Best Outdoor Patio Heaters – What to Look For

Herbie the BBQ King

By Herbie

Looking for the Best Outdoor Patio Heaters

Why should your enjoyment of your outdoor living space be limited to balmy summer days when it can be all year round with the aid of the best outdoor patio heaters you can buy?

With an outdoor patio heater, you’ll be able to spend quality time on the patio with family and friends long after the summer has come and gone.

A patio heater will also serve as a fetching centerpiece that accentuates the aesthetics of your outdoor space.

Selecting from the best outdoor patio heaters can be quite challenging, considering the wide variety of styles and sizes that are available.

Not only that, but there are different fuel types that you’ll have to select from, not to mention safety features.

Why Should You Get an Outdoor Patio Heater?

Besides the obvious, which is providing warmth and aesthetic value, there are quite a few more reasons why you should consider an outdoor patio heater instead of a fireplace.

Apart from the comforting warmth on those Autumn nights, the ambience from an outdoor heater is hard to pass up.

I guess the hardest thing will be choosing from gas-fired, electric or wood-fired patio heaters, but that decision will most likely be based on price, running cost and availability to fuel types.

Here a few points to consider below before going out to purchase your new heater.

Radiant Heating

Radiant heating, also known as infrared heating, utilizes invisible energy waves to offer warmth to surrounding people and objects.

It’s very similar to how the sun radiates heat, but on a much smaller scale, of course.

The warmth you retain when you’re sitting around a patio heater is inherently photons touching your skin and transferring the energy they’re carrying in the form of heat.

What’s so advantageous about radiant heating is that it’s completely silent, which can’t be said about other methods of providing heat.

This means that you’ll be able to have conversations and play music without your heater drowning things out.

Another benefit is that the heat is provided almost instantly, so you don’t have to wait a few minutes in the cold before you get some heat.

Low Maintenance

Compared to fire pits and fireplaces, patio heaters require very minimal maintenance. Some of the maintenance tasks that you may need to carry out is check for leaks in the gas connections, make sure the burner is free of insects, check if there are any obstructions in the gas line, and check the propane levels in your tank, if you have a patio burner that runs on propane gas.

Durable Designs

Anything that’s designed for the outdoors should have a sturdy construction that can handle the extremity of the weather, which is why high-quality outdoor patio heaters are usually made from high-grade stainless steel and have resin tops to ensure durability.

There are also patio heaters that come equipped with covers that help protect them from moisture and damaging UV rays.

Even though they’re designed to sit in the outdoors all year long, I don’t recommend leaving the heater outside throughout the entire year, especially if you have an open patio that exposes the heater to the elements.

This is, of course, if you want to ensure maximum longevity. If you have an enclosed patio, on the other hand, you don’t have to worry about leaving the heater outside.

Clean Air Quality

With an electric outdoor patio heater, you don’t have to worry about the air quality getting compromised. Unlike fireplaces that utilize wood burning in order to produce heat, you won’t get any smoke or ash with a patio burner.

Also, patio burners don’t require as much cleaning and maintenance as fireplaces and fire pits with all of their soot and ash. Just make sure the gas lines are secured.

Different Fuel Types for Outdoor Patio Heaters

Selecting your ideal fuel type is the first challenge you’ll run into when in the market for a heater. You can select from four options: electricity, propane, natural gas, and wood. Each fuel features its positives and negatives, in addition to space considerations. Let’s examine their differences.

Electric Heaters

Outdoor electric heating infrared lamps under umbrella in street cafe

Electric patio heaters are probably the most convenient of the four types because they’re pretty low maintenance, especially when you compare them to their propane gas counterparts.

These models provide heat in a very short amount of time with the aid of a heating bulb.

These models use a standard residential outlet, so you can plug them into any 120v outlet in your house.

If you have an enclosed or partially-enclosed outdoor patio, an electric heater is the best choice since propane heaters aren’t recommended for enclosed spaces.

Unfortunately, electric heaters don’t have that flame effect found in commercial settings. Also, their need to be plugged into an electrical outlet can be a hassle and might require you to run a long electrical cord outside.

The range includes wall and ceiling mounted heaters and freestanding models.

So What’s the Difference?

Wall and ceiling mounted models

Don’t take up any floor space, low maintenance and easy to operate, designed for larger spaces and come in styles to suit most décor with the biggest drawback being they require professional installation.

Freestanding Models

Can be plugged into a normal power socket so no installation required, are portable and lightweight, can be packed away when not in use and suitable for smaller spaces.

Pros Cons

➢    Optimal choice for enclosed spaces

➢    Extremely easy to use and maintain

➢    Must be close to an electrical outlet

➢    Cost of use is pretty steep over time

➢    Slow to heat up compared to others

➢    May require installation

 

Propane Heaters

outdoor patio heasters in the street burning

Propane gas heaters are some of the simplest outdoor heaters to operate and they emit instant heat.

Most propane gas heaters come fully-assembled, but you may find models that require you to put them together yourself.

Propane heaters tend to feature a better range than electric heaters, so even if you’re sitting a few feet away from them, you’ll still be able to feel the warmth.

Most gas heaters have electronic ignition of some kind so that is a good thing to keep in mind when you are ready to purchase.

To operate a propane heater, you’ll need to use a gas tank. You can find a broad variety of gas tanks on the market, ranging from 1-pound tanks to 40-pound tanks.

Gas tanks are pretty easy to install, so you won’t need to phone a professional for help.

Some propane patio heaters use domes in order to emit heat in a circle as far as 20 feet away, but these are quite expensive.

