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Whether you’re hoping to keep patio parties going late into the night or to extend backyard barbecue season, patio heaters are your best friend. These handy heaters warm up the space around them, making outdoor living spaces more comfortable on chilly evenings or cool fall days. Today’s homeowners are “using their outdoor spaces more and extending usage earlier in the spring and later in the fall,” says design expert Tim Bakke. In the fall we saw “a run on patio heaters to the point where they were almost impossible to get.” Suffice it to say, this trend is hot.
There are many styles of patio heaters to choose from, with the most popular being the mushroom-shaped models you frequently see on restaurant patios. However, you can also find pyramid-shaped, wall-mounted, and even tabletop patio heaters, as well as options powered by propane, natural gas, and electricity. For optimal safety, opt for a patio heater with features like a CSA safety rating, a tilt-proof design, and an automatic gas shutoff (for windy days).
Here, the best patio heaters you can buy today.
Best Overall: Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU Patio Heater
Size: 32.25 x 32.25 x 87.25 inches | Material: Stainless steel | BTU: 48,000 | Heat Range Diameter: 200 square feet
Sleek modern appearance
Generates great heat
May require additional stakes or sandbags for windy days
This patio heater is easy to use, powerfully warm, and reasonably priced, making it a top choice for any outdoor space. It’s equipped with a 48,000 BTU burner that can heat up to 200 square feet, and it runs on a liquid propane cylinder that gets tucked away inside the unit’s base for a sleek modern appearance.
The Hampton Bay Patio Heater has a piezoelectric ignition, similar to the type used on many gas grills, and an adjustable heat control system that lets you set its warmth to the perfect temperature. The heater is crafted from durable stainless steel, and its powerful heat is sure to keep you and your guests toasty, allowing you to enjoy your outdoor space for longer each year.
Best Budget: Mr. Heater 45,000 BTU Propane Tank
Size: 10.4 x 10.4 x 17.5 inches | Material: Stainless steel | BTU: 45,000 | Heat Range Diameter: 950 feet | CSA Certified: Yes
Heat funnels upwards; works best with reflector or roof
Less durable than other models
It might not be the most attractive setup, but this affordable tank top heater will get the job done, providing an impressive 45,000 BTU of output. This unique patio heater is powered by liquid propane—it’s designed to be attached right to the top of the tank using the included mount—and it can run for around 9.5 hours on a 20-pound tank.
Because this model gives off radiant heat, its warmth will be felt immediately by anyone sitting around it. It gives off heat in every direction, and it can warm spaces up to 950 square feet. The heater even includes a built-in shutoff in case the unit ever tips over, ensuring your family and home are safe during operation.
Best Propane: Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater
Size: 33 x 18 x 89 inches | Material: Stainless steel | BTU: 46,000 | Heat Range Diameter: Not listed | CSA Certified: No
Wide base for stability
Wheels provide portability
Safety auto shut-off valve
Slightly noisier than other models
Liquid propane is a powerful fuel source for patio heaters, and this is one of the best propane-powered models you can buy. The Commercial Patio Heater is just like the ones you’d find at a restaurant, and its mushroom-shaped design produces 46,000 BTUs of heat across your outdoor space.
The stainless steel heater features a piezoelectric ignition system, as well as a double-mantle heating grid. Its wide base provides stability, and there’s also an automatic shut-off valve for safety. The heater runs on 20-pound liquid propane tanks that you store in the base, and the unit is even mounted on wheels, allowing you to easily move it around your patio.
Best Natural Gas: Bromic Black Tungsten 500 Smart-Heat Hanging Patio Heater
Size: 14.1 x 25.5 x 25.5 inches | Material: Stainless steel | BTU: 43,000 | Heat Range Diameter: 200 square feet | CSA Certified: No
Doesn't take up floor space
Easy-pivot arm brackets provide directional control
Heat output is not adjustable
Does not include heat deflectors
Requires electrical outlet
If you already have a natural gas line in your home, you can use it to power a patio heater like this one. The Bromic Black Tungsten 500 Patio Heater is designed to be mounted to a wall or ceiling, and it delivers 43,000 BTUs of output, which can heat a space up to 200 square feet.
This natural gas patio heater is mounted on easy-pivot arm brackets, letting you angle it in different directions, and it includes a remote control so you can adjust it from across the room. Keep in mind, however, that it has an electronic ignition system, so it does need to be near an electrical outlet.
Best Wall-Mounted: Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W Carbon Infrared Heater with Remote
Size: 35 x 8 x 4 inches | Material: Aluminum | BTU: 5115 | Heat Range Diameter: Not listed | CSA Certified: No
Doesn't take up floor space
Adjustable heat output
Not as powerful as other models
Requires electrical outlet and (possibly) an extension cord
If you don’t like the appearance of a freestanding patio heater, the Dr. Infrared Wall-Mount Heater is a great option, as it’s designed to be hung from the wall or ceiling on your patio. This heater offers three heat settings that can be adjusted via its remote control, and it’s powered by a standard 120-volt outlet.
