Kristen Hicks on December 5, 2016 1 Comment Table of Contents Types of Patio Heaters Factors to Consider While Shopping Customer Reviews of Popular Brands Evenings on the patio are one of the best parts of summer. As the temperatures start to dip in fall and winter, you don’t have to lose access to enjoyable nights on the patio. You simply need to add a patio heater to the space. Patio heaters offer an affordable option for making those patio evenings into something cozy and comfortable, even during the colder months of the year. In addition to warmth, many patio heaters provide some extra beauty or atmosphere to the space as well. If you want to get use out of your patio for more months of the year, here are the main things you should keep in mind in your search for the right patio heater. Types of Patio Heaters You can find five main types of patio heaters available, each one offering a fairly distinct experience from the others. Click Here to Shop for an Outdoor Patio Heater Freestanding Patio Heaters Freestanding patio heaters are the type you often see on the patios of bars and restaurants. They’re typically pretty tall – taller than a lot of people – and provide a good amount of heat to anyone sitting or standing in the vicinity. You have different options when it comes to the fuel types freestanding patios use. Some use propane, some natural gas, and others are electric. They vary in price from around $150 to over $1,500, with factors like the patio heater size, brand, fuel type and features all influencing the cost. Many freestanding patio heaters let you adjust different levels of heat and they’re usually pretty easy to use (although sometimes hard to assemble). In summary: Available in varieties that use natural gas, propane and electricity Usually tall, thin, and able to heat the area within a few feet of the patio heater well Wide variety in prices and styles Easy to use Require floor space Mountable Patio Heaters Freestanding patio heaters take up floor space on your patio, if you want something that can do the job while being a bit more tucked out of the way, mountable patio heaters should do the trick. They can be either mounted on a wall or hung from the ceiling. Some mountable patio heaters can get pretty expensive, up to around $2,000, but other mountable models can be found for less than $200. A lot of the higher end mountable patio heaters are especially powerful, so they offer a good amount of heat to a large patio space from the spot where they’re mounted. Mountable patio heaters are pretty much always electric and sometimes the more powerful mountable patio heaters will require a an outlet that puts out more power than a standard one, in which case you’ll need to be sure to bring in a electrician so you don’t increase your risk of fire. Since they rely on electric power, all you typically have to do to turn a mountable patio heater on is flip a switch. That makes them one of the easiest types of patio heaters to use on a regular basis (although installation can be more complicated than with some of the other types). In summary: Don’t require floor space Electric Wide variety of styles and price points Some models require special outlets Extremely easy to use Click Here to Shop for a Fire Pit Fire Pits Fire pits bring the special comfort and ambience that only an open flame can provide. The flip side of that is they have to be used with extra caution. While all heaters come with the risk of starting a fire if you’re not careful, the open flame of fire pits pose the highest risk of all. Even so, they’re beloved by many because sitting by the fire is beautiful, comfortable, and has a timeless feel to it. Not to mention, you’d have a much harder time trying to make s’mores with a mounted or freestanding patio heater. As with many of the other categories here, fire pits come in a wide range of styles and price points. Especially stylish and large high-end models can get up to around $3,000, while simpler, smaller options can cost less than $100. Most fire pits are wood burning, which makes them a bit harder to use each time since you have to prepare and continually add new firewood to keep them going. You can find some higher end models that use natural gas or propane to make starting a fire easier. In summary: People love the atmosphere of an open fire Require greater safety precautions Wide range of styles and costs Wood burning fire pits require work to use Natural gas and propane versions also available Chimineas Chimineas offer the experience of sitting next to a fire, like fire pits do, but in a slightly more contained way. That makes them a bit safer, but also typically means you’ll be working with a smaller fire that doesn’t warm as large of a space. With smaller models it can also mean it’s harder to get your firewood to a size that fits into the opening. The design of chimineas means you don’t have to deal with as much smoke as with fire pits and clean up is usually a little easier. Chimineas are typically beautifully crafted, so you’ll be buying a piece that functions as decoration whenever it’s not in use. In summary: Wood burning Beautiful – function as art, as well as a patio heater Provide the experience of fire, but a more contained, safer version Still require greater safety precautions than patio heating options