I’ve also seen models that feature tile mantels where you can put drinks and other items. Unlike electric heaters, propane heaters flaunt that flame effect we all love, which adds to the aesthetic value that they provide.

The main disadvantage of propane heaters is that they can’t be used in enclosed spaces. Also, they require slightly more maintenance than their electric counterparts.

Pros Cons

➢    Excellent range and heats up quickly

➢    Uses gas tanks so it’s easy to move

➢    Doesn’t have an installation process

➢    Ability to adjust the temperature

➢    Not appropriate for enclosed spaces

➢    Propane is costlier than natural gas

➢    You’ll need to change tanks regularly

Natural Gas HeatersGas heaters on the veranda

Natural gas heaters have been getting lots of momentum as of late and are becoming extremely popular, mainly because they provide continuous heat and don’t require much maintenance.

For you to operate a natural gas heater, you simply attach it to a natural gas line and you’re good to go. It’s also worth pointing out that natural gas heaters are the least expensive to operate.

Like propane heaters, natural gas heaters are usually sold fully assembled. However, you’ll still need the help of a professional when it comes to setting up your natural gas line.

You also have to keep in mind that you won’t be able to move a natural gas heater as easily as a propane heater once it’s connected because it’ll be limited by the length of the natural gas line it’s connected to.

Another problem with natural gas heaters is that they can’t be used in enclosed spaces, so you can disregard them if you have an enclosed or partially enclosed patio.

On the bright side, they offer an outstanding range of heat that ranges from 23,600 to 43,000 BTUs, which is enough to heat spaces that range between 120 to 200 square feet. More on that further down the article.

Oh and whatever you do, Don’t use your propane tank on a natural gas heater as it will not work and can cause serious injury or worse.

Pros Cons

➢    Cheapest cost of use out of the four

➢    Pretty easy to operate and maintain

➢    Excellent range and heats up quickly

➢    Ability to adjust the temperature

➢    Not appropriate for enclosed spaces

➢    Movement is confined by the gas line

➢    Initial buying cost is pretty expensive

Wood Heaters

Fire pit and swimming pool

As the name implies, these are patio heaters that rely on burning wood in order to offer warmth. On one hand, they add to the atmosphere by displaying that burning effect, but on the other, it’s a lot harder to maintain these heaters considering the ash, soot, and smoke they release.

Further, the smoke that is produced by these outdoor heaters is a bit of a pain re; getting in your eyes and clothes etc.

Wood heaters are harder to operate than the above-mentioned types because they’re trickier to ignite and they’ll require you to keep feeding them wood for them to provide heat.

Moreover, it’s quite hard to control the level of heat they provide, especially on a windy day. Wood heaters are all about the aesthetics and the atmosphere, and some people value that the most.

Pros Cons

➢    Available at highly affordable prices

➢    Superb atmosphere and aesthetics

➢    Not appropriate for enclosed spaces

➢    Require very intensive maintenance

➢    Hard to ignite and maintain the flame

 

Safety Considerations

There are some location and safety considerations that you must keep in mind when looking for an outdoor patio heater. Like I already mentioned, wood-fired, propane and natural gas heaters are suitable for outdoor use only, so they shouldn’t be considered if you have an enclosed area. Further, it’s important to place your outdoor heater on a completely level surface to ensure safety.

Avoid positioning your patio heater in places that expose it to a lot of wind. Also, stay away from plants or low-hanging branches because they might catch fire.

When installing the heater, you’ll have to be mindful of the clearances, which are usually highlighted in the instruction manual.

And don’t forget if you want to move the heater or do some maintenance, you need to turn the heater off.

To ensure maximum safety, look for an outdoor patio heater that features automatic shutoff. This feature helps turn off the heater when it gets overly hot. Also, auto shut-off functionality is a common safety feature to have in case the heater is knocked over or bumped really hard.

If you have toddlers around, look for heaters with cool-touch glass, as they’re safer for inquisitive children and pets.

Lastly, you want to make sure the heater you’re about to buy is backed by safety approval standards in your state or country, such as the CSA or UL-tested approvals. These approvals ensure that the heater has been evaluated and has met all safety requirements. Obviously, the more approvals, the better the heater.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Cleaning an outdoor heater is fairly simple. All you need to do is wipe all of its surfaces with mild soap and warm water. Alternatively, you can use a clean piece of cloth that’s damp.

Bear in mind that some chemical cleaners can be pretty abrasive, especially the ones that are utilized to clean ovens, so make sure you check the manufacturer’s cleaning requirements beforehand.

Outdoor patio heaters don’t require that much maintenance, which is one of their shining selling points. The maintenance you must carry out boils down to the type of heater you have.

Propane heaters, for example, require regular tank changes, whereas natural gas heaters require you to check whether the gas lines are secured properly.

Electric models just need an occasional wipe. As for wood-fired, well they need the most maintenance as the ash and soot needs to be emptied in between sessions.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, using the information provided in this article, you’ll be able to pinpoint your ideal patio heater with ease.

It’s also worth noting that there are propane and natural gas heaters that grant you the ability to adjust the intensity of the heat. These models are expensive but are worth the extra spend. Last but certainly not least, make sure the heater you buy is backed by a long manufacturer warranty of 3-5 years. The longer the warranty, the more durable the build quality.

Written By

Herbie

Hi there, I'm Greg (also known as Herbie) and like most Aussies enjoy a good BBQ. I want to share with you some tips and recipes, along with gear that I like, to help you with your backyard barbecue and grilling hobbie. Anyway, have a look around and let me know what you think and happy BBQing. Cheers Herbie.

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