Three best patio heaters
If you have a pleasant patio or gorgeous garden, it's a shame you can't enjoy it for months out of the year when it's too cold to sit outside for more than a few minutes. But with the right patio heater, you can extend the months in which you can partake of alfresco dining or backyard gatherings.
With the right patio heater, there's no reason to spend the winter cooped up indoors. However, picking the best heater can seem daunting, especially for first-time buyers. With a huge variety of makes, models, and varieties to pick from, you might struggle to find one that fits your requirements.
Well, here's the good news: the team at BestReviews has done extensive research on patio heaters to aid you in finding the best one for you. Read on and you'll soon be enjoying more outdoor time, whatever the weather.
Considerations when choosing patio heaters
Types of patio heaters
The first thing you need to consider is what type of patio heater you require. Most patio heaters are either full-size or tabletop, but you can also find some that hang or mount onto the wall.
Full-size patio heaters: Tall and completely freestanding, full-size patio heaters tend to be the most powerful option, so they're ideal for use well into the coldest winter months or if you need to heat a large area. They're powered by large gas canisters.
Full-size patio heater prices: The price you pay will depend on the size, heat output, and overall quality. Most full-size heaters cost between $100 and $500. The very best models have the best range, but you can find excellent mid-range options for $150 to $250.
Tabletop patio heaters: Tabletop patio heaters usually look similar to their full-size counterparts but are much smaller -- around two to three feet tall -- and sit on a tabletop rather than on the ground. They're powerful enough to warm everyone at the table, but not much beyond, so these heaters are better for smaller gatherings or outdoor dining. Tabletop heaters can be powered by gas or electricity.
Tabletop patio heater prices: Tabletop heaters cost around $75 to $200, but you can find plenty of decent models around the $100 mark.
Other patio heaters: Some patio heaters don't fit into either category. Common offerings include hanging patio heaters and wall-mounted patio heaters. More often than not, these types need to be plugged into a power outlet or hardwired in.
Other patio heater prices: Hanging and wall-mounted heaters can cost anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the model you choose.
Patio heater features
The vast majority of patio heaters run off either liquid petroleum gas (LPG) canisters or electricity. Both options have their pros and cons.
Gas: Gas patio heaters are entirely portable because they don't need any kind of mains connection. They are effective at heating large areas. On the downside, gas heaters can take longer to warm up, and not everyone likes dealing with gas canisters.
Electric: Once an electric patio heater is set up, it's extremely easy to use, plus it can be used in enclosed spaces because there's no risk from carbon monoxide. On the downside, you need to position an electric heater close to a power outlet or have it hardwired.
Radiant vs. convection heat
When searching for a patio heater, you might hear the terms "radiant heat" and "convection heat," but what do they mean?
Radiant heat: This is what electric patio heaters put out. While it warms objects and people in the surrounding area, it doesn't actually warm the air, so you generally need to be quite close to feel its effects.
Convection heat: Gas-powered patio heaters emit convection heat. This type of heat warms the air, which in turn makes you feel warmer. As such, it can take a little longer to feel its effects, but the range is better.
The heat output of gas patio heaters is listed in British thermal units (BTU), whereas the heat output of electric patio heaters is measured in watts. It can be tough to know what this means just by looking at the figures, however. Your requirements might vary depending on the size of the space you want to heat, but an average full-size gas heater puts out at least 40,000 BTU, and a tabletop model puts out at least 10,000 BTU. Look for electric heaters of at least 1,000 to 1,500 watts.
The effective range of a patio heater is the radius that will feel the effects of the heater. A tabletop heater might have a range of five to eight feet, while a full-size model might be able to heat a range of 15 to 20 feet. Bear in mind that it will generally be warmer the closer you get to the heater. You won't get even heating over the entire area.
Consider the size of the area you need to heat. Before you buy a patio heater, measure the size of your patio. Most heaters indicate their effective range on the packaging.
Never use a gas heater indoors or in a semi-enclosed space. There's a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, so gas patio heaters should only be used outdoors.
Think about buying multiple patio heaters for large spaces. If you're serious about having a fully heated patio or other outdoor space, realize that you might need more than one heater to make your winter-warming dreams come true.
Prepare for some assembly. While you can find patio heaters that arrive fully assembled, many require some assembly, and a few full-size models are quite complicated to piece together. Enlist help, if needed, and make sure you have any necessary tools.
Be mindful of safety. While patio heaters are very safe when used according to the instructions, they still get hot. Make sure you don't touch them anywhere near the heating elements, and always supervise children around them.
Choose a patio heater on wheels. If you're buying a full-size patio heater, consider one on wheels. It will be much easier to move into position when you want to use it and back out of the way at other times.
Q. Are patio heaters easy to switch on and off?
A. Most modern patio heaters require no more than the press of a button or flick of a switch to ignite them or turn them on. That said, some starters for gas patio heaters require a battery, so you'll need to replace that every now and again to keep it starting smoothly.
Q. Can I leave my patio heater out all year round?
A. Patio heaters can be damaged by the elements. If you're going to keep your patio heater outside all year, we'd recommend buying a waterproof cover for it or covering it with a tarpaulin.
Q. What safety features should I look for on a patio heater?
A. Safety is paramount when you're dealing with a patio heater. Most models on the market today have a wide range of safety features. Some of the most important include auto shutoff (which automatically switches the heater off if it overheats or there's an issue with the wiring), anti-tilt protection (which switches the heater off if it tilts too far so that it won't set fire to anything if it gets knocked or blown over), and cool-touch parts (which keep the heater cool to the touch to avoid burns).
Products we recommend
Best of the best: AZ Patio Heaters Commercial Stainless Steel Glass Tube Patio Heater
Our take: Large, stable, and attractive, this patio heater provides plenty of heat and light for outdoor gatherings.
What we like: Impressive heat output and radius; wheels for easy transportation; variable control options.
What we dislike: The instruction manual isn't very clear, which makes assembly tricky.
Best bang for your buck: Dyna-Glo Premium Hammered Bronze Patio Heater
Our take: This patio heater comes at an extremely reasonable price considering its impressive 48,000 BTU output.
What we like: Anti-tilt safety device; weighted base for stability; gas canister is easy to install.
What we dislike: Some users report it often fails to light on first attempt.
Choice 3: Fire Sense Commercial Patio Heater
Our take: Heavy-duty construction and good heat output make this patio heater an excellent choice.
What we like: Offers good value for money; 42,000 BTU output; 18-foot range.
What we dislike: Can tip in high winds; could use a heavier base.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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