Keep the Outdoor Party Going Year-Round With the Best Patio Heaters
Winter, we’re ready for you.
Updated Feb 22, 2023 12:53 PM
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A backyard terrace, patio, or deck is the ideal place for casual dinners with the fam, weekend barbecues, or a cup of coffee on quiet mornings. Adding bells and whistles like storage, lounge furniture, and lighting can make the space even more versatile. But when the temperature dips, setting up a patio heater is the best way to ensure that your outdoor area is a year-round amenity (unless you live in snow country, where you might have to settle for three seasons).
The hunt for the best patio heater has been a popular one since 2020. (That fall, The New York Times found that searches had increased more than 70% compared to the previous year.) Manufacturers responded to the demand with a slew of slick new designs serving a wide range of needs, and the trend doesn’t seem to be lagging. “With the increased enthusiasm for outdoor living and supply chain issues, shoppers who are seriously considering a purchase should plan to buy sooner rather than later,” says Emily McGee, a spokesperson for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA).
To help with the buying decision, we asked designers, landscape architects, restaurateurs, and other industry pros to share the best patio heaters for keeping your outdoor space warm and cozy when the mercury drops. Shop our picks, below.
- Best overall: Nuu Garden Propane Patio Heater
- Best tabletop: Solo Stove Mesa Tabletop Fire Pit
- Best for small spaces: Permasteel Electric Infrared Patio Heater
- Best combination: West Elm Standing Heater Lamp
- Best for colder climates: Amazon Basics Outdoor Patio Heater
- Best wood pellet: Big Timber Patio Heater
- Best built-in: Heatstrip USA Regular Electric Patio Heater
- Best smart: Bromic Eclipse Smart-Heat Electric
- Best splurge: Heatsail Outdoor Freestanding Dome Lamp
Best Overall: Nuu Garden Propane Patio Heater
Powered by propane gas, this wheeled crowd-pleaser brings 48,000 BTUs of 360-degree heating to your outdoor space. The durable glass tube, protected by steel, grants gatherers a fiery display and 15-foot diameter heat range. “It adds so much character, and it’s just big enough for the small area that I need heated,” notes a pleased shopper who awarded this Nuu Garden number a 5-star review. The design doubles down on safety measures with a pulse-ignition system that allows users to push-start the heater and a control knob that adjusts the flame temperature with each turn. Plus if the heater happens to tilt past a 15-degree angle, it’ll automatically shut off. According to reviewers, assembly is a two-person job that takes about two hours to complete. But after that, you’re off to the races (or to the relaxing).
Best Tabletop: Solo Stove Mesa Tabletop Fire Pit
For compact portability, a tabletop patio heater is the way to go. Weighing in at less than 2 pounds, this diminutive yet mighty model from Solo Stove made our list of best tabletop firepits. It’s also been a hit with our readers. With its stainless steel and ceramic finish available in six colors, the heater utilizes pellets or small firewood to create just enough warmth to keep dinner guests cozy. The Mesa is about the size of a football, which makes it easy to carry in its accompanying bag. An included folding stand offers hassle-free storage.
Best for Small Spaces: Permasteel Electric Infrared Patio Heater
Got a more intimate space? New York City architect Bo Lee likes this electric option from Permasteel. “The compact design and direct infrared heat makes this a good fit for small spaces like a balcony or terrace,” she says. “Plus it’s a good choice if you want to stay away from petrochemicals.” The 1,500-watt heater has a range of 96 square feet, so it will just about cover a 10-by-10-foot deck. The parabola reflector does a nice job directing heat onto the ground, and the built-in tabletop is a handy spot to set a drink or small plate.
Best Combination: West Elm Standing Heater Lamp
Though it looks like a lamp, this chic selection from West Elm packs plenty of heat—51,000 BTUs to be precise. That’s good for 86 square feet, making it the perfect accessory for small outdoor seating areas. The base is made from an exterior-grade combination of steel and rubber, while the shade is made of nylon and steel, so it’s durable enough for mild climates but less so for extreme weather.
