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The best patio heaters in 2020

Best patio heaters
(Image credit: Hiland)

As summer nights transition to autumn evenings, you’ll need one of the best patio heaters to keep your home toasty. And if your back deck comes with a backyard, owning a portable heating unit lets you enjoy the ambiance of the great outdoors — even when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate. 

Your experience with patio heaters might be limited to restaurants with sidewalk seating, but having one of these for yourselves takes family-time gatherings to another stratosphere after the sun goes down. They’re not just for heating things up, either: some of our favorite patio heaters can double as artful, functional furniture. (Color me crazy, but there’s something magical about a dancing flame in front of your face after dinnertime.)  

Whether you’re interested in standing, mounted, or tabletop options, we’ve scoured the web for the best patio heaters you can buy today. Read on to get your heat on.

What are the best patio heaters?

When it comes to the best patio heaters on the market, you can’t do much better than the Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU Patio Heater. Thanks to an affordable combination of style, functionality, and power, it’s a great value for the price. Its durable steel construction should last a while, too.

If you’d like your home-heating accessories to make a fashion statement, the Thermo Tiki Deluxe Outdoor Propane Patio Heater is second-favorite on our list. The dancing flame will keep your friends mesmerized for hours, while simultaneously creating light and heat for everyone. It’s more expensive than competing models, but for the additional atmosphere, it’s worth it.

Extra warmth doesn’t have to drain your bank account, and the Dr. Infrared Heater DR-238 is a perfect case-in-point. For less than $150, you get a spacious 1,000 square feet of coverage in a safe, discreet package. It’s a solid option for families with small children running around. 

One thing to note: As with many other lockdown-related items, there’s been an unprecedented surge in interest in patio heaters, so some of the options listed below may be out of stock temporarily.

The best patio heaters you can buy today

(Image credit: Hampton Bay)

1. Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU Patio Heater (NCZH-G-SS)

The best patio heater overall

Type: Free Standing | Total BTU: 48,000 | Fuel Type: Propane | Heating Area: 200 square feet | Size: 87.3 x 32.3 x 32.3 inches | Weight: 33.0 pounds

Competitively priced
Durable steel construction
Less heat output than more expensive models

If you’d like to give your patio an “outdoor restaurant” vibe, the Hampton Bay 48,000 BTU Patio Heater is a great choice. Constructed from durable stainless steel, this 33-pound heater is a good blend of style and functionality. 

The best patio heater overall has a piezoelectric ignition to ensure quick, seamless starts, and the adjustable heat control settings let you customize the temperature as needed. (Up to 48,000 BTUs of warmth.) At 87 inches high and 32 inches in diameter, this portable hotspot (in the literal sense) will look right at home on the back porch, and it’s easy enough to stow in a corner when not in use. (Propane gas cylinder sold separately.) Pound for pound, this is one of the best values we could find. 

(Image credit: Hiland)

2. Hiland HLDSO1-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Propane Heater

The best mid-range pyramid patio heater

Type: Free Standing | Total BTU: 40,000 | Fuel Type: Propane | Heating Area: 10 square feet | Size: 91.0 x 21.0 x 21.0 inches | Weight: 65.2 pounds

Attractive hammered bronze design
Sturdy base
Heavy, tall

For a pyramid-style heat source that will grab some attention (in a good way), the Hiland HLDSO1-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Propane Heater is one of the best patio heaters you can get. Thanks to its 40,000 BTU output and a mesmerizing visual flame, this heater is pretty darn cool (err, hot). 

Utilizing a 20-pound propane tank (hidden below via the easy-access door), the durable base isn’t going anywhere — unless you want it to. The attached wheels make it portable, but at 91 inches high, this isn’t the best patio heater for smaller spaces. Be sure to measure your ceiling height before pulling the trigger on this one, but if you have room for it, the Hiland HLDSO1-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Propane Heater has a rustic-yet-snazzy look that’s sure to please.

(Image credit: Dr. Infrared)

3. Dr. Infrared Heater DR-238

The best budget-friendly infrared patio heater

Type: Infrared | Total BTU: 42,000 | Fuel Type: Electric | Heating Area: 1,000 square feet | Size: 47.0 x 35.0 x 4.0 inches | Weight: 8.0 pounds

Inexpensive
Huge coverage area
Infrared is safer around children
Some reviews reported odor during first use

Dr. Infrared proves that the amenity of outdoor heating isn’t just for one-percenters. For less than $150, this wall- or ceiling-mounted device is one of the best patio heaters you’ll find at this price point. 

