Summary List PlacementTable of Contents: Masthead Sticky Outdoor patio heaters have been in short supply as folks attempt to set up their outdoor spaces for the and winter. We've tested brands as they've come available, and talked to three experts about what to consider when buying a patio heater. We recommend choosing a pyramid or dome-top propane heater that gives off at least 40,000 Btu of heat.
While a patio heater won't magically melt away all the snow in your yard, it can help extend the outdoor season. The right outdoor patio heater can keep you and your guests cozy, even if there's a significant chill in the air. If you're looking for a patio heater to keep your space warm for outdoor social calls, you'll need to consider heat output, ease of use, and, most importantly, safety. Currently, many stores are sold out of outdoor heaters or have extremely low stock due to more people socially distancing outdoors as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues. We were able to get our hands on three models to test and review, and also consulted safety experts to put together this guide on what to look for if you're considering purchasing an outdoor patio heater. Updated on 1/20/20: Over the past several months we've been able to test three different patio heaters. Below you'll find more information on two heaters we recommend and one we don't. We'll continue to test patio heaters and update this guide as more products become available.What we recommend: AmazonBasics Patio Heater
The AmazonBasics Patio Heater is a sturdy, easy-to-use outdoor heating device that puts out an impressive 46,000 Btu of heat — enough to extend the outdoor dining season well into the colder months. Pros: Durable construction, easy to operate, wheeled design, puts out a lot of heat Cons: Shorter people might have to stretch to reach the control knob I panic-purchased the AmazonBasics Patio Heater when the weather started to turn colder and the pandemic didn't appear to be ending anytime soon. I wanted a way to continue to socialize with friends and family in a safe, outdoor environment. The primary reason I chose the AmazonBasics heater is because it was one of the few options that was available at the time, but it also hits all the marks for what our experts recommend looking for in a patio heater: a familiar brand, 46,000 Btu heat output, and prominent safety features. I've been using the AmazonBasics Patio Heater for almost four months now, and it's made it comfortable enough to sit outside even during the chilly Canadian fall. It provides a consistent amount of heat that spreads over a large enough area to keep a small group of two to four people comfortable when the weather is chilly. While it was most comfortable to use in the fall when the chill was milder, I'm still using my heater now at a time when there's a blanket of snow on the ground. On mild winter days, we can sit outside and have coffee while the dogs romp around — though we always still need a sweater or jacket. The mushroom-top unit has a single control knob with an ignition setting, along with low and high heat options. The heat controls are placed at the top of the unit, which requires short people like me to stand on tippy toes to reach, but keeps the controls out of the hands of kids. It operates on a 20 pound propane tank — the same kind you use to operate your BBQ — and the stainless steel design is weather-resistant, so there's not really any need to store it away for the winter. I've also been impressed with its safety features, like a built-in switch that turns the unit off when tipped over. A patio heater — even a powerful one like the AmazonBasics unit — won't turn your deck into a summertime oasis when the weather is freezing. Still, it can offer a hint of warmth, making it easier to spend more time outside with loved ones during the pandemic. Like with all patio heaters, we've seen stock of this product fluctuate. We don't recommend buying from third-party sellers. If it's out of stock or only available from third-party sellers, we recommend waiting until Amazon receives more stock. Product Embed: Product Name: AmazonBasics Outdoor Patio Heater with Wheels Card Type: button https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5fd37fd2f45c2376b1484101&type=button&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150% Read our full review of the AmazonBasics Patio Heater What else we recommend: Mr. Heater Buddy Patio Heater