This heater comes with a mounting bracket that can be used on either the wall or ceiling, but keep in mind that it’s recommended primarily for sheltered outdoor use—so while you can use it on your patio, it will perform best if it’s not directly exposed to the elements. The Dr. Infrared has a safety shut-off in case it ever gets too hot, and you can also put it on a timer that will automatically shut the unit off after a set amount of time.
Best Heat-Focusing: Hampton Bay 38,200 BTU Heat-Focusing Propane Gas Patio Heater
Size: 34 x 34 x 86.60 inches | Material: Steel | BTU: 38,200 | Heat Range Diameter: 120 square feet | CSA Certified: No
Directional control provides focused heat
Wheels aid portability
Not as powerful as other models
Most patio heaters put off heat in all directions, but if you want to be able to control where the warmth goes, this model offers a unique heat-focusing feature. The propane-powered unit has adjustable reflectors on top, allowing you to change the angle of its warmth—ideal for heating up a dining or seating area!
The patio heat delivers over 38,000 BTUs of output, heating up to 120 square feet, and it has a weighted base that’s outfitted with wheels for portability. The unit has a durable powder coating to ensure it doesn’t chip, and its electronic ignition system is incredibly easy to light.
You can’t go wrong with the popular Hampton Bay Stainless Steel Patio Heater (view at Amazon), a powerful option that’s reasonably priced and can heat up to 200 square feet. However, if you want something more budget-friendly, we recommend the Mr. Heater Portable Heater (view at Walmart), a tabletop option that can be used anywhere.
What to Look for in a Patio Heater
Patio heaters are available with a variety of fuel or power source options. Propane is the most popular fuel source for a patio heater, but if you don’t want to deal with propane tanks, then an electric-powered patio heater may be a better fit. Electric patio heaters can typically be plugged into standard residential outlets, but make sure they’re protected from the elements to avoid electrical hazards or malfunctions.
Are you looking for a personal-sized patio heater that will keep you and a friend or two warm or a larger unit that can heat things up for a small crowd? Larger patio heaters generally have a greater range—up to 18 feet or more—while small, tabletop models will only radiate heat for a distance of a few feet.
The intensity and effectiveness of a patio heater is likely best evaluated by its heat output. This is generally measured as BTUs for gas-burning patio heaters and watts for electric heaters, and the average output for patio heaters is 40,000 BTUs. To compare how well two units will heat your space, compare the BTUs or watts of each model to find the one that will fit your temperature preferences and space.
How do I choose the right fuel source?
There are three common fuel sources for patio heaters: liquid propane, natural gas, and electricity. To figure out which is right for you, think about what’s most readily available, convenient, and affordable.
Many heaters are powered by 20-pound liquid propane tanks, as the fuel is quite affordable, but you’ll have to refill your tank, which typically entails taking a trip to a local convenience store, gas station, or home improvement store. If that sounds like a hassle, you may want to opt for an electric model, which simply plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet. Just be aware that frequent use of an electric patio heater may increase your electricity bill. Natural gas is another option, but it's only practical if you already have a natural gas line installed in your home.
What are BTUs?
You’ll often see the heat output of patio heaters quantified in BTUs, or British thermal units, which is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. A good patio heater can typically produce a maximum of 30,000-50,000 BTU per hour—the higher the number, the faster it will be able to warm up a large area.
How do I clean a patio heater?
A few times per season, you may want to wipe down the exterior of your patio heater using soapy water to remove any dirt or blemishes. You can keep your patio heater clean by covering it when not in use and storing it properly during the off-season.
It’s also a good idea to occasionally check the unit’s pilot tube and thermocouple for corrosion or damage, as well as the fuel regulator and fuel line for kinks, breaks, or leaks. If any of these parts are damaged, you’ll need to consult the owner’s manual for directions on how to replace them.
Where should I place my patio heater?
When setting up your patio heater, it should be placed on a flat, solid surface to minimize the risk of tipping. You’ll also want to keep it at least three feet away from combustible items like plants, fabrics, and even propane tanks. In general, arrange the heater fairly close to your outdoor seating or dining area—this will allow you to get the most heat from it, and if it’s too warm, you can simply turn it down, which will also help you save fuel.
Are patio heaters safe on decks?
Because the base of a freestanding patio heater won't get hot from the radiated heat, most patio heaters are safe to use on wooden decks (as long as they aren't left unattended). With that being said, it’s always a good idea to double-check the instruction manual to be sure.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester who specializes in all things home. Camryn has written for The Spruce since 2017, and has a background in interior design. For this roundup, she considered each heater's power source, range, heat output, and price.