Best Outdoor Patio Heaters in 2020 – Reviews & Heating Guide

Best Outdoor Patio Heaters in 2020

You spent time, money, and effort into creating a beautiful outdoor space; you should be able to enjoy it all year round.

Propane, gas, and electric outdoor heaters provide warmth for patios, decks, or any outdoor space so that you can enjoy your backyard barbecues, dinner parties, and family time without the night air or cold weather ruining the fun. Here we will discuss our picks for the best outdoor heaters. They are low maintenance, convenient and some are beautifully designed to blend in with or even enhance your outdoor decor. They are quiet–no noisy intrusions while you entertain–and when used properly, they are safe even with kids and pets.

PRODUCT FEATURES
AmazonBasics Commercial, Propane 46,000 BTU, Outdoor Patio Heater with Wheels - Best Outdoor Patio Heaters in 2020AmazonBasics Commercial, Propane 46,000 BTU, Outdoor Patio Heater with Wheels
  • Inexpensive standing propane heater
  • Multiple color options
  • Wheels make it mobile
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Fire Sense TableTop Propane Heater - Best Outdoor Patio Heaters in 2020Fire Sense TableTop Propane Heater
  • Propane heater for a smaller space
  • Light and portable
  • Hooks to a larger propane tank
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Golden Flame Pyramid Style - Best Outdoor Patio Heaters in 2020Golden Flame Pyramid Style
  • Beautiful design
  • Won't tip over
  • Nat gas or propane models
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Sundate Patio Space Heater - Best Outdoor Patio Heaters in 2020Sundate Patio Space Heater
  • Electric plug-in
  • Can be used indoors
  • Easy operation
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Hiland HLI-1P Electric Parasol Heater - Best Outdoor Patio Heaters in 2020Hiland HLI-1P Electric Parasol Heater
  • Hides under your patio umbrella
  • Or you can mount on a ceiling
  • 1500 watts of heating power
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Types of outdoor heaters

Life is not a one size fits all affair and neither is your heater.

Free standing

This is the best selection for heating a large outdoor space. A free-standing or floor heater has a pole, base, reflector, and heating source and can be powered by gas or electricity.

Wall mounted

These are intended for permanent use as they are installed on a high wall close to the ceiling, usually out of view. They can use gas or electricity and are available in various styles, sizes and colors. They can be tilted to direct heat in a particular direction and are operated via remote control or switch.

Hanging or Tabletop

A tabletop heater is much smaller than wall-mounted and freestanding options but also more cost-effective. Bu t be aware, they push out significantly less heat and are therefore only for compact spaces like a balcony. They are easily portable and sometimes stylish enough to add some pizzazz to your outdoor space.

Hanging heaters, almost always electric, are another selection for a small spaces like a small porch, patio, or gazebo. They are hung close to the ceiling, and better blend to the style and decor of your home or business.

Heating sources

They type of heating source you choose will depend on your space and budget.

Row of Patio HeatersElectric patio heater

Electric is the most convenient option, just plug and go, but is more ideal for small spaces. They can take a while to heat up and need to be placed near an outlet. If the space doesn’t have one, it means using an extension cord, which an be an eyesore. They are very similar

The biggest downside is that they are generally less efficient than gas and propane heaters. To run a 1500 watt heater can cost as much as 30 cents per hour in electricity.

Natural gas heater

To utilize this option, you’ll need a natural gas outlet. If you have a newer home with natural gas, or you’re building a new home, planning for an outdoor natural gas hookup is your best possible option. It will look the cleanest and will be the least expensive to operate. Natural gas heaters have higher heat output and can warm up a large area quickly. They are only designed for outdoors, and cannot be used in enclosed areas.

Propane heater

This is what I have, and I love it. Propane is probably the most popular heating source, especially for commercial use, since it heats up very quickly. It is commonly used in freestanding heaters with space built into the bottom to store the propane tank. Keep in mind that once the propane tank is empty, it has to be refilled or exchanged. Propane is also more expensive than natural gas, especially when considering the need to travel to refill your tank.

Features To Consider

Here are the metrics we use to compare and contrast heaters:

Size & BTU output

Patio heaters are available in different sizes, so the size of your outdoor space will ultimately dictate the size of your heater; however, it’s the BTU output that really dictates capacity to heat.

For tabletop heaters, you can expect a maximum of 30,000 BTU per hour, which can heat 5 to 8 feet of space. Note that depending on the size of the heater, this number may be significantly lower.

Wall mounted heaters more typically reach that 30,000 BTU mark, and freestanding heaters go up from there, often heating up to 20 feet away from the heat source, depending on temperatures.

Price

The larger the device and the BTU output, the higher the price tag. But there are some options that don’t require you to sacrifice quality for price.

Safety

Modern heaters integrate several safety features:

Auto shut off valve

You should always unplug after use, but if you forget to do so, some heaters will turn off automatically after being turned on for too long or when they are overheating.

Tilt-over protection

Pyramid Fire Heater

Heaters should be properly stored (and turned off!) on windy days, but if by chance they get knocked over, some are equipped with a sensor that automatically shuts down the device when not vertical.

Cool-touch glass

Although it’s not recommended that you touch the heater, accidents do happen. If you have kids or even pets running around you need to ensure that your heater comes equipped with cool touch glass for safety.

Safety tips

We want you to get the most out of your heater, but most importantly we want you to be safe.

