length many brands offer. Fortunately, you can buy replacement parts from AZ Patio Heaters, which means you can replace parts as they wear out. AZ Patio Heaters also sells other types of heaters, including pyramid, mounted and tabletop models.

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Best Premium

Sunglo A242

Sunglo A242

Natural gas models available
Slim profile
Six-foot heating radius
Expensive
Must place near natural gas outlet
One-year warranty

The Sunglo line of patio heaters has been around since 1961 and includes four models, which each come in a variety of finishes including stainless steel, black, green and bronze. These are expensive patio heaters compared to most of the market, costing over $1,000 on average, though they aren't as expensive as some models from Calcana.

Of the Sunglo models we looked at, we liked the A242 because it is a natural gas patio heater. This makes it an excellent option if you want a slim profile and have a more permanent place for it on your patio. However, you can also get slightly more portable models that use propane instead. The A242 is a freestanding patio heater that can produce up to 50,000 BTU of heat.

To prevent someone from tipping it over, you can buy a tie-down kit to secure it in place. Under average weather conditions, you can place multiple A242 heaters 12 feet apart, as they have a heating radius of about six feet each.

The biggest limitation to this patio heater is that needs to be connected to a natural gas fuel source that is within 20 feet of the unit. This limits the placement of the outdoor heater significantly. The company only offers a one-year warranty on the heaters it sells.

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Best Electric

Infratech WD4024SS

Infratech WD4024SS

Permanent installation
Don't need to refill propane tanks
Remote control
Professional installation recommended
Large models increase electric bill
One-year warranty

nfratech electric patio heaters are an excellent option if you want to heat a sheltered patio without using liquid fuel. These heaters can be mounted on a wall or ceiling and are connected to your home's electrical system. The design blends into its surroundings and doesn't take up any space on the patio itself, though they aren't portable like freestanding patio heaters are.

These electric heaters include remote controls, which make them more convenient than patio heaters that use propane or natural gas. You also don't need to remember to fill up fuel tanks like on propane-powered patio heaters. Infratech's WD series of heaters start at 3,000 watts, though you can get models with up to 6,000 watts or heating power, but these larger models will have a significant effect on your electric bill.

Although it's possible to install these heaters on your own, it's a good idea to hire an electrician to avoid making costly and dangerous mistakes. Since most Infratech heaters mount on to a ceiling or wall, they'll be protected from moisture better than freestanding models. Infratech's patio heaters only have a one-year warranty, which is average among the patio heaters we looked at.

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Widest Selection of Patio Heaters

Fire Sense 60697

Fire Sense 60697

Wide variety of propane and electric heaters in many styles.
No natural gas options.

Fire Sense has the widest variety of best-selling outdoor heaters available, ranging from freestanding patio heaters to a healthy selection of hanging, mounted and tabletop heaters.
Most models have multiple colors to choose from including black powder, copper, bronze and aqua blue to mention a few.

Unfortunately, Fire Sense does not make natural gas patio heaters, but they do have propane and electric models. Propane is great for areas without easy electrical access, such as patios, campsites or picnic areas. Electric heaters are best for having nearer to your home and doesn’t require a fuel tank to be refilled. We recommend buying a matching protective cover if you are going to leave your patio heater out year-round as the elements will take their toll on the heater and its more delicate parts.

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Best for Commercial Use

Solaira Cosy SCOSYAW15120B

Solaira Cosy SCOSYAW15120B

Mounted heaters are designed to blend in with your décor.
Most units have smaller heating areas.

Solaira’s mountable models are designed to provide warmth while staying out of the way. The ICR line can be mounted as low as 4.5 above the ground, but you’ll most likely want to install it higher to increase the heating radius. Speaking of heating radius, our research has shown that while the Solaira outdoor patio heaters provide excellent warmth, they generally have a lower coverage area compared to other brands of heaters. Solaira does have a freestanding model that stands 7.5 feet tall and it’s necessary to make sure you have a ceiling clearance of at least 12 feet if used on a covered patio.

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Why trust us?  

For the last four years we've tested fans and programmable thermostats in our lab at Top Ten Reviews. Through these tests, we've gained valuable experience that helps us reach our conclusions concerning other heating and cooling equipment, including patio heaters. As we test, we hold ourselves to precise standards, mainly centering on value and convenience. We design our tests to match consumer expectations and not those of product designers.

When, as in the case with patio heaters, we can't test the product in person, we use the same attention to detail to verify our research and interview industry professionals so our informational guides echo the mission of Top Ten Reviews.