The Mr. Heater Buddy Patio Heater is a compact, portable heater perfect for personal use and heating up small outdoor spaces. Its rugged design also makes it suitable for toting along in cold weather excursions like camping. Pros: Small footprint, durable construction, portable, simple to use Cons: Not an ideal solution for providing warmth for a large group of people This lightweight little device is an excellent option if you're short on space or want an outdoor heating option while you're on-the-go. It's only 14 inches wide, making it suitable for tabletop use. However, on mild winter days, I place it under my patio table as a supplemental heating device to my AmazonBasics unit. It heats up the surrounding area fairly quickly and runs for up to 3 hours — the single control knob allows you to choose between low and high heat. It puts out 9,000 Btu on its max setting, which is perfect for solo use, but not quite enough to keep multiple guests comfortable. You'll also get the most benefit if you're sitting in front of the heater. A tip-over switch and oxygen depletion sensor round out the device's safety features. I recommend this space-saving heater to anyone wanting to spend more time outside. Whether you're itching to get fresh air on unusually chilly summer nights or looking to enjoy a cup of coffee out on your balcony on a beautiful fall morning, this heater will help keep you warm without gobbling up valuable real estate. Like with all patio heaters, we've seen stock of this product fluctuate. We don't recommend buying from third-party sellers. If it's out of stock or only available from third-party sellers, we recommend waiting until Amazon receives more stock. Product Embed: Product Name: Mr. Heater Buddy Heater Card Type: button https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5f931a0219bb5e4e7c4b9163&type=button&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150% Read our full review of the Mr. Heater Buddy Patio Heater What else we tested We're continuing to test patio heaters as we can get our hands on them. Here are patio heaters we tested that didn't make the cut. What we don't recommend Rangland Patio Heater ($239): Out of the box, this unit looks almost identical to the AmazonBasics heater, but putting it together revealed a few significant red flags: the dome-top was warped, and several pieces didn't fit neatly together. The end result was a flimsy-looking heater with a wobbly base — I definitely didn't trust it to last in windy conditions. When it came time to start it up, I wasn't able to ignite it. I enlisted the help of my husband and father-in-law — who works in the aerospace field and gave the heater a failing grade — and neither had any luck firing it up. We even switched out the propane tank just in case the one we were using had an imperceptible leak, but to no avail. I also wasn't able to locate a customer service contact in the manual; another major red flag. I wasn't alone in my issues with this heater; multiple consumer reviews mention the same issues getting the heater lit. Even if you find an enticing deal on this heater, I recommend skipping it. Other brands to consider
Outdoor heaters are an investment, but they won't last forever. Buying from a reputable company that sells replacement parts means you'll be able to repair your patio heater should something break. We've noticed a lot of brandless outdoor heaters on Amazon and other online retailers and we don't recommend buying them, nor buying from third-party sellers. Some reputable patio heater brands include Home Depot's in-house brand Hampton Bay, AZ Patio Heaters (also sold as Hiland), Westinghouse, Dyna-Glo, and Mr. Heater. While we've only been able to test a few brands due to stock issues, we'll be adding reviews of other reputable brands to this guide soon. Here are some products worth considering: Product Embed: Product Name: Westinghouse 1500-Watt Infrared Table Top Electric Outdoor Heater Card Type: medium https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5f93429d1ad83a4b9a166a55&type=medium&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Dyna-Glo 42,000 BTU Stainless Steel Pyramid Flame Gas Patio Heater Card Type: medium https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5f9343ad8fc3970b6f2bc653&type=medium&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Hampton Bay 38,200 BTU Bronze Heat-Focusing Propane Gas Patio Heater Card Type: medium https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5f9345c3be509c3f9761ebf4&type=medium&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: AZ Patio Heaters HLDS01-WCGT Card Type: medium https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5f934700acfefb3c6502f559&type=medium&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150% The different types of patio heaters
Here's a quick breakdown of the most common types of outdoor patio heaters on the market:
Pyramid: A tall, freestanding outdoor heater with a triangular shape that usually runs on propane. Flames run up a center column from the bottom to the top of the heater. Dome-top: Also known as mushroom-top heaters, these models are tall and skinny with a big metal disk on top that deflects heat downward to distribute it evenly over a large area. They also run on propane and have a similar heat output to pyramid-style units. Tabletop: Compact, portable gas heaters that are small enough to fit on a patio table, like the Mr. Heater Buddy Heater. Electric heaters: Hanging lamp or freestanding heaters that require an outlet for power. These put out a lot less heat than propane-powered heaters.
