- Types of Patio Heaters and Why You Need One
- Why Not Forced-Air Heaters?
- Best Patio Heaters Comparison Chart
- The Two Main Types of Outdoor Heaters
- Wrapping Up
They say that warming a room is far easier than heating outdoor spaces. Well, did you know that the best patio heaters can raise the temperature of an outside area by about 10-30 degrees in a matter of minutes? That’s right, you can have a drink with a friend outside even in February without having chattering teeth.
Since you are already reading this, then you perhaps would love to learn more about the best outdoor heaters, their types, characteristics, and advantages. We have handpicked the best units and have compiled short reviews on them especially for your convenience. Before you rush to the store, make sure you learn everything there is to learn about patio heaters from our article below.
Types of Patio Heaters and Why You Need One
Now that you have become fully familiar with the characteristics of electric and propane patio heaters it is time to summarize the information and make deductions accordingly. Here are the pros and cons of patio heaters of the two types.
Why You need an Infrared Patio Heater
- Simple to use – just plug it in and enjoy some heat. There’s no special preparation required in order for you to use your infrared outdoor heater. No tubes to attach, no supplies to carry.
- Not hard to maintain – besides the occasional dusting you do not have much else to worry about when it comes to cleaning. The unit consists of heat resistors and wires. Nothing will obstruct its components.
- Not so dangerous in covered spaces – Fumes are not to be expected here. Even though there are safety requirements, they are far more lenient here than when we have a propane patio heater on our hands. Many people suggest that infrared heaters are universal as they can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Downsides of Infrared Patio Heaters
- Not mobile – you get limited maneuverability when using an electric patio heater. You always need to have a socket range and even if you get an extension cord, the issue still remains. And that goes only for freestanding units. Most infrared patio heaters are mounted making them completely immovable.
- Not so efficient – the amount of heat is definitely lower with electric heaters. You are limited by the wattage of the unit. On the other hand, you will end up spending a certain amount of electrical energy. In the long run, an infrared heater might prove to be more expensive on a monthly basis.
- Heating up is not very quick – you need to give the device some time before its presence is felt. When warmth is radiated, it takes longer before it heats the area as the objects and people are the primary recipients of this type of heating.
Why You Need a Propane Patio Heater
- Quick to heat up – the moment you see a flame, you instantly get some heat. The maximum temperature is instantly reached.
- No mounting – all propane patio heaters are freestanding
- Easy to move – the wheels on the bottom will help a lot. Also, there’s no power cord to reduce the distance the unit can travel.
Downsides of Propane Patio Heaters
- Preparation is key – you need to cover certain steps every time before you actually start the heater.
- The tank needs to be replaced – you need to remember to replenish the gas every once in a while. This might turn out to be time-consuming especially if you cannot have a tank delivered.
- Can’t use it in enclosed spaces – make sure you are outdoors and that venting is sufficient.
- Maintenance and cleaning are much needed – the tubes will get clogged over time. You need to have supplies that help you clean your unit regularly.
Why Not Forced-Air Heaters?
Before wrapping up our article, we simply cannot let you go without telling you why a forced-air heater simply isn’t good enough for outdoor purposes. You have perhaps noticed that all the best outdoor heater reviews are related to either propane or infrared products.
Blowing air with a fan doesn’t do you any good in an open space. While you can have a little success at a construction site, such a unit is definitely not a good choice for restaurants or patios. Furthermore, having an air draft of any sort (warm or cold) isn’t a pleasant experience when you have napkins, cups, and other things on your table.
Forced-air heaters do not warm a zone and they do not radiate heat. Objects and people are not heated right away but the air is. Unfortunately, when you are not indoors, warming up the air is a tough challenge and this is why people usually stick with heaters with radiant heat.
A fan is not completely excluded from the equation but for reasons stated above, you will very rarely see a patio heater with a fan. In case you are particularly interested in fans, you may want to have a look at our reviews on tower fans or wood stove fans.