without an open flame Less smoke than with fire pits Require more work than electric or gas patio heaters, but easier cleanup than fire pits Tabletop Heaters Tabletop heaters are the smallest and most affordable options on this list, but they also don’t heat as much space as most of the others. They’re conveniently portable and small enough to fit on a table, just as the name says. Most fall in the $100-$200 range. Some have a simple design with functionality the main focus, while others are more decorative, designed to add some ambience or resemble a lamp. If you don’t have much space available for a patio heater or much money to spend and just need a little extra warmth, a tabletop heater may do the trick. In summary: Small and portable Give off limited amount of heat Affordable Usually electric or propane Factors to Consider When Buying a Patio Heater Figuring out which type of patio heater you prefer will do a lot to narrow down your options, but to make the right decision, there are a number of factors you should think through. Size and Space Heated One of the most important factors to consider in order to end up with a patio heater that meets your needs is how big the heater itself is, and how big its heating area is. Often the two things relate – small tabletop heaters won’t heat nearly as much space as the much larger freestanding heaters, for instance – but it’s not always a direct correlation. Every type of patio heater will provide size details in the product specs, so you can make sure that the item will properly fit in the space you have in mind. Take a minute to take measurements of your patio space to be sure – you don’t want to end up with a heater that’s so large it doesn’t leave any space left on the patio for people, or with one that’s too small to make much of a difference on a large patio. The product specs will sometimes also give you some idea of how much space the heater will warm. If they don’t provide an amount of space in number of feet, you can expect 40,000 BTUs to roughly convert to three to five feet in mildly cold weather. And naturally, the colder it gets, the closer you’ll have to be to the heater to enjoy its benefits. High-powered mountable patio heaters do the best at providing heat for a full space, while most of the other designs will work well for whoever is standing or sitting close to them, but become less effective the further away people get. Click Here to Shop for a Chiminea Fuel Type Patio heaters use one of four main types of fuel: Electricity Natural gas Propane Wood Each comes with its own drawbacks and benefits. Electricity is generally your safest option (although it still poses certain risks) and is typically one of the most convenient choices in terms of ease of use. Electric patio heaters can be turned on with the flip of a switch and you’re good to go. They’re not always as effective at warming the space as some of your other options though, and they don’t provide the same type of ambience that the other fuel types do either. For most people, a natural gas patio heater will be very expensive and costly to set up, but cheap and easy to use once it’s installed. The heater would need to be hooked up to an existing natural gas line, so this option is only available to people who live in areas that have natural gas. Once it’s set up, then all you need to do to use the heater is turn it on and off. Propane patio heaters are fueled with a propane tank. That means every so often, you need to buy and install a new propane tank, which is a bit of a pain. But in between the times you run out, propane heaters are easy to use, and propane tanks don’t cost too much. The final option, wood, is the usual fuel for fire pits and chimineas. It’s more expensive and more trouble to use, in general, than all of the other options. But it provides a particular atmosphere and experience that aren’t like the other fuel options. Sitting by a fire has always appealed to people and likely always will. With wood, you do have to deal with starting a fire each time you want to use your heater, and you’ll need to continually add more wood to the fire as it starts to die down. It’s also the most dangerous option, if you’re not careful, but all types of patio heaters come with risks. Safety Speaking of those risks, you should make a point of looking for patio heaters that come with basic safety features. Freestanding patio heaters should have a well-weighted base so they don’t fall over easily and tip over protection, so they turn off immediately if they do start to tip over. Tabletop patio heaters also usually have an automatic shutoff function in case they fall or are blocked by something. Electric heaters are the safest option of the bunch, but even with them you should make sure to follow all instructions the heater comes with to avoid the risk of fire. If you have an enclosed patio, you should stick with an electric heater exclusively, any other type of fuel will vastly increase your risk of fire. A lot of how safe your patio heater is will fall to how you use it. Follow all instructions carefully and don’t take unnecessary risks. Put your patio heater in a space where it has the recommended amount of clearance around it. With fire pits and chimineas, make sure the fire is always all the way out before you leave it