Perfect for covered patios, the adjustable Dr. Infrared DR-238 Heater provides clean, instant warmth at 900, 1,200, and 1,500 watts. (It also comes with a handy remote control.) And since infrared heaters themselves do not warm up during use, this is one of the best heaters for families with small children; the clean-burning warmth stays comfortably out of reach. Don’t let the reasonable price tag fool you: the DR-238 Heater has a coverage area up to 1,000 square feet.     

Some reviewers reported an odor when using the DR-238 for the first time, but otherwise, this is a top-notch heating machine that won’t let you down (or burn your wallet). 

(Image credit: Fire Sense)

4. Fire Sense Stainless Steel Table Top Patio Heater

The best tabletop propane heater

Type: Tabletop | Total BTU: 10,000 | Fuel Type: Propane | Heating Area: 1,000 square feet | Size: 13.4 x 20.9 x 34.7 inches | Weight: 16 pounds

Tabletop design is easily portable
Great for small groups
Affordable
Not meant for large spaces

If your space-heating needs are modest, this is one of the best patio heaters you can get. At just 38 inches high, it’s easy to move this tabletop heater from one surface to another. It’s also available in two color options—a neat bonus. 

The Fire Sense Stainless Steel Table Top Patio Heater is ideal for small groups of three to four people; the propane lasts for about three hours at a time. There’s a weight plate in the base for added stability, and the burner screen guard adds some extra peace of mind for errant fingers. Should your space options be limited, you’ll want to give this heater a look. 

(Image credit: Hiland)

5. Hiland FS-1212-T-10 Aluminum Scroll Propane Pit

The best heater-table combo

Type: Free Standing | Total BTU: 42,000 | Fuel Type: Propane | Heating Area: N/A | Size: 49.5 x 35.5 x 23.5 inches | Weight: 147.7 pounds

Doubles as a table
Distinguished bronze design
Hidden propane compartment
Expensive
Heavy, bulky

If you’re going to invest in one of the best patio heaters, you may want to consider one that doubles as furniture. The Hiland Fire Pit is much more expensive than most patio heaters, but there’s something to be said for the elegance of a bronze fireplace-island. (And one that never has to be stoked, no less.)

The Hiland FS-1212-T-10 Aluminum Scroll Propane Pit is the perfect accessory for outdoor relaxation — and any self-respecting BBQ. The hammered bronze will look good in just about any backyard, and is perfect for year-round use. (The propane tank is hidden underneath.) Sure, it’s pricier than the average standing heater, but for the price, you get double the usefulness. Staying warm under the stars — all year long — has never been easier. Just don’t burn your feet!

(Image credit: Firesense)

6. Fire Sense 1500W Electric Infrared Patio Heater

The best standing infrared heater

Type: Free Standing/Infrared | Total BTU: 5,500 | Fuel Type: Electric | Heating Area: 120 square feet | Size: 93.0 x 18.0 x 18.0 inches | Weight: 45.0 pounds

Eco-friendly
Weatherproof
Silent operation
Low heat output
Somewhat bulky

If you’d like to take the more eco-friendly route for outdoor heating, the Fire Sense 1500W Electric Infrared Patio Heater should keep the shivers away during after-dinner cordials. Operating at 90 percent heating efficiency, this infrared patio heater is less expensive than its propane-based cousins, and it starts heating up in just a few seconds; according to the company, this results in a 9-feet “blanket” of heat in the surrounding area, which is perfect for small gatherings in small spaces.  

This patio heater is quiet — silent, in fact. The aluminum-and-steel construction is weatherproof, too, so you don’t need to worry about the rain. The attached wheels allow for easy mobility, and the 1,500-watt bulb lasts for up to 5,000 hours. This is a sought-after model at a variety of online retailers, and user reviews are consistently high across the board.