Best Patio Heaters Comparison Chart
Sunglo Stainless Steel Liquid Propane Patio Heater
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Thermo Tiki Deluxe Propane Patio Heater
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Palm Springs Bronze Patio Heater
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AZ Patio Heaters Tapered Stainless Steel Heater
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Belleze Propane Patio Heater
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XtremepowerUS Floor Standing Outdoor Patio Heater
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1. Sunglo Stainless Steel Liquid Propane Patio Heater
A top-end option for every home or restaurant is brought to us by Sunglo. This portable propane patio heater includes a number of decorative and safety characteristics and they truly set it apart from others. If you have 18 inches of clearance on the top side and have at least 12 feet of distance between units then you are ready to.
The propane tank is located on the bottom and it is hidden by a stainless steel frame. The tank is sold separately (recommended capacity is 20 lb). The total height of the unit is 93 inches and the diameter of the reflector is 34 ½ inches. The Sunglo Patio heater will give users a massive 40,000 BTU of heat and will cover a diameter of about 12 feet. No electric power is needed, the unit has a safety shutoff and it also works quietly thanks to the aerated burner.
2. Thermo Tiki Deluxe Propane Patio Heater
We now come back to the propane patio heaters type as we focus on this Thermo Tiki unit. At a medium price, you are getting a stylish product that combines steel and aluminum. Your guests will remain impressed as the flame is actually visible in the vertical tube when the device is turned on. The heater is also pretty sturdy as it will resist rust and corrosion.
The coverage is not bad at all with is 15 feet in diameter. This also gives you realistically about 38,000 BTU. Non-electric units rarely feature a tip-over safety switch off but this one does and it’s definitely an advantage. Portability is also not impossible as the Thermo Tiki Patio Heater also has wheels making it easy to move outside. Not only that the heater is easy to turn on but it is also simple to operate through the control knob. It will let you select the desired temperature.
3. Palm Springs Bronze Patio Heater
The range of this next product is quite nice as it will be able to cover about 115 square feet outside. This is about 10 x 12 feet and should be sufficient for an average patio. The whole ignition process boils down to just one single press of a button, comfortably located under the reflector. The hood also helps some heat dispersion and with the 41,000 BTU that we have here, this is simply too useful.
The powder-coated hammered bronze allows the body of the patio heater to withstand not only the weather but also its own pressure. A regular 20 lb. propane tank is sufficient to power the heater but it is, of course, sold separately. This will give you about 10 hours of continuous use. You have the complete ability to adjust the power output anywhere between 5000W and 13000W. There are also wheels to improve maneuverability. The heater weighs only 35 lb.
4. AZ Patio Heaters Tapered Stainless Steel Heater
Here the options when it comes to the base of this model are simply endless. Some of the AZ Patio Heaters’ units have rather large steel bases for bigger propane tanks while others will resemble a small coffee table. A great niche option is the one that looks like a basket as it is made out of interwoven strips. This might be one of the most powerful patio heaters you will encounter.
It is marketed at 48,000 BTU but even if you can get 42,000 out of it, it would be still amazing. You are free to regulate the strength of the heater through a special dial right under the reflector. There is also a burner cover included. The propane tank is sold separately and you will need to assemble your patio heater yourself. The safety devices include a thermocouple and the anti-tilt switch off.
5. Belleze Propane Patio Heater
One of the key traits of this model is the stability which it has. The Belleze Propane Patio Heater features a broad base resting on a round stand. The fact that you can install a 30 lb. propane tank adds to the weight and the stability of the unit. There’s a weight bladder that you can fill with sand as well. The fact that you can get about 48,000 BTU out of it speaks for itself.
The dome reflector is satisfyingly wide with its diameter of 32 inches. An area of about 180 square feet can be covered. With a favorable wind, this area may expand. The unit is completely CSA certified and also has a number of important safety features. The piezo ignition system will shut off automatically if the product is tilted. You get dependability from the steel construction and mobility from the wheels on the bottom.
