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Being cooped up inside during the winter is hard — but so is freezing your buns off trying to social distance with your friends outdoors. But you don’t need to suffer in shivering silence or risk smelling like a smoky campfire for days from a wood-burning fire pit. Outdoor patio heaters are back in stock after a run on them early in the pandemic and just in time to keep you warm, even when Mother Nature has other plans.
Outdoor heaters typically fall into four categories: electric heaters, propane heaters with a dome top, propane heaters with a pyramid top and tabletop propane heaters. When searching for an outdoor heater, first think about whether you want electric (you plug it in) or propane-powered (you purchase a separate propane tank). In general, electric heaters tend to be less expensive to operate.
Next, think about the size of the area you want to heat. The higher the BTU (British thermal units) or wattage, the more effective the heater is at warming a larger space. Look for something with radiant or infrared heat, which acts much like the sun — meaning the heat produced is directly absorbed by a person’s clothes or skin without dispersing into the surrounding air, making it ideal for outdoor spaces where air is constantly moving.
Some other factors important to consider are size of the heater, whether the heater can be easily moved and if it has accident prevention features.
Read on for some of the most popular and highly-rated models on the market right now.
This modestly priced wall mount model is a safe way to keep heat away from kids and pets. It has three heat intensities and is remote control-operated, making it ideal for screened-in porches or covered patios where you may not have to do much repositioning.
Cut the cold with this sturdy infrared heat model, which is quiet, has an adjustable height and has a heat range diameter of up to 10 feet. Bonus: It’s got a tip-over shut-off switch to keep you safe if it gets knocked over.
This convenient infrared model can be mounted to walls or ceilings, and it comes with a tripod that can reach up to seven feet in height. Some cool features: It comes with a remote control, has a timer for automatic shut-off and includes a tip-over sensor that will turn off the unit if it falls. Reviewers also say they love the easy setup.
Keep your upper body toasty — and maybe even ditch your gloves — with this tabletop heater. It’s got only one setting, but it heats up to 12 square feet and is available in hammered bronze or sandy black.
This is on the more expensive side for an electric heater, but it’s also got an adjustable height and wheels so you won’t have to break your back trying to lug it around your patio. Bonus: As with other electric models, you won’t have to worry about running out of gas.
Dome-top propane heaters
Note: For all propane heaters, propane tanks are not included with purchase.
For an outdoor heater with a little more flair, try this highly rated — and highly coveted — model. It’s available in both powder coated and stainless steel versions, and you can choose from Bahama blue, sable brown, charcoal and more. Even better: It’s got a powerful 46,000 BTU and can heat up to a nine-foot radius. Reviewers note that it’s quite tall at 89 inches, so keep its height in consideration.
This top-rated stainless steel model has an electronic ignition for an easy start, a temperature control knob and an anti-tilt safety feature. Plus, it’s got a strong 48,000 BTU output. Reviewers love the easy set-up but caution that the plastic wrapping can be a headache to remove.
Continue to enjoy time outdoors in frigid temperatures with this 48,000 BTU model. It comes in a hammered silver finish with a matching adjustable table, so you can set down your beverage while enjoying socially-distant drinks. Bonus: It’s got wheels and an anti-tilt safety device.
Pyramid-top propane heaters
We love that this has an easy ignition, wheels for movement and an auto shut-off for if the unit tips. Reviewers note that glass tube heaters give off less heat than other models, though they win major points for aesthetics. If you’re not super handy, you can pay an extra $115 for someone else to assemble it for you.
Keep the party going when the temperatures drop with this contemporary heater. You’ll get all the romanticism of a wood-burning fire without the smoke. It also comes in hammered black, hammered bronze or stainless steel.
This modern style has major visual appeal. With 40,000 BTU output of heat, a push button start and wheels for easy mobility, it’s got the bells and whistles you want while also giving off good heat — and serious ambiance.
Tabletop propane heaters
Enjoy a glass (or two) of wine alongside friends with this 11,000 BTU model that comes in five sleek finishes. Reviewers comment that because this tabletop unit is small, it will keep you warm if you’re sitting close to it in cool temperatures. But for when it feels like the Arctic, you’re going to need layers.
Perfect for a small space like a balcony, terrace or patio tabletop, this 38-inch tall lamp-like heater gives off good heat without taking up a ton of room. It’s got an easy start button, auto shut off and burner screen guard to keep you safe. Of note: Like most other tabletop models, it uses a one-pound propane tank or can be connected to a 20-pound tank with an adapter.
For more stories like this, check out:
- 10 products that will keep you warm outdoors
- 11 best space heaters you can get for under $100
- Stay cozy all season long in these 15 fleece-lined leggings, tights and sweats