While most outdoor patio heaters use propane or electricity as an energy source, natural gas heaters also exist, but they require professional installation into an existing gas line, so we don't expect to test these anytime soon. What to consider when shopping for a patio heater
Certifications Matthew Griffith, prevention section chief with the Montreal Fire Department, said shoppers should look for patio heaters with certifications from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC). These independent certification bodies test and ensure various appliances meet specific safety standards. Griffith said a lot of inexpensive products don't have these safety certifications, which can be quite expensive for brands to obtain."There's a reason why one company can sell it at half the price," he said. Though a product with safety certifications often costs more, Griffith said it's important to prioritize safety over price. Heat output You're buying a patio heater to keep warm when it gets cold, so heat output should be a key consideration. Most manufacturers list heat output in British thermal units (Btu) and estimate the square footage a heater can handle in ideal conditions. The higher the Btu of a heater, the more heat it will produce and the larger an area it will cover. You can estimate the Btu you need to heat your outdoor area by multiplying the cubic footage of the space by your desired temperature increase. My patio is about 1,500 cubic feet (assuming a height of around 5 feet — I'm short, so I don't need to heat the air too far above my head), and if I want to hang out outside in the fall when it's 50 degrees outside, I'll probably want to raise the temperature by at least 10 degrees. That means I'll need a heater that puts out at least 15,000 Btu. Bigger spaces or colder climates will require more Btu to heat comfortably. If you live in a colder area or are looking to entertain guests, we recommend looking for a heater that produces 40,000 Btu or more, which is enough to heat around 2,000 square feet comfortably. Dome or pyramid-shaped heaters are typically larger and have a higher Btu output, so they can usually heat a larger area than tabletop patio heaters. These tall patio heaters are often seen at restaurants because they can keep a large number of guests comfortable at one time. Thomas Bonfiglio, CEO and founder of Triple T Hospitality, said that the high heat output is one of the reasons he chose pyramid and dome-top heaters for his New York and New Jersey restaurants. "Diners who may still not be comfortable eating inside anywhere can have a pleasant experience outside for many months," Bonfiglio said. Fuel Type Propane-powered heaters typically produce more heat than electric heaters because they aren't limited by the circuit system of your home. That, of course, means there are some additional safety considerations for propane heaters, since they won't shut off automatically like an electric heater will when a circuit is overloaded. You can read more about safety considerations in the section below. The majority of propane patio heaters are compatible with standard 15-20 pound propane tanks, but some portable versions work with smaller, 16 ounce canisters. You'll have to buy propane tanks separately from the heater, as you would for a gas-powered outdoor fireplace or grill. Fortunately, small and large propane tanks are readily available at most hardware stores; it typically costs about $20 to $25 to refill or buy a 20 pound propane tank at Home Depot. How much gas your patio heater uses depends on its heat output, what setting you're using, and the surrounding air temperature (the colder it is, the more gas you'll use to heat the area). Amerigas says that you can expect to generate 22,000 Btu per hour for each pound of propane. So if you have a 40,000 Btu patio heater, it'll burn through about 2 pounds of propane every hour you're operating it on its highest setting. Patio heaters guzzle a lot of propane, so I always like to keep an extra tank on hand, since I have multiple outdoor gas-powered appliances like a grill and an outdoor fireplace. Electric heaters are usually cheaper and safer to operate because they produce less heat. They also don't require regular trips to the hardware store for fuel refills. But the heat isn't very powerful or far-reaching if you're looking to keep a crowd warm. If aesthetics are important to you, keep in mind that electric and propane heaters give off different types of light. Gas-powered patio heaters create actual flames, which produce a natural, fireplace-like glow. Bonfiglio said he settled on gas models for his restaurant because of their ability to evenly diffuse heat without adding unnecessary bright light. Controls Bonfiglio also chose patio heaters with controls that are high up and out