6. XtremepowerUS Floor Standing Outdoor Patio Heater
This patio heater will give you excellent value for your money. There is nothing absolutely mind-blowing about it. But since it is in the lower price range and the quality is still fantastic, you will get a good bang for your buck. In fact, the heating radius of the XtremepowerUS patio heater is larger than average – 200 square feet or 15 feet in diameter.
The consumption of gas is rather good – 10 hours at about 45,000 BTU. Another advantage is that the box also includes the necessary tools to assemble the unit. The propane tank is, of course, not included. On the downside, the design is a little bit “too clean”. The unit looks too much like a telephone post. It is also pretty tall – 8.5 feet. In terms of safety, we won’t surprise you by saying that there is a tip-over instant switch off. Should be used in well-vented areas.
The Two Main Types of Outdoor Heaters
What powers your patio heater really matters. If you paid close attention to the patio heater reviews above, you have surely noticed that we talked about two main types:
- Infrared patio heaters
- Propane patio heaters
The most interesting thing is that these devices actually differ in so many ways except for the fact that they provide you with some outdoor heating. It will be pointless to simply list or analyze all the contrasting characteristics of infrared and propane heaters. This is why we will have 2 separate sections in which we will outline the most important things related to both.
Infrared Patio Heaters
The most important characteristic here is that these are actually electric patio heaters. This means that such outdoor heating solutions come with a wide range of heaters, controls, and mounting options. At the end of the day, you want a system that best works for you and your family or business. So without getting into much detail on how infrared heaters work, we will take a look at the 3 main focal points you need to consider when purchasing an infrared patio heater.
- The nature of the space
- The exact unit you need
- The controls
Our experts in HomeClimate have talked long and hard about plenty of great heating and cooling systems and in all fairness, the list we just mentioned is true for most devices. This still doesn’t eliminate the fact that you have some particular pros and cons of infrared patio heaters to consider.
Firstly, the initial step to heating your outdoor space is actually measuring it. In order to know how powerful a patio heater you want to purchase, you first need to become familiar with the dimensions of the area you are going to be warming up. No, this is not an oxymoron because outdoor spaces can also be measured.
There are surely some natural boundaries such as walls, trees, or some sort of a canopy that will affect the range of the heater. Height also matters because not all infrared patio heaters are freestanding. Some of them need to be mounted and that’s one more thing to think of. If the heater is mounted too far or too close to where people generally sit or stand then this might be a problem.
After you’ve received a general idea of the length, width, and height of your porch, patio, or deck, then move on to the next step.
- Never forget to go for both functionality and aesthetics when selecting your outdoor heater. Low-intensity infrared heaters come in three main categories. They are divided by the number and size of the heating element (tube) of the device. This is rather important when we talk about patio heating.
- Single element
- Dual element
- Thick single element
After you’ve decided on the size and number of tubes now you need to think about how the device is mounted. Some people go for the best wall mounted patio heaters but there are more options. You can have your infrared heater ceiling-mounted, flush-mounted, and pole-mounted. The last category is pretty popular as it gives you mobility and portability.
Environmental factors also matter as windy areas are not easy to heat. On the other hand, a building will provide some extra sheltering and you should take advantage of that. Just make sure there’s enough venting if your patio is too tight or somewhat closed.
Next, think about the coverage area. For instance, a 3000W unit will likely be able to heat an area of 8×8 feet. This is 64 square feet. You shouldn’t put such a heater higher than 7-9 feet. If you double the power output (6000W) now you can heat up about 130 square feet of space. What’s more is that the heater can be mounted higher as well.
Verify the correct voltage and amperage. This is the last aspect you want to take care of when determining which exact infrared unit you want to buy. Consult a certified electrician if needed. Bear in mind that most US products will require a 120V circuit.
Thirdly, the factor which helps you decide on an electric patio heater is the controls. Freestanding infrared heaters will usually have a built-in thermostat. Mounted outdoor heaters will require remote controls.
One of the most interesting and useful switches is the duplex stack switch. It offers half power and full power capabilities thus making things simple when looking to heat your patio. Additional functions to look for are heat intensity, zone heating, and timer options. Controlling through a mobile device is also a fantastic idea and convenience.
