The worst thing about thing about having a great patio is having to pack all the furniture away for the late fall and winter months. But why mourn the end of summer when you can make your patio warm and cozy with a patio heater? Even the best patio heaters are very affordable and aren’t likely to cost much more than a couple of hundred bucks apiece.

The main choices you have to make when considering the best patio heater is how much heat output you will require (measured in BTU), the type of fuel (electric, propane, natural gas) and whether you want a free-standing heater or a table top one.

Propane, Gas or Electric?

Personally, I think having a heater that burns with a flame gives a much more cozy effect than an electric patio heater. So my preference would be for either propane or natural gas. Propane or gas patio heaters typically start at around 10,000 BTU for a table top model and up to round 45,000 BTU for a free standing one. There are more powerful ones available for high-end prices that can reach up to about 56,000 BTU.

Most of the best outdoor heaters run on propane as they have the advantage of convenience. They do not require installation and therefore you can move them around more easily as well. They run off a 20lb propane tank and you can expect up to 10 hours of usage per tank. However, this depends on how high you have the flame turned up. You may only get 3-4 hours on full blast on some patio heaters. Natural gas and electric are cheaper sources of fuel but they will likely require professional installation.

Free-Standing or Tabletop Patio Heater?

Free-standing heaters are larger and more expensive than their table top patio heater counterparts. Typically you would either purchase a single free standing heater or two or more table top ones. Table top patio heaters have the advantage of being more portable of course. Another advantage of a table top propane heater is that you can have several and spread them around so that you distribute the heat more evenly around your patio.

A single outdoor table heater is not likely to be sufficient unless you have a very small patio area. The free standing heaters due to their increased size and power provide much greater heat coverage. They typically stand 7-8 feet tall and most are either pyramid/pagoda or mushroom shaped.

The Importance of Aesthetic Appeal

When considering the best patio heater I think the aesthetics are the most important feature. You have probably spent a lot of money designing your patio and getting the right furniture. You’re not going to want to install a patio heater that is completely out of character with the design of your patio. You will want a heater that complements the design of your patio.

I personally prefer the free standing patio heaters as their bigger size and height makes them a more impressive patio feature. It really is a personal preference whether to go for 2 or 3 table top heaters or a single free standing one.

Fire pits vs Patio Heaters

Fire pits are perhaps more aesthetically pleasing than the best outdoor heaters, but they aren’t as effective. Patio heaters give you the advantage of a more consistent temperature and you won’t have any problems with smoke. Patio heaters also feature reflectors that help to distribute the heat more evenly.

What about Ceiling Clearance?

If your patio area is covered by a roof then you need to take into account how much clearance there is between the top of the heater and ceiling. Please bear in mind that free-standing patio heaters are typically 7-8 feet tall. How much ceiling clearance you need is going to depend on the construction of the ceiling as you will need to allow more clearance for combustible materials such as wood. Before purchasing a free-standing heater I would give this some consideration as typically you should allow about 3 feet. However this will vary between different patio heater models, so check before you buy.

Can I use a Patio Heater inside a Conservatory?

Most patio heaters run on liquid propane which gives off carbon monoxide, so the answer to this question is that it is not advisable. If you are planning on buying a patio heater for use in a conservatory then it is advisable to get a natural gas or electric heater.

Patio Heater Reviews – My Recommendations

Let’s take a look at some of the best outdoor patio heaters that are currently available. You will find that there are several manufacturers producing free standing patio heaters and they all look pretty much the same. The most popular brand is Fire Sense and I recommend that you take a look at them first as their heaters come in a large variety of designs to choose from. You are more likely to find the patio heater that most complements your patio with a Fire Sense because they have many different designs available in their range.

Fire Sense Patio Heater Reviews

As of Fall 2016, Fire Sense have just released a new range of patio heaters dubbed the XL-Series. With their new 46,000 BTU heaters, they are one of the most powerful patio heaters on the market right now.

Most patio heaters operate on a pilot light which slowly wastes fuel whilst not in use. The other problem with pilot lights is that they can easily get blown out by the wind. However, the Fire Sense XL Series feature a pilotless burner system.

One of the most important things to consider with patio heaters is their safety. Patio heater manufacturers incorporate anti-tilt technology into their heaters that will shut them off if they tip over. Fire Sense however, have taken safety a step further than other makes by adding an additional 30lbs of sand ballast to the base unit. This gives the heater far more stability. Luckily the heater has wheels that make it easy to move around.

Like most patio heaters their effectiveness will deteriorate the colder it gets outdoors. The Fire Sense is most effective at temperatures above 45 degrees, so it’s perfectly adequate for the fall. However, come the cold winter evenings it will start to struggle to provide enough heat.