(Image credit: Bromic)

7. Bromic Heating BH0110003-1 Smart-Heat Platinum 500 Radiant Infrared Patio Heater

The best premium mounted heater

Type: Wall Mount | Total BTU: 39,800 | Fuel Type: Propane/Natural Gas | Heating Area: 200 square feet | Size: 29.7 x 15.6 x 14.9 inches | Weight: 40 pounds

Space-saving wall-mount design
Elegant and discreet
Energy-efficient
Very expensive

If you’re looking for a sleek, discreet heater for uninsulated spaces, look no further than the Bromic Heating BH0110003-1 Smart-Heat Platinum 500 Radiant Infrared Patio Heater. As opposed to freestanding heaters, this one is meant to be mounted permanently on a wall or ceiling, so there’s nothing to trip over. 

For modern homes and contemporary spaces, this is one of the best patio heaters you can buy (if your pockets are deep enough, that is). Providing direct and automated ignition, this powerhouse heater pumps out 39,800 BTUs (up to 200 square feet of coverage), and its slow-release ceramic burners are environmentally friendly. The patented screen and ionization probe technology provides excellent wind resistance (up to 12 miles per hour), and the pivoting mount bracket lets you control heat distribution as needed. If you have the money to spare, you won’t be disappointed with this bad boy. 

Note: professional installation may be required, but according to most user reviews, it’s worth the splurge. 

(Image credit: Thermo Tiki)

8. Thermo Tiki Deluxe Outdoor Propane Patio Heater

The best patio heater for outdoor parties

Type: Free Standing | Total BTU: 38,000 | Fuel Type: Propane | Heating Area: 15-foot diameter | Size: 54.0 x 30.5 x 8.0 inches | Weight: 57.9 pounds

Commercial-grade build quality
Stylish dancing flame design
Push-button ignition
Expensive
Fragile glass components

For those who prefer their outdoor heating with a side of style, the Thermo Tiki Deluxe Outdoor Propane Patio Heater puts its pyramid-style aesthetics on the same plane as its functionality. In addition to 38,000 BTUs of heat output, the added light makes this one of the best patio heaters for auxiliary ambiance.

Featuring a 15-foot diameter of warmth, your guests will flock to this ultra-efficient heat source like moths to the flame. It's mostly weatherproof, too; the components are made to withstand rust, fading, and corrosion. The push-button ignition is super convenient, and the controls let you adjust both the temperature and the dancing flame. (There’s also a safety valve that automatically cuts the fuel supply if the heater is tilted or tipped.) Some reviews reported fragile glass components, so be careful moving this thing around.

How to choose the best patio heater for you

Before you invest in a portable heater, make sure it checks off all the appropriate boxes for your wants and needs. There are lots of different styles and sizes out there, so you’ll want to find one that’s just right in regard to both features and aesthetics. 

Deck/Room/Patio Size
If you’re just adding some warmth to a small porch, you won’t need the most powerful heater on the market. And not every home has the proper indoor/outdoor space for a standing heater. (The tallest one on our list is about 7.5 feet. Not exactly compact.) Measure accordingly.

BTU (British Thermal Units)
This is the formal measurement for all heating appliances: the higher the number, the higher the potential temperature. While tabletop heaters usually pump out 10,000 to 12,000 BTUs, larger heaters can blast your yard with 40,000 BTUs of heat or more.

Heater Types
There are several types of portable patio heaters:

  • Free Standing - This is the best patio heater for large outdoor spaces. They generally consist of a pole, base, heat reflector, and heating source (gas or electric).
  • Mounted - These heaters are better if you don’t want them to be the center of attention. They’re meant to be permanently installed in discrete locations (such as a high wall near the ceiling.)  
  • Tabletop - These are much smaller than their mounted and free-standing brethren, and far more portable. They’re usually electric, and come in a variety of interesting styles. 
  • Infrared - Energy efficiency is #1 with these heaters. They’re not that portable, but they heat up quickly, and are best for families with small children.

Heat Sources
There are three primary types of heat sources:

  • Propane - This is the most popular option, and it heats up very quickly. Often found on free-standing heaters. 
  • Natural Gas - If you’re a homeowner, having a natural gas-powered heater is your cheapest, cleanest-burning option. Best for the outdoors.
  • Electric - By far the most convenient option, electric heaters are generally less energy-efficient than propane or natural gas. You’ll run your electricity bill through the roof if you’re not careful. 

Safety Features
If you’ve got kids, the best patio heater for you might be the one with the best safety features. As you shop, look for tilt-over protection, automatic shut-off valves, and cool-touch glass. (Infrared heaters can be a good option for families, since there aren’t any physical flames.)