The cold weather is around the corner, and that means one thing – many people will be saying bye to the porch and the outdoors in general.
The outdoors become extremely cold during the winter. Spending just an hour on the porch on some of the winter days may feel like a suicide mission – unless you invest in an outdoor patio heater!
Outdoor heaters may not bring the radiation of the sun rays to your porch, but they introduce more than enough heat to help you remain on deck, porch, or any other area outside the main house for as long as you wish.
This guide should help you identify and pick the right portable patio heater for your needs.
How the Portable Outdoor Patio Heater Works
The traditional portable outdoor heater burns propane or natural gas to produce heat directed against a perforated metal screen. Heat is radiated from the metal screen in a circular pattern around the appliance.
A reflector at the top of the burner helps prevent upward loss of heat. This reflecting surface is typically made of silver, a poor absorber of heat but an excellent reflector of infrared rays. Thus, the surface prevents loss of heat through conduction.
Types of Portable Patio Heaters
There are several categories of outdoor heaters. Some stand on their own, some install on the wall, others require a table, etc. The following are the most popular models;
Freestanding Patio Heaters
Freestanding patio heaters are the most versatile of all the patio heater models. They move easily from one spot to the next and don’t require any form of mounting. They comprise four essential parts – the base, pole, heat source, and reflector.
Although they are primarily fueled by propane, some of the units are dual-fuel thus can use either propane or natural gas.
Table-Top Patio Heaters
Table-top outdoor heaters are a great centerpiece to your patio table, offering warmth while you and your family or guests chat the evening away.
They look like miniature versions of the freestanding models, comprising the same parts in freestanding patio heaters. However, they are lower-capacity units designed to warm a smaller area.
Wall or Ceiling-Hanging Patio Heaters
For semi-permanent installation on the patio and decks, wall and ceiling-mounted patio heaters would be the right choice. The heaters don’t take up any floor space, meaning you can host more guests on your patio.
Some units can be operated remotely, though most remote-controlled models are electric-powered. The wall-mounted models are less portable but can still be moved from one location to another with relative ease.
The only downside of wall-ceiling mounted patio heaters is that they require professional installation.
Benefits of Portable Outdoor Heaters
There are endless advantages to investing in a patio heater. If you’ve been wondering how spending money on one would benefit you, consider the following;
Enjoy the Outdoors All Year
Many people spend a lot of time on the patio in the warmer weather. However, the winter’s freezing-cold temperatures often mean that you’re forced to remain indoors most of the day.
A patio heater allows you to continue spending time on the patio even on the coldest of winters. As long as it’s giving off enough heat, you can even bring friends and continue enjoying the BBQs late into the evening.
Add Style to your Patio
Portable outdoor heaters are aesthetically pleasing, hence an attractive addition to the garden or patio. For an even better appearance, consider investing in a gas patio that produces flames. You’ll love the ambiance.
In addition to the flame, outdoor patios also come in many styles, shapes, and finishes. You’re free to choose specific finishes that complement your patio and garden for that striking appearance.
The Portability is a Major Advantage
A portable heater can be moved from one area to the next without any trouble. This flexibility means that you can use the patio heater at parties and other outdoor events.
That’s not all – portable patio heaters are also easier to store and maintain. When you don’t need them during the warm weather, you can take the heater(s) inside until the cold season returns.
Safety Considerations When Using Patio Heaters
Despite the many advantages, portable patio heaters come with one substantial challenge – safety. Though most of the units are designed to be very safe, there are still a few safety and even health risks associated, especially with gas heaters.
For instance, propane gas can cause respiratory issues resulting from incomplete burning and CO poisoning. Propane also presents a severe fire risk, especially if there’s a leak. Consider the following precautions;
- Never use an indoor heater outside: Patio heaters are distinctly marked as safe for outdoor use. So, don’t just buy any portable heater and hope you can use it on the patio. Also, never use patio heaters indoors.
- Use carbon monoxide alarms: Install the unit somewhere on the patio to sound an alarm if the oxygen levels are dangerously low.
- Make sure that the patio heater is stable. Many units comprise a base compartment where you can insert the gas cylinder for stability. Also, consider adding sand for further stability.
- Ensure proper ventilation: This especially applies if you’re using the heater under a covered porch. Ideally, you may also want to opt for electric heaters over gas-powered models in these circumstances.
- Ensure proper clearance: A good rule of thumb is to allow a minimum of 30 inches (about a meter) on all four sides of heaters above 50,000 BTU. For lower-capacity heaters, leave at least 24 inches is more than sufficient.