The heater will require about 45 minutes to assemble and you may require some assistance if you aren’t very good at putting things together.

The Fire Sense patio heaters come in a variety of styles so I’m pretty sure you will find one that complements your patio. Most of the designs are based on the popular mushroom style design with an enclosed flame at the top. However, they do also manufacture some pyramid shaped patio heaters with the tall dancing flames.

Fire Sense patio heaters come in a choice of colors and some of them even have a wicker base or feature a small table.

In my opinion, Fire Sense make some of the best outdoor patio heaters. They offer aesthetic appeal, stability and plenty of heat. They are available to buy on Amazon.

Thermo Tiki Deluxe

The pyramid shaped Thermo Tiki Deluxe is a 38,000 BTU propane powered floor-standing patio heater that stands 7.5 feet high. The stand out feature of the Thermo Tiki Deluxe is its dancing flame which makes it a winner when it comes to aesthetic appeal.

The main concern with these types of heaters is their safety in the event that they get tipped over. However, the Thermo Tiki has been designed with safety in mind as it features an anti-tip base. The flame will also turns itself off as it has a built-in safety valve that will shut off the propane supply if it is tilted too far. The heater arrives flat packed and is easily assembled in about 30 minutes.

This is definitely a heater to consider as the dancing flame creates a great ambient effect that helps to create a cozy atmosphere on your patio on a chilly evening. The downside is that it perhaps doesn’t distribute its heat as well as some other patio heaters. If it gets too cold outside you may find yourself having to move yourself closer to the heater as its performance does begin to deteriorate on colder evenings.

You can pick up a Thermo Tiki patio heater on Amazon.
Click here to view the Thermo Tiki Deluxe on Amazon

Bellezza Patio Heater

The Bellezza patio heater is of a very similar design to the Thermo Tiki. It is of similar height and features a similar dancing flame feature. It is slightly more powerful with an output of 42,000 BTU. This is sufficient to provide heat across a 15-foot radius.

There really isn’t much difference between this and the Thermo Tiki and I would take a look on Amazon to see which of the two currently has the best deal. If you compare the customer reviews on Amazon for the two heaters you will see that they are both have similar customer feedback.

Lava Heat Outdoor Heater

Finally, if you are looking for something really special and you are prepared to pay extra for it then you can’t beat a Lava Heat Italia patio heater. These outperform all the other heaters on this page by at least 10,000 BTU. Depending on the model their burners vary between 56,000, and 66,000 BTU. Their premium performance is matched by their premium build quality.

Lava Heat patio heaters will disperse their heat over a larger area making them ideal for larger patios. You will also find that you are still able to sit outside comfortably on much colder evenings as they are still effective at lower temperatures than other patio heaters.

Built from heavy duty stainless steel they are able to withstand all weather conditions and will keep you warm whatever the weather.

That concludes my roundup of the best patio heaters currently available in 2016. All of them are available on Amazon in a variety of different designs and the prices vary a lot. I recommend you take a look on Amazon and compare the different models and find the one that best compliments the design of your patio.

7 Responses to “Best Outdoor Patio Heaters for Cozy Winter Evenings”

  1. Elizabeth

    These are on my wish list for sure. I love being outside but I hate being cold. Plus I’m in Sourthern CA so we don’t need much extra to keep warm. I can’t wait to get one and spend more time on my patio.

  2. Roch

    Such a great idea – it’s so easy to want to stay indoors in the winter and miss out on the fresh outside air. Great idea to have a patio heater – thanks for the review – definitely some good ones to think about.

  3. Lauren

    I live in a small townhouse and use my small patio all the time. I didn’t realize there were table-top patio heaters, but that sounds perfect for the small patio that I do have!

  4. Maria

    We have a large garden and I have been thinking about getting one of these outdoor heaters for a while. I wasn’t aware of the smaller variety of heaters you could place on a table. I wonder how much heat they would dissipate. To browse for an outdoor heater was definitely on my bucket list for next year. So I found your review article very useful in helping us to decide which heater to get. What does BTU actually stand for- you said it is the unit for measuring the heat output of those heaters-?

  5. Nick

    Nice article Martin, I was wondering if you’ve looked into anything that might be more environmentally friendly/efficient? It seems to me that this kind of heating is an extremely low efficiency method to heat any area. But then again I guess it’s largely dependent on the insulation that you have around the outdoor heater right?

  6. Linda

    Great idea for those that like the outdoors in the winter. It would be nice in the right weather. But not in the
    snow where we are. My family in Washington would love one of these heaters on the patio along with the
    fire pit. Informative post.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)