of reach to customers, which keeps diners safe and the atmosphere consistent. If your household has children, pets, or fidgety adults who like to play with controls, you might also consider a patio heater with out-of-reach controls to prevent any accidents. Most tall, freestanding patio heaters naturally have controls that are high up. My AmazonBasics patio heater has controls so high that I need to stand on my tippy toes to reach them. On the flip side, if you don't have any wayward hands in your home, you might find it a pain to break out the step ladder every time you want to turn on your patio heater. Some models come with remote controls for easier operation, or you may opt for a tabletop unit. Portability and storage Experts told us you can store most propane heaters outside all year round. Just add a cover to prevent unnecessary wear and tear during rainstorms and cold winter months. We recommend choosing a model with wheels if you're opting for a standalone unit like a dome-top or pyramid heater, so that it's easy to wheel out of the way when not in use. If storing a portable patio heater indoors, remove the propane attachment before doing so. Safety considerations
Outdoor heaters are ultra-convenient and can easily turn your humdrum patio or deck area into a luxury retreat. But there's a lot to consider safety-wise when bringing any heat producing appliance into your home. Griffith said it's important to follow manufacturer recommendations during installation, which means reading the owner's manual—something many buyers never do. He also recommends keeping your patio heater away from anything combustible, and making sure you allow for at least 4 or 5 feet of clearance in all directions, including vertically. Be careful of trees, umbrellas, and, if you have an apartment balcony, any balconies above you made of flammable materials. Propane-powered heaters have actual flames coming out of them, which is why it's essential to always be alert when they're lit. With most outdoor heaters, you don't need to worry about accidentally burning yourself via fully-exposed flames. The flames on most tall freestanding heaters, for instance, are well out of reach from curious little hands. But you should never leave your outdoor heater unattended, and be extra cautious on windy days. General propane tank safety also applies, Griffith said. Keep propane tanks at least 3 feet away from entrances or building openings, discard tanks that are damaged or more than 10 years old, and never store a propane tank indoors. It's OK to keep a tank outside all year round. "There's no danger for it to be out in the cold," says Griffith. Most importantly, never use an outdoor propane-powered heater inside. "Those are meant to be outdoors where it's ventilated…[carbon monoxide] is an odorless, colorless insipid gas. You simply aren't able to detect it without a CO detector. There's cases every year across North America of people dying, unfortunately, because of things like that," Griffith said. While electric patio heaters are a bit safer because of natural restrictions to electrical output and built-in safety mechanisms in modern home wiring, you should be careful about placement, said Dan Mock, brand manager for Mister Sparky, an electrical services company. Taping down wires can prevent accidental knock-overs and is especially important if you have kids or pets running around. Plug-in heaters require a lot of electricity, so Mock also recommends not having too many things plugged in at the same time as your electric heater. Electric patio heaters aren't all dust and waterproof either. Check the manufacturer specifications and look for an IP Code rating of at least 55, which means the device can handle some dust and water. Here's a handy chart of IP ratings and what they mean. Griffith suggests calling your local fire department if you're unsure about placement or have questions related to patio heater safety, and he also adds that it's a good idea to check whether your town has any specific regulations for this kind of outdoor heating appliance.
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This AmazonBasics patio heater lets me enjoy socially distanced outdoor hangouts even when it's below freezing outside
Summary List Placement The powerful AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater blasts out 46,000 British thermal units (Btu)...Summary List Placement The powerful AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater blasts out 46,000 British thermal units (Btu) of heat. It has helped me safely spend more time outdoors with loved ones during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Like many of the patio heaters I've researched and tested, it's big but still sturdy enough to keep on my deck all year long. It's currently out of stock...