Portable Outdoor Heater FAQs
Do Outdoor Heaters Work in the Winter?
Yes. Many outdoor heaters work just fine in the winter. As we’ve seen, many are equipped with stabilizing bases to prevent tip-over on windy days. Many are also designed to resist water during storms. That said, however, it’s advised to disassemble and take the heater indoors if the weather gets out of control.
What’s the Best Type of Outdoor Heater?
It depends on your needs. Freestanding models are some of the most potent outdoor heaters. Many can generate up to 45,000 BTU, capable of heating objects up to 13 feet away. However, they are also the most expensive option. However, some people prefer table-top models for style and elegance.
What’s Better? Gas or Electric Outdoor Heater?
Each option has strengths and weaknesses. Electric patio heaters are typically less expensive to run and more eco-friendly. They produce up to 90% less CO2 compared to gas heaters. They are also less noisy and consume less energy.
However, gas heaters deliver more heat energy (BTU output) for every dollar spent upfront. For instance, a 52,000 BTU (15,000 watts) gas heater costs about $400 on average. To get the same level of heating from a commercial electric heater, you’d need to spend at least $1,200
How Much Does it Cost to Run an Outdoor Heater?
It depends on the fuel type and BTU rating of the heater. A standard 40,000 BTU propane patio heater consumes about $2 per hour. The calculation is as follows; a 5-gallon (20lb) tank of propane gas costs $25 to $20. When connected to a 40,000 BTU heater, the tank can run for 10 hours continuously. This works out to around $1.5 to $2.0/hour.
How Long Does a Propane Tank Last on a Patio Heater?
This will depend on the heater’s fuel consumption (BTU rating), how often you use it for heating, and the average duration of each heating session. When you need heating every day, and for longer, it may only last a couple of days in the cold winter. Assuming that you use a 40,000 BTU heater and spend three hours on the patio every day, you may only use it for around three days.
However, during the fairer weather, many people only need one hour of heating for about three days a week. In this case, a 5-gallon tank of propane can last up to three weeks.
What Size Outdoor Heater Do I Need?
There are a couple of factors to consider here. First, how big is your patio? The standard requirement is a 5,000 to 10,000 BTU freestanding heater for average-sized decks between 100-450 square feet.
Beyond that, double the BTU value every time the patio size doubles. For instance, a 900 square-foot patio requires a 20,000 BTU heater.
Secondly, you also need to consider the location and number of heaters. If you’re buying a table-top patio heater, you may do with half the BTU value of a freestanding heater because table-top heaters bring the heat source much closer to the people.
Best Portable Outdoor Heater
1. Dura Heat 360 Degree Instant Radiant Double Tank Portable Indoor Outdoor Propane Heater
The Dura Heat Model LP-18-360 is a new design propane heater from renowned manufacturers Dura Heat that provides 360-degree heating that you can take with you almost anywhere. It’s both durable and portable, making an excellent choice for emergencies.
You’ll love that although the unit primarily uses two 1-LB cylinders, you can hook it to a 20-LB refillable propane tank without any problems. All you need is the optional extension hose.
The convenient carry handle allows for easy movement, and you can also look forward to two heat settings, with the higher setting delivering a powerful 18,000 heating performance.
An oxygen depletion sensor, tip-over safety shutoff, and protective grill guard are other standout features of the heater.
- 360-degree instant heat
- Swivel valve for easy loading
- Built-in carry handle
- Single-button lighting
- 1-year manufacturer warranty
- Propane tank not included
- The parts can get hot
2. BALI Outdoors Portable Patio Outdoor Propane Table Top Heater
If you’re more excited by an umbrella heater, you may want to look at this BALI heater. It’s a 34 inches (height) x 20 inches (diameter) with a powerful 10,000 BTU output, making it ideal for small parties and general patio heating.
It also stands out for its portability. Weighing a paltry 14 pounds, you can move it around with ease.
The heater uses 1-LB propane tanks (not included), which can continuously run for a full two hours. However, you can also hook it to a 20-LB LP tank for more prolonged use.
An oxygen depletion sensor protects users from carbon monoxide. It will automatically shut off when the oxygen levels are too low.
Although the BALI requires some assembly, it’s short work. Moreover, all the directions are available in the manual.