unattended. And if you have kids, always keep an eye on them when they’re around the patio heater. Cost Patio heaters can cost anywhere from around $100 to over $1,500. Obviously factors like size and area heated will make a big difference in the price range you’re looking at. Brands known for greater durability and performance will often cost more as well. And some of the more stylish or beautiful patio heaters will come at a premium. The price of the patio heater itself is only one part of the cost equation to consider. The different fuel types will cost different amounts over time as you use the heater. How electric and gas stack up will depend on how much each costs in your area, but both propane and natural gas tend to be cheaper than electric in most places. Wood will be the most expensive option of the bunch, but it’s more affordable if you can find somewhere local to buy it in bulk (or if you have trees on your property that can be trimmed or cut down to provide wood – but that takes a good amount of work). Aesthetics Your patio is your outside haven. It’s one of the best places in many homes for hosting friends and gatherings. Chances are, you want it to look good. A lot of patio heaters provide some real style or atmosphere to the space. If functionality is your only real concern, then you can find fairly basic looking patio heaters that will do the job. If you want something that also looks great and really adds something visual to your patio, you have a wide range of options amongst all types of patio heaters. Placement Where you’ll be putting your patio heater will influence which option makes the most sense for you. If it will go on an enclosed patio, you have to stick with an electric heater, as previously mentioned. If it will be put somewhere where the ground isn’t terribly flat, then a mountable heater makes more sense than a freestanding one. If your patio is very spread out, getting a few smaller heaters may make more sense than trying to depend on one. You have to consider the space and how you’ll be using it so you can choose a patio heater that will fit in seamlessly without getting in the way or becoming a safety hazard. Durability Any heater you keep outdoors needs to be able to withstand the elements. Most heaters made expressly for patios or backyards should be ok in this respect, but if you want a patio heater you can really count on in the long term, then your best bet is spending a little more for a brand with a strong reputation for reliability or a heater that offers a good warranty. For some types of patio heaters, you can buy covers for when they’re not in use to prolong their life and ward off issues like rust. Weather Where you live and the typical weather you experience in the fall and winter should also play a role in determining the best patio heater for your needs. If it gets really cold, then you’ll need a heater that’s more powerful or multiple heaters to provide enough warmth. If it’s especially windy, then you’ll need to be extra careful that any freestanding or tabletop heaters you get have the proper safety features. A lot of wind and rain will make using a fire pit more difficult as well, and will mean you need to be more aware of the possibility of rust. Ease of Use Natural gas and electric patio heaters tend to be the easiest to use, with propane coming close. Fire pits and chimineas are more difficult, because starting a fire can be a bit challenging and time consuming. A lot of patio heaters come with convenient options like different settings for how warm you want it, which makes getting the temperature just right easy as well. And tabletop heaters are easy to move around based on where on your patio people are hanging out. Ease of Assembly Some of the patio heaters that are easiest to use long term are difficult to get set up at first. Freestanding patio heaters can be fairly complicated to put together and any heater hooked up to natural gas will involve a complicated installation process. whereas tabletop heaters and some fire pits and chimineas require little to no assembly. Reviewers are often quick to comment on it if a patio heater is a pain to assemble or has unhelpful instructions, so you can get a sneak peak at what to expect by looking at the reviews before you buy. Extras: Heating levels: Many patio heaters provide the option of switching between different levels of heat. This is especially common with freestanding, tabletop, and mountable models. Warranty: A warranty can provide confidence that your patio heater is made to last and you have recourse if there are any issues. Shut off feature: Freestanding and table top models often include a shut off feature that kicks into gear if the heater starts to tip over or is blocked by something, so you face a reduced risk of fire. Weighted base: Freestanding patio heaters with a weighted base are better designed to stay upright in the face of winds (or being bumped into by guests). Cover: A cover can help prolong the life of your patio heater by protecting it from the elements in between uses. Wheels: Some freestanding models come with wheels so they’re easier to move from one spot to another. Popular Patio Heater Brands With so many patio heaters to choose form, having an idea of the quality you can expect from different brands can make narrowing