How we evaluated

We've studied and evaluated patio heaters for the last five years. We researched 10 major patio heater brands and assessed the specifications of multiple models from each brand. Due to installation requirements, we don't test patio heaters in-house at Top Ten Reviews. Instead, we provide helpful information about each brand to help you know what's available. We also provide advice on the many types of patio heaters and the fuel sources they use. The conclusions we reached come from years of experience, evaluations and product testing in other categories we review.

What does a patio heater cost?

The cost of a patio heater varies greatly. Prices fluctuate depending on the type of patio heater, and the fuel it uses. Other factors that can affect price is the area it heats, the built in features and even how it is installed. The only way to tell if a heater is good value for the options and benefits it provides is by comparing it to other patio heaters on the market. 

For example an attractive patio heater that stands 87-inches tall, that has a small table where you can set drinks built-in, can cost about $135.00, while a ceiling mounted gas heater can run closer to $2,400. 

To know the true cost of a patio heater, you should also be aware of the installation cost and the operational costs. The installation cost will vary depending on whether it is a natural gas patio heater, or an electric model. The operational costs  will vary depending on what your local electrical or gas company charges, as well as how often you use your patio heater.

Are patio heaters safe to use indoors?

No. 

Never. 

Never use a patio heater indoors. 

Patio heaters are designed to be used outside, especially the propane and natural gas models. According to Air-n-Water.com, burning propane creates a byproduct: carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a tasteless, odorless gas that can replace oxygen in human blood. This leads to carbon monoxide poisoning. When you use a propane-powered patio heater outdoors, there is enough ventilation for the carbon monoxide exhaust to dissipate, but if you use it indoors, you run a high risk of introducing unsafe amounts of CO into your home. Again, don't use a patio heater indoors.

One way you can monitor your home for carbon monoxide is to install CO detectors. We've tested the latest smart smoke detectors, and our top choice, the Nest Protect, has built-in carbon monoxide detectors to help keep your family safe. You can read our full in-depth Nest Protect review

Types of patio heaters

The type of patio heater varies in a few ways. Firstly there is installation type, which is basically how and where you put the patio heater. As the installation type of patio heater does have an impact on the fuel type, we’ll review the advantages and disadvantages of these first. 

Freestanding patio heaters

What are freestanding patio heaters? 

Freestanding patio heaters are outdoor heaters that don’t need any kind of mounting, or table. They can stand directly on the floor. These models are usually designed to be tall, tower style heaters that are weighted at the base. These patio heaters can be tucked in the corner of a patio, or between your lounge chairs without fear of falling or tipping. Freestanding patio heaters often have a sleek, stylish lamp like design, that not only warms up the party, but provides the perfect mood lighting. Although, pyramid patio heaters are still popular. 

What are domes on freestanding patio heaters? 

A dome is basically the metal cap you find on top of patio heaters. This metal dome reflects the heat that the patio heater generates. The amount of domes built into a free standing patio heater determines both the maximum heat output of the device, as well as, its heat distribution. 

Single domed freestanding patio heaters are usually the most affordable option, but in all other regards are less advantageous than patio heaters with triple domes. Single domed patio heaters distribute weight downwards, and usually in one direction. They are not as powerful, and are better for smaller patio spaces. 

Triple domed patio heaters are more efficient and distribute a greater amount of heat. As they have three domes reflecting the heat, there is a wider distribution of heat, across a wider range of angles. These are good for warming a larger area. 

What are the advantages of a freestanding patio heater? 

Freestanding patio heaters are versatile and easier to move around when compared to other types of patio heaters that require fixed points. As they are designed to be freestanding, this allows you to place them anywhere in the room - you need any table-tops or wall space. The majority of freestanding patio heaters are designed to be totally installation free - meaning they are powered by discreetly hidden propane gas tanks in the base. This means they can be set-up anywhere and can be moved when redesigning a space. Due to the unattached, easy placement they are often the most ideal patio heater for commercial spaces. 

Freestanding models are often more decorative and better as mood lighting than wall mounted patio heaters that are more like spot-lights. If you are looking for something decorative to give your patio that little extra sparkle table-top or freestanding patio heaters are the way to go. 

Freestanding patio heaters also have a great amount of features that transform them from just a heater, to a functional piece of furniture, like in-built tables to hold guest’s drinks. This makes them a pratical, and decorative heater to gather around. 

Generally, freestanding patio heaters provide a greater amount of heat - as some of them are designed to stand discreetly in the corner. As such they are great ways to provide warmth to an entire room. They are the most effective at heating entire patios. 

What are the disadvantages of a freestanding patio heaters? 

Although freestanding patio heater can be placed anywhere, and can be moved with room redesigns for busy parties or events, they are heavy pieces of equipment to move. Often the weight of these devices means it is a two person job to move. Some models do come with built in wheels that make it easier to move around. 