- Powerful 10,000 BTU output
- Weighted base for stability
- Convenient push-and-turn ignition
- Safety grill guard
- Auto shutoff tilt valve
- Best for small areas
3. Hampton Bay 48000 Btu Stainless Steel Patio Heater
Finally, the Model NCZH-G-SS heater from Hampton Bay is a powerful, 48,000 BTU heater – the perfect solution for extending your backyard entertaining season.
The brushless stainless-steel finish accents perfectly and enhances patio décor. The heater also features a durable stainless steel build for weather resistance and long useful life.
Other key features of the heater include an easy access door (for the propane tank), an adjustable table for greater convenience, and wheels for easy mobility. The unit uses a 20-LB propane tank, which is sold separately.
Remember that the Hampton Bay heater allows for adjustment of heat output. An anti-tilt auto-shutoff function protects users in case of accidental tip-over.
- Delivers an incredible 48,000 BTU
- Durable stainless steel build
- Brushed, stainless steel finish
- Multiple safety features
- Easy access door
- Pricey at over $300
- Requires some assembly
4. Garden Treasures 48000-BTU Stainless Steel Floorstanding Liquid Propane Patio Heater
The Garden Treasures Model NCZH-G-KMZMSS is a stainless steel propane patio heater that can heat spaces measuring up to 200 square feet. It’s made and finished in stainless steel, creating a modern, sleek style that will enhance any outdoor space.
The unit uses piezoelectric ignition for easy starting and a simple control knob for temperature adjustment. It hooks to a standard 20-LB propane fuel tank and has a table-top and anti-grip anchors and wheels for easy mobility.
The Garden Treasures requires some assembly – a bolt kit is included. However, it’s easy to work. You only need a screwdriver. A one-year manufacturer warranty backs the heater.
- Powerful 48,000 BTU heating
- Wheel kit included
- Tip-over protection
- Stainless steel build/finish
- Heats up to 68 square feet
- Tank not included
- Not convertible to natural gas
- Protective cover not included
5. Member’s Mark Patio Heater with LED Table + Wheels for Moving
This Member’s Mark heater is a commercial-grade patio heater perfect for restaurants, bars, and, yes, outdoor spaces such as the residential patio.
It packs 47,000 BTU and allows for variable heat output. An adjustable table makes the deal even sweeter because you can use it with family, including the kids. The sleek, stainless steel finish is striking!
The heater’s other qualities that consumers quickly fall in love with are the electronic ignition and easy-moving wheels for mobility. This makes the Member’s Mark the ideal solution for extending outdoor dining and entertainment.
The durable, stainless steel build ensures many years of use. It also withstands most weather elements. The heater users a 20-LB propane tank (sold separately).
- Powerful 47,000 BTU heating
- Adjustable table with LED
- Easy-start electronic ignition
- Includes wheels for mobility
- Durable stainless steel build
- Priced at over $250
- A bit bulky
6. Sengoku HeatMate 10,000 BTU Portable Indoor/Outdoor Kerosene Heater
So far, we’ve only looked at propane heaters. However, if you’re not a fan of propane fuel, this kerosene unit by Sengoku would be a fantastic alternative.
A key advantage is that it operates without the need for electric power. Additionally, it’s very portable and can be carried around with ease.
The 10,000 BTU heater is safe for use and economical to operate. Some of the safety features include automatic safety shutoff, tip-over protection, and a protective safety grill. Easy push-button ignition and an EZ flame adjuster are other noteworthy features.
It has an easy-to-read fuel gauge so you can keep track of your use. A siphon pump is also included for refilling purposes. A 2-year warranty backs the heater.
- Ideal for up to 380 square feet
- 1.2-gallon capacity
- Up to 14 hours per fill
- Siphon pump included
- 2-year warranty
- Can get extremely hot
- Kerosene has a characteristic smell
Also known as patio heaters or mushroom heaters (because most of them are shaped like a mushroom), an outdoor heater is a radiant heating appliance that generates thermal heat for outdoor use.
The units typically comprise a burner on top of a pole. The burner can run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), propane, or butane. However, a few units run on electricity.
Depending on the fuel type, the units can be portable, connected to the home gas supply, or wall-mounted (in electric outdoor heaters). Nearly all the mobile models are propane-powered heaters.
Portable patio heaters could be the final piece to your home-heating jigsaw. These appliances instantly turn your patio into a warm, cozy area where you can while away the evenings. The best part is – they allow you to use your deck right through the freezing winter season!
All you need to do is pick the right model. Make sure it’s powerful enough (BTU-wise). If you can find the right finish, it may even go some way in uplifting your outdoors.