Which heater is best for a covered patio?
It’s frustrating when you want to enjoy your patio but the weather won’t allow it. A patio heater lets you comfortably use your outdoor space after dark and in cooler months, but not all are ideal for covered patios.
It’s important to know what to consider when buying a heater for a covered patio. Not all are safe in covered areas, and some need ample room around them so they don’t pose a fire risk. Armed with all the information, you can narrow down the best patio heater for your outdoor space.
Electric vs. natural gas vs. propane patio heaters
You can find three main varieties of patio heaters: electric, natural gas and propane. But are they equally suited to covered patios?
- Electric: Electric patio heaters are perfect for covered patios because they don’t emit any potentially harmful fumes, so ventilation isn’t an issue. They plug into a power outlet and, with a covered patio, it doesn’t even need to be a specialized outdoor outlet, so there are no installation requirements.
- Propane: These gas patio heaters run off bottled propane. While they’re safe for some covered patios, there must be ample ventilation, so if your patio has enclosed sides, stay away from propane heaters. You also need to leave enough space between the heater and the roof or there’s a risk of fire.
- Natural gas: These patio heaters connect to an existing gas line, so you don’t have to bother about purchasing tanks. Natural gas burns cleaner and is safer than propane; the former is lighter than air, allowing it to dissipate quickly. Even so, natural gas heaters should only be used in semi-enclosed spaces.
Types of patio heaters
Once you know whether you want an electric or gas patio heater, you should pay attention to the types available. The most common options are free-standing, tabletop, hanging and mounted.
- Freestanding: These stand independently so you can move them around as needed. They’re usually tall enough to warm a decent amount of vertical space.
- Tabletop: A tabletop patio heater is compact enough to sit on a tabletop. They emit enough heat to warm people around a table but won’t heat a larger space or a full patio.
- Hanging: Hanging heaters hang from the ceiling warming the area below them. They’re great if your covered patio has an obvious place to hang things from the ceiling, such as beams to which you can attach your heater.
- Wall-mounted: If you have a wall in your patio area, a wall-mounted heater is an option. The trouble is that they’re tricky to move once you’ve set them up.
When buying a heater for your covered patio, you need to pay attention to clearance requirements. These dictate the amount of space you need to leave between the top of the heater and the roof and the sides of the heater and anything flammable. It’s generally only gas patio heaters that have clearance requirements. The amount of clearance you need varies between models, so you should check before buying, but it’s usually at least 2 to 3 feet.
What to look for in an outdoor patio heater
These are some of the other factors you should consider when picking a heater for your covered patio.
Consider what power requirements your heater has. Propane patio heaters run off tanks of propane, so you’ll need to know where to source them or get them refilled. Freestanding propane heaters use full-size propane tanks, while tabletop propane heaters use mini 1-pound propane bottles.
Electric patio heaters need to be plugged into a power outlet. If you don’t have a suitable outdoor outlet, you can run the cord indoors to plug it into a regular outlet. It’s fine to use an extension cord if you need to.
The heat output of propane heaters is measured in British Thermal Units, while you’ll need to look at the wattage of an electric outdoor heater to tell how powerful it is.
- Propane heaters: Expect a decent tabletop propane heater to have an output of around 10,000 Btu. A decent free-standing model should have a 40,000- to 48,000-Btu output.
- Electric heaters: Look for a maximum output of around 1,500 watts, though most also have lower settings of 600 to 1,200 watts for when you don’t need full power.
Some heaters are more portable than others. Free-standing and tabletop models are great for moving from place to place to get heat where you need it. Wall-mounted and hanging heaters are technically possible to move once you’ve set them up, but it requires a lot more effort. Propane heaters are easier than electric ones to move from spot to spot, as they aren’t reliant on outlets.
Top outdoor heaters for covered patios
Best wall-mounted patio heater
You can choose to either wall-mount this electric infrared patio heater or mount it on a compatible tripod to turn it into a free-standing model. The Dr. Infrared heater has three heat settings offering outputs of 900, 1,200 or 1,500 watts.
Best hanging patio heater
This electric model hangs from the ceiling, providing up to 1,500 watts of radiant heating power. It has two heat settings and a 90-degree tilt feature that lets you adjust where the warmth goes.
Best tripod-style patio heater
This infrared heater comes with a tripod, but you can also choose to mount it on a wall. It has a long 7-foot cord, which is ideal if you need to plug it into an indoor outlet and run the cord out to your patio.
Best patio space heater
Thanks to its oscillating design, this outdoor space heater is great for warming a large patio. The electric heater measures 57 inches tall and has a 1,500-watt output to keep you toasty even on cold days.
Best tabletop patio heater
With a compact design, this heater is ideal for placing on a tabletop to warm the people around it in a well-ventilated covered patio. It takes a 1-pound propane tank and has an output of 10,000 Btu.
Best propane patio heater
As long as you have a well-ventilated covered patio with enough ceiling clearance to accommodate it, this propane patio heater does a great job of warming large spaces. It has an impressive 48,000-Btu output.
Best natural gas patio heater
This powerful natural gas unit offers 45,000 Btu of heating power. The Fire Sense patio heater is easy to get going with the electronic ignition, and its sleek steel housing makes it more attractive than other heaters.
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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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