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A quality patio heater gives your outdoor space a warm and welcoming feel, even when it’s cold out.
We researched and tested dozens of models from the top brands, evaluating them on ease of assembly and use, heat output, and durability. Our best overall pick, the Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater, is portable, sturdy, and can heat a large area.
Here are the best patio heaters.
Best Overall: Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater
Large heat capacity
Wheels on base
For a powerful yet portable patio heater, we recommend the Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater. With a heat output of 46,000 BTU and a range of 9 feet, it's the best patio heater for turning a large outdoor space into a cozy oasis.
The heater uses a standard 20-pound propane tank—not included—that you can find and refill at most hardware stores. It's easy to ignite and has an auto shut-off valve for added safety. The wide base provides added stability and has wheels, making it easy to move around.
Unlike some other picks on our list, the Frontgate heater is designed for outdoor use only. While it is a bit pricey, its stylish, portable, and powerful design makes it worth the investment.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W Carbon Infrared Heater with Remote
Works best for small spaces
If you want a patio heater that saves space, this wall or ceiling-mounted option from Dr Infrared is a versatile option. This plug-and-go heater released instant (and odorless) infrared heat, and you can easily control the heat with the included remote. It doesn’t require gas, making it a great option for both indoor and outdoor use.
The Dr Infrared Electric Carbon Infrared Space Heater is equipped with three heat settings—900W, 1200W, and 1500W—to suit a variety of different needs. It's made with sturdy aluminum and has a quiet operation that won't disrupt your gathering. Just note that it works best for small, partially or fully enclosed spaces.
Best Propane: Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU Patio Heater
Uses propane tank
Blows over easily in wind
For a fantastic balance of price, efficiency, and style, the Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU patio heater has it all. The sleek stainless steel construction hides a standard propane tank that is as easy to turn on as your gas grill. It heats up to 200 square feet, which will work for most outdoor spaces.
At just over 7 feet, this is a taller unit which can cause problems when it is windy. If it does tip over, there isn’t much to protect the heating elements and damage is likely. Weighting the base down with a couple of small sandbags during windy conditions can help alleviate that problem.
Best Budget: Mr. Heater 45,000 BTU Propane Tank
Not very stylish
If you need some heat without the hassle or permanent fixture of a larger patio heater unit, the Mr. Heater portable heater is an affordable option that provides heat for up to 9.5 hours. Attaching right to the top of a standard propane tank, it gives off heat for 360 degrees that can also swivel up to 180 degrees to direct the heat. This heater is also half the cost of many other larger units, making it the best budget recommendation on our list.
This unit is more utilitarian-looking than many others and doesn’t bring much style to your outdoor space. If your priority is delivering heat that is convenient and portable, this is the unit for you. If you want to create a warm, inviting outdoor oasis, you may want to keep looking.
Best Electric: Fire Sense Telescoping 1500 Watt Electric Patio Heater
Uses standard outlet
Safe for enclosed spaces
Lower heat output and range
This electric model from Fire Sense has a few key features that set it apart from other electric options. It telescopes from 6 feet to over 7 feet tall, which makes it a great option for a variety of spaces. It can also be used with any standard electric outlet, even on an enclosed porch, using the 4-foot cord.
The heat output isn’t as much as propane-powered patio heaters. You will need to sit pretty close to the actual unit or purchase multiple to heat your space. It is a little bit on the expensive side, especially considering that you will need to buy more than one for a similar output as a cheaper propane patio heater.
Best Natural Gas: Bromic Black Tungsten 500 Smart-Heat Hanging Patio Heater
High heat output
Separate control panel
Can connect multiple units
This is an expensive patio heater and will need to be connected to an existing natural gas line but it is one of the most reliable choices for natural gas installation. It is ideal for overhead or wall installation. It has a separate control panel, which allows users to control the settings and heat without having to get too close to the actual unit coils. Each patio heater can heat up to 200 square feet but you can also connect multiple units to a single control panel, if needed.
Best Overhead: All Modern Romano Electric Hanging Patio Heater
Large heat diameter
Uses standard electric plug
Small heat capacity
For a stylish patio heater that suspends from the ceiling, the AllModern Romano electric hanging patio heater looks like a light but gives off plenty of heat for those sitting underneath. The chain is 19.7 inches and adjustable so that you can create a warm ambiance that fits your space perfectly. It is electric-powered, just like a hanging light fixture that could work in a very similar way.
The heat output of this heater isn’t extensive but will work for many uses. It is best to heat a small patio or eating area. It can heat up to 12 feet, however, which is quite impressive for its smaller size.
Best Heat Focusing: Mirage 38,200 BTU Bronze Heat-Focusing Propane Patio Heater
Included cover only works on top
If you want to focus your heat on a particular space, the Mirage 38,200 BTU propane patio heater has a large heat output and comes with some extra features that will make it work well in your space. The base, where the propane comes in, is weighted to keep it stable even when it is windy and has wheels to make it easy to move.
It does come with a cover included, but it doesn’t protect the base of the heater. You can purchase one that is compatible, however, to improve the longevity of your patio heater. Because this is an expensive heater at almost $700, it’s worth spending some extra money upfront to keep it in the best shape possible over multiple seasons.
Our top pick for patio heaters is the Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater. With a heat output of 46,000 BTU and a 9-foot range, the Frontgate commercial patio heater provides plenty of heat for its size. If you're in the market for something more compact that can be mounted, opt for the Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W Carbon Infrared Heater.
What to Look for in a Patio Heater
Patio heaters come in electric, propane, or natural gas options. Electric-powered patio heaters are usually the easiest to install but may not put off as much heat as their propane or natural gas counterparts. Natural gas almost always requires an installed line, while propane provides the best of both with an easy connection to a 20 pound propane tank.
Most patio heaters will provide heat in a space around 9 feet in diameter. As expected, smaller units don’t reach as far while large units can reach larger spaces. Consider the size and layout of the space you want to heat. If you have something close to a wall, a wall-mounted or directional unit might be best. For eating areas, an overhead unit over the table can work great.
The actual heat of the patio heater is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs. The higher the number, the more heat the unit gives off while in use. Propane and natural gas tend to give off more heat but may not be as efficient or last as long as their electric-powered counterparts.
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 researched and written by Katie Begley, a freelance writer specializing in home and family products. Katie has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. To compile this list, Katie considered the power, heat output, and space that would work best for each product. Within each category, she made sure to consider style and overall effectiveness to create a warm and inviting space in any season. For added insight, she also spoke with design expert Tim Bakke.