Freestanding patio heaters are usually harder to assemble than other models. This is largely due to them being bigger than table-top patio heaters and not needing an installer to connect them to natural gas pipes or electricity. 

As most freestanding patio heaters are fueled by propane tanks the running costs are usually higher than other models, and does depend on fuel that fluctuates in price. 

The base of free-standing patio models are flat, and as such, they need level ground to rest on. This means they are best on flat, even surfaces - they tend to be a little unstable on even, bumpy surfaces.  

Is the best patio heater for me? 

We’d recommend this model to people that have a large patio area to heat. It is the best patio heater for commercial spaces that are often redesigned for events and functions. It is also the best type of patio heater for people that like aesthetic designs and eye pleasing patios. This is also the type of patio heater you want if you don’t have power supplies near the outdoor area you are heating. 

Wall-mounted patio heaters

What are wall mounted patio heaters? 

Wall mounted patio heaters are fixed onto walls or ceilings. They often look like strip lights, or spot lights and do provide a gentle lighting to an area as well as heat. These patio heaters use infrared to produce light and heat. As they are fixed to the wall they are often powered by electricity (although a small number of gas powered models are available), and connected to the mains of the house. The patio heater is attached to a wall bracket that allows them to adjust the angle of the heat and light. 

What are the advantages of wall-mounted patio heaters?

Wall-mounted patio heaters are discreet, and great for small patio or decking areas where there is not a lot of space for bigger outdoor heating options. They are also ideal for areas where freestanding patio heaters are a little unsafe to use, like on patio compromised to small loose stones, or for gardens where there is a natural slope. 

As these patio heaters are mounted on the wall they are a very safe outdoor heating option, especially around younger children that like to poke their fingers into things. Wall-mounted patio heaters will lower the potential of any party guest stumbling into the heat source by accident. 

Wall-mounted patio heaters are mounted on adjustable brackets, that allow you to target the direction of the heat and light. This means the flow and angles at which they distribute the heat are more versatile than freestanding patio heaters. The also come with a great range of ease of use features, like a remote control.

As the wall-mounted patio heaters are usually plugged into the electrics of a house they are less expensive to run than propane models. It also means they require less upkeep, as you don’t have to check tanks or buy a separate source of fuel to run them. 

A few sellers also suggest that wall-mounted patio heaters are good for your health as there are a few medical studies that have found health benefits connected to infrared light. How reliable this is, and beneficial it will be in patio heaters is questionable. 

What are the disadvantages of wall mounted patio heaters? 

When compared to other types of patio heaters, wall-mounted patio produce the lowest amount of heat, but you can usually use them in closer proximity than larger heaters. This is why they are more suited to small spaces where space is at a premium. 

Although wall-mounted patio heaters require less maintenance, it doesn’t mean they require no maintenance. As they use infrared light they have to use a special bulb, that needs to be replaced every two to three years. 

Wall-mounted patio heaters may require installation. We recommend that you hire a qualified installer, especially when it comes to writing them into the electrics or gas.  

These patio heaters are fixed to the wall. This means they are less portable than other types of patio heaters. 

Is this the best patio heater for me? 

Wall-mounted patio heaters are best for people that want to keep heat sources away from pets and children. They are also fantastic for small spaces that don’t require a lot of heat, and have tight requirements. 

Table top patio heaters

What are table top patio heater? 

Table top patio heaters are smaller versions of freestanding models that are designed to be placed on table. They are small, light-weight and portable - but don’t produce the same heat as the bigger models. They are a great way to decorate a table top, and can give the patio an eye pleasing finish. 

The advantages of table top patio heater?

These type of patio heaters are ideal for heating and lighting a small romantic meal or a family get together under the stars. They provide enough heat to keep the whole table warm and toasty. They are also decorative, as well as, functional. 

As table top patio heaters are light weight, free standing, and often free of restrictive installation options and can be used on any table top. These small, lightweight patio heaters are so portable that you can take them out on picnics and countryside adventures. They are ideal for astronomers that love star-gazing at night. 

The disadvantages of table top patio heaters?

They don’t produce as much heat or light as the bigger freestanding patio heaters. But this isn’t that much of a disadvantage, as the heater is normally placed on a table, it is usually in closer proximity to guests - meaning they are closer to the heat. So, it doesn’t need to heat up big areas. 

Is this the best patio heater for me? 

Get this patio heater if you want to warm up a small area for an intimate dining setting or you want a small outdoor heater that is portable and lightweight. 

Hanging patio heaters

What are hanging patio heaters? 

Hanging outdoor heaters need to be suspended from a roof, so are limited to using them in places like covered patios, gazebos and other covered spaces. They’re also useful as space heaters in enclosed areas like garages and tool sheds. 