Propane Powered Heaters
These are actually the more popular patio heaters and interestingly enough, their mechanics are completely different than the ones of infrared heaters. Here we have a propane tank which shoots gas up a tube. The gas is then ignited through a spark ignition and the radiant emitter grid distributes some heat around. In general, these outdoor heaters do not differ a lot from your regular domestic propane heaters.
When we talk about the best natural gas patio heater or any propane heater, we do not need to mention anything about power cords, wattage, or thermostats. In our case, BTU is the measuring unit we need to pay attention to. Additionally, maintenance and safety are two very important topics.
We will now talk about two of the essential actions concerning the proper use of any propane patio heater:
- Maintenance and troubleshooting
Once we clear out how to start a propane patio heater, we will clarify what problems might occur. We will give you pointers on what needs to be looked at and possibly cleaned in case your patio heater won’t start.
Firstly, the ignition process is complicated from a physics standpoint. But what the user sees and does is rather simple. So here’s what needs to be done if you want to have a warm patio using a propane heater.
Safety always comes first you need to plan your space when using one of those devices. So pay attention to some fine outdoor heater instructions if you can find them. Even if you opt for smaller versions and try to get a hold of the best tabletop patio heater, you will still need to keep a safe distance from it.
You need at least 1 ft. of clearance on the top side so that you do not burn the paint or the canopy of your patio. 10 feet is the lateral distance you should keep in mind. Now that you have placed the unit where you want it you will need to connect the tank to the device.
Lift the metal case on the base of the pole. It will go up the tube and should be able to just rest there without falling. Slide the tank in the designated slot underneath the heater and connect the hose. Now, this part is important! Tighten the hose really well. It isn’t supposed to be loosely attached. Next, open the valve similar to a water faucet. Slide the case back over the tank.
Now take a look at what you have on the panel right underneath the reflector. You should see a dial or a knob with some settings on it. It will light the pilot heater. Push the dial-in and flip it to “pilot”. Keep holding it pressed for at least one minute.
Now press the red button to light the pilot. Don’t let the knob go yet. If the pilot doesn’t get lit immediately, try again. Once you see a spark and are sure that the pilot has been lit, just turn the dial all the way, and the heater will start. That’s it – enjoy your time on the patio!
Maintenance and Troubleshooting
In case no spark gets ignited, you want to keep pressing until you see your pilot light. If your heater is new, you will have a lot of air in the pipes, in the regulator, and all the way up to your burner valve. So igniting the pilot might take longer.
If it still doesn’t work then you should check the hose and see how tight it is attached to the tank. If the regulator is loose, simply tighten it. An unexpected tip here would be to take off the regulator and tap it onto the propane tank a few times. It sounds strange but this might just get rid of any excess air trapped inside the regulator.
If the problem persists then there are two more possible reasons. First, sometimes a spider web might get stuck in the pilot tube. This is actually a common problem because the smell of gas attracts insects and spiders in particular. The best way to check the pilot tube a.k.a the Venturi tube is to put it in water and actually see bubbles coming out. That’s how you know it’s not clogged.
The second reason is again related to this very tube but this time the obstruction might be caused by debris or some sort of small rust amounts. What needs to be done here is to clean the tube manually. The orifice holder is the part that you need to unclog.
Remove the component and inspect it for debris. Sticking something in the top of the orifice holder will virtually do nothing. You need to use a screwdriver or a similar object and drive it through the wider opening of the orifice holder. Scrape the walls completely and make sure that whatever is in there gets out.
All in all, troubleshooting your propane patio heater is a broad topic and needs to be addressed separately.
It is time we concluded our article devoted to showing you the best patio heaters in today’s market. These units will surely make your life more pleasant as they heat up an unusual area – the outside deck or porch.
Your feedback is important to us so shoot us a comment if you liked the guide or if you wanted to have something added. Share the piece so that we can help more people get informed on the matter and don’t forget to check out our other guides to getting the finest heating units. Thanks for reading and as always – stay put!