down your options easier. We looked at the reviews for a number of popular heater brands to see what customers think of them. Here’s a summary of what we found. AZ Patio Heaters AZ Patio Heaters provide a huge line of patio heating options that includes freestanding heaters, tabletop heaters, fire pits, and mounted heaters. This being an area they specialize in – I mean, it’s right there in the name – they pretty well know what they’re doing. As you’d expect for a brand that offers a wide range of products, the specific comments in the reviews vary based on the particular item. Reviewers commonly praise their AZ Patio Heaters for being a good deal, looking beautiful, and providing good warmth. For some items, people say the instructions and assembly are a pain and you have to be careful with exposure to the elements if you want the product to continue to look good. In general, customers are happy with the performance for the price. Blue Rooster Blue Rooster sells decorative chimineas that customers say are well made and easy to put together. Most reviewers are pleased with the quality and the comfort the item adds to their outdoor experience. The main complaints came from customers who didn’t realize they were purchasing a smaller chiminea than intended, or who were frustrated that the size of the opening requires chopping firewood down to a smaller size than is typical. Those complaints are particular to smaller models and easy to avoid if you check the specs before buying. On the whole, they’re a reliable choice if you want a beautiful chiminea for your patio. Endless Summer Endless Summer offers stylish tabletop and freestanding patio heaters. Most of their reviews are positive, with people saying their patio heaters are beautiful and offer good safety features. Some customers complained of getting units that don’t last very long though, suggesting there’s the occasional lemon in the mix. The customers that are happy are usually very happy though. EnerG + EnerG + sells outdoor hanging and freestanding patio heaters that earn mostly positive reviews from customers. They say the patio heaters are easy to install and make the space nice and toasty. A few reviewers had issues with the heaters not lasting long, but they appear to be in the minority. Most customers are satisfied. Fire Sense Fire Sense provides affordable patio heaters that come in a range of types and styles, including table top heaters, freestanding heaters, mounted heaters, and fire pits. Most customers are pleased with their purchase. Fire Sense heaters typically provide great heat, look good, and are easy to assemble. Reviews of their heaters point toward a reliable reputation for quality. Garden Radiance Garden Radiance’s freestanding heaters come in a variety of styles and earn mixed reviews from customers. The most common complaint is that while their heaters look great, they simply don’t put out enough heat. Some happy customers said they’re easy to assemble and work fine, but if you’re concerned about functionality as well as aesthetics, this might not be the brand for you. Infratech While they don’t have as many reviews online currently as most of the other brands we looked at, Infratech’s mounting heaters consistently earn positive reviews from the customers that have taken the time to come back and give their opinion. Customers say the heaters are very warm and make their outdoor spaces especially cozy. They do cost a good amount of money and use more electricity than many of the other options, but according to reviewers it pays off. Patina Patina sells affordable fire pits that come in a variety of designs. The majority of reviewers are very happy with their purchase. They say their fire pits are a great value for the price, well constructed, and that they have a nice design. A few reviewers mentioned the fire pits rusting, but many are happy with the product anyway. The general takeaway from the reviews is that they’re a solid choice for an affordable fire pit. Real Flame Real Flame offers stylish high-end fire pits. Most reviewers are happy with their fire pits, saying they’re beautiful and keep things nice and warm. One of their fire pits gets some complaints for not being of a high enough quality and durability for the price, but most of their fire pits fare well in reviews. Sunpak Sunpak’s wall mounted heaters don’t have too many reviews online at this time, but the ones they have are uniformly positive. Their heaters work well, are easy to assemble, and last a long time. They’re on the expensive side, but by all accounts, they work. Uniflame Uniflame makes fire pits that come in a number of different styles and at a variety of price points. Their fire pits earn solid reviews. People talk about how much they love sitting around the fire with family and friends. Some people say they’re easy to assemble, others have more difficulty, so mileage varies there. But customers consistently say the fire pits look great and put off a nice amount of heat. Conclusion On a cool fall or winter night, you can enjoy your patio in cozy comfort with the help of the right patio heater. Make sure you use your heater safely and choose one well suited to the space. Once your patio heater has been purchased and set up, your patio space will become a comfortable hangout throughout the year.