  • Make sure that the product has been evaluated and tested, and that it meets the necessary safety requirements.
  • Read the user manual carefully and follow the instructions for before, during and after use.
  • If you’re using a gas heater it should be serviced by a licensed professional at least once every two years. Even if the type of heater you have does not require servicing, it still needs to be regularly checked for leaks or damage.
  • Never leave your home with the heater turned on.
  • When not in use, the heater should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from other heating sources such as a stove.

Best Outdoor Heaters

Best Quality-for-the-Price Standing Propane Heater: AmazonBasics

AmazonBasics Commercial, Propane 46,000 BTU, Outdoor Patio Heater with Wheels
    A simple, inexpensive standing propane heater that comes in a variety of colors. Our top pick if you just want power and heat and a good price.

      Pros:

      Cons:

AmazonBasics isn’t so basic. It’s one of the best-reviewed, highest-quality heaters available and would be our pick if you want propane and high power. We found that it will last at least 12 hours per tank at a medium setting, and it will heat a larger area than most of its competitors. It’s easy to start and rolls around for transport when tilted. It can be a bit difficult to maneuver into a garage or shed for storage, but that’s true of any heater of this height.

It does come in at least six colors, but aside from that, this one won’t win any design awards. It’s exactly the type of heater you’ll see outside at a restaurant, maybe literally the exact one given its sub $150 price tag. But that also means it’s easy to start, and it can reliably run for a long time, even every night if you need it.

Best TableTop Propane Heater: Fire Sense

Fire Sense Hammer Tone Bronze Table Top Patio Heater
    A low-powered but compact propane solution for tabletops that can use a large or small propane tank.

      Pros:

      Cons:

The problem with smaller tabletop heaters is that they use small tanks that deplete quickly. Using a small 1 pound propane cylinder (which fits into the heater’s base) will provide 3 hours of heat.

For the Fire Sense, you can purchase a standard adapter hose that will allow you connect the heating mechanism, through the bottom of the heater, through an umbrella hole in your table, to a larger propane tank. Doing so will ensure the heater lasts for a couple months of modest use without you needing to refill the tank. But you’ll also have a big ugly tank sitting under your table.

With a max heat output of 10,000 BTU, it will only heat those people sitting around whatever tabletop you have it sitting on. There have been some user complaints of build quality and difficult assembly, but we found both to be acceptable. Overall it’s a good choice for a less-powerful, propane tabletop heater.

Best Natural Gas (or Propane) With Style: Golden Flame Pyramid Style

True Commercial Pyramid Style Quartz Tube Patio Heater
    A more stylish choice with both natural gas and propane options.

      Pros:

      Cons:

If you’re going to spend money getting a natural gas hookup to a certain area of your yard, chances are you’re picking a patio heater for the long run. You want function but also design. This heater is significantly more expensive than our other choices, but it’s also much nicer looking. The flame lives lower down compared to typical standing heaters, so it warms you while you’re sitting and standing.

Beyond that, it’s super-safe, especially with the wide base, which won’t blow over and auto-tilt shutoff if it ever does. 41,000 BTU heat output isn’t the most powerful on our list, but it’s close.

We linked above to the natural gas model, but it can also take a propane tank.

Best Electric Wall Mounted: Sundate Patio Space Heater

Sundate Patio Space Heater
    A 1500 watt electric wall-mounted heater that's great for both indoor or outdoor use.

      Pros:

      Cons:

This is a 1500 watt fixed-in-place electric heater. It will get expensive if you just let it run all day, but it does the job with no gas or propane (meaning no smells at all). It’s reliable and durable. You just angle it where you want it to heat and flip the switch.

The other negative is that it’s fairly small (27″ wide), and the product description even tells you that it’s for heating only the space directly in front of it– rather than raising the ambient temperature of a room. If you want broad coverage, you will need several of them.

Patio Umbrella Option: Hiland HLI-1P Electric Parasol Heater

Hiland HLI-1P Electric Parasol/Umbrella Patio Heater
    A unique under-umbrella electric heater that hides really well when not in use.

      Pros:

      Cons:

This is a unique way for you to keep your heater out-of-sight when not in use. And when you want to use it, it’s likely right where you need it– under your patio umbrella, pointing right down on you. If you’re handy, you can also mount it on a ceiling, and it kind of looks like a ceiling fan.

It’s another electric model, which means it needs power, which likely means an ugly orange extension cord. But if you can get past that, it is a strong 1500 watt heater that will increase the temperature around your table by around 20 degrees. That’s enough to keep your small spring BBQs going well into the night.

Best For Power & Durability: Golden Flame XL-Series

Golden Flame XL Series
    A powerful 46,000 BTU propane heater with several added safety features.

      Pros:

      Cons:

This is a modest step up from the AmazonBasics heater listed above. It’s also propane; it also puts out 46,000 BTU of heat. The new XL model has a few features that might make it worth the extra money: a bottom sand reservoir that you can fill to add weight to avoid tip-overs and pilotless ignition, which avoids fuel waste.

Aside from those differences, it will be a matter of color preference and price difference when you’re purchasing.

Conclusion

We highlighted a range of products, but we would buy the AmazonBasics patio heater. It has all the “basic” features you’ll need, wheels away easily, and is incredibly powerful. The heat setting can be adjusted to the suit the space or weather conditions. The high-up heat source makes it safe for pets and small humans.

Of course if you want an electric or natural gas option, there are some great options above as well.
Let us know in the comments which one you chose or if you have any other feedback or questions.
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