The advantages of a hanging patio heater

Hanging patio heaters are great at distributing heat evenly throughout the surrounding area. This means you get a good level of heat in a small area. 

Since they sit off the ground, they don’t take up valuable space like freestanding and tabletop heaters. Although, depending on the ceiling height, this could be disadvantageous to tall people. 

Hanging patio heaters can be very decorative. Some have elaborate designs like chandlers that provide a beautiful setting. This is great for a patio or decking where you regularly eat evening meals. 

When hung over a table they can create fantastic mood lighting, and will keep everyone at the table warm. This is fantastic for small tables that doesn’t have room for a table top heater. 

The disadvantages of hanging patio heater

Hanging patio heaters distribute heat in a very narrow channel, downwards from the shade. This means it only heats a small area. 

Much like wall-mount patio heaters, they are immobile once fitted to the ceiling. So these patio heaters are only good for small, static areas where furnishings are not moved often. Unlike walls-mount patio heaters they are not adjustable and so have very narrow channels of heat in comparison, that are focused downward. 

Hanging patio heaters are best for smaller spaces. They can also only be used in garden areas where there is a roof or ceiling. This means that they have a very limited area of use. 

Is this the best patio heater for me? 

This is the best patio heater for small, enclosed areas. It is great for small intimate settings, and they can be very decorative. 

Patio heater fuel types

Just as type of patio heater has advantages and disadvantages, so does the fuel type. 

Propane patio heaters

This type of outdoor heater connects to a propane tank to power the warming element. You can buy propane tanks at many local stores, and all you need to do is connect the tank to the propane patio heater, turn on the valve and ignite the element. The best outdoor propane heaters provide 10 hours of warming power per 20-pound tank.

Natural gas patio heaters

These patio heaters are a good choice for customers who have access to a natural gas line. They’re easier to use and less expensive than propane heaters because you don’t have to buy and swap out tanks regularly. However, because they must be connected to a natural gas source, you’re limited to where you can place them on your patio or in your yard. The tradeoff is that you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel or changing a tank.

Electric patio heaters

Electric outdoor heaters are convenient because they don’t require special fuel. There are no tanks and no special lines – you can simply plug them into the outlets in your home. They’re more portable than propane patio heaters because they aren’t weighed down by a tank and more convenient than natural gas heaters since you don’t need a special connection for fuel. However, like most space heaters, they can run up your electricity bill quickly, and you can only place them as far away from an outlet as their cord or an extension cord allows. 

Patio heaters vs. fire pits 

What is a fire pit? 

A fire pit is an alternative outdoor heater over patio heaters. The majority of fire pits are a permanent inbuilt feature that is used to burn wood, although there are natural gas using alternative available. They are usually built into the patio area or garden as a feature. 

Why is patio heater better than a fire pit? 

Even the installed and fixed patio heaters are less fixed than a fire pit. Usually a fire pit is the centerpiece of a patio, and can’t be removed or moved. This means they are a lost less versatile and flexible than a patio heater. So, if you like rearranging things, a patio heater might be the best option. 

A wood burning fire pit will also produce a lot of smoke, which can make your curtains and clothes smell. If you don’t want smoke wafting into your house everytime you want to enjoy a nice under the stars, a patio heater is a better option. 

Fire pits also require a lot more space than a patio heater, and depending on the type and build can be more expensive. 

Why is a fire pit better than a patio heater? 

A fire pit is often more decorative, more durable, and produces a greater amount of heat than a patio heater. We would recommend a fire pit for gardens that have a lot of space, for people who want a centerpiece for their garden that is functional and decorative.

Safety tips

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.

BTU sizing guide for patio heaters

BTU (British Thermal Units) are used to measure the amount of heat a patio heater generates. As rough guide a 40,000 BTU patio heater will heat a 20 foot-diameter. A twenty pound propane tank will usually fuel a patio heater of this size for 12 hours. A 30,000 BTU patio heater will heat an 8 to 10 foot-diameter. 

Get decorative with a patio heater

A patio heater is not just for a functional purpose, but a decorative one. The online publication Trendir, which chronicles developments in modern home design and decorating, has hailed the move toward more diverse, imaginative and aesthetically appealing patio heaters.

“When the first mushroom-topped residential outdoor space heaters arrived on the market – we were all so happy that we could heat up our patio and sit outside later into the season. It was a way to stay warm without putting a bonfire together. No one worried about the design. That’s certainly changed and for the better! Disguised as lamps, disguised as tables – what will they think of next? There’s an outdoor space heater for every patio and yard, no matter what style you call your own,“ according to Trendir.

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