Best for Colder Climates: Amazon Basics Outdoor Patio Heater
If you hail from the North, you’ll need a patio heater that can really bring the heat. Gas models tend to have the highest output, and that’s certainly the case with this 46,000-BTU fire-breather from Amazon. It can warm up a 9-foot radius in no time flat, making it well suited for sprawling decks and patios, though the 20-pound propane tank makes it weighty to move around. But its durability can’t be beat: The stainless steel construction stands up to harsh conditions, including salt water should you live near a coast.
Best Wood Pellet: Big Timber Patio Heater
If you’re lucky enough to have an expansive outdoor space, the American-made Big Timber is worth a look. Its massive 90,000-BTU heat output, with a 12-foot heating radius, runs on wood pellets made from compressed sawdust, making it the most eco-friendly and efficient option in our roundup. Weighing 82 pounds (not counting the weight of the pellets), the heater is best used as a permanent fixture in outdoor living areas.
Best Built-In: Heatstrip USA Regular Electric Patio Heater
Not all patio heaters need to be seen and admired. Gareth Mahon, a partner at RKLA Studio Landscape Architecture, often builds a heat source discreetly into the decor. His go-to? The Heatstrip Regular. “It has a very slim profile, so it can be easily integrated into pergolas or other built structures,” he says. Another nice feature of the 2,400-watt electric heater is its whisper-quiet operation, plus the fact that it doesn’t emit light or glow red when in use, leaving guests to wonder how it’s so warm even after the sun goes down.
Best Smart: Bromic Eclipse Smart-Heat Electric
Alex Raij, owner of a trio of celebrated New York City restaurants (Txikito, El Quinto Pino, and La Vara), recommends the Bromic brand for outdoor heating, and we like the visually striking and intuitive Smart-Heat Electric series. In addition to the uniquely sculptural design, the 2,900-watt heater is super-versatile, providing adjustable, evenly diffused heat over a generous 121-square-foot area. It also features an integrated LED light that’s dimmable, making the Bromic an ideal pick for creating ambience while dining alfresco (even if slow-roasted suckling pig and other Raij specialties aren’t on your menu). It’s clearly not a budget buy, but if you’re renovating an outdoor patio and looking for something more permanent than a portable heater, it’s one to consider.
Best Splurge: Heatsail Outdoor Freestanding Dome Lamp
With a stainless steel and aluminum finish and arched silhouette, this elegant freestanding dome lamp-heater combo makes a statement. While the design is eye-catching, the 3,220-watt heater is made to withstand elements with zero emissions output, and FAR-infrared technology offers gentle heating. The two heat settings and dimmable light functions are controlled by a single remote. At 400 pounds, it’s quite heavy, but it comes with pavers to steady the base, which is outfitted with two wheels for easy mobility. If you find the perfect spot for your dome lamp, take comfort in knowing that it’s suitable for year-round outdoor use.
Our Shopping Checklist
There are two main options: gas and electric. Within gas, there’s propane or natural gas. Propane heaters use a tank, similar to gas grills, so no other installation is required, making them the easiest choice. Plus you can move them around your space freely. Natural gas heaters need a hookup to the home’s main gas line (assuming you have one), which means a professional (and permanent) installation is required. However, you don’t have to worry about the gas running out or manage the hassle of refilling heavy tanks.
Electric heaters need an exterior outlet to plug into, and electricity is more expensive than gas, so the operating cost is higher. And there are a handful of patio heaters that run on wood pellets. Although more obscure, they’re eco-friendly and generate a lot of heat.
Usually expressed in square feet or radius, this is a measure of how large of an area will feel the heat. For example, a high-powered heater might be able to distribute heat over a 200-square-foot area or roughly 8-foot radius.
This refers to how much heat is generated by the device. With gas and pellet models, it’s measured by British thermal units (BTUs), while electric heaters use watts (W). While there’s a correlation between heat output and range, other factors influence heat distribution, including the size and shape of the heater.
Hello, Heated Outdoor Seating
Galanter & Jones design and fabricate premium heated outdoor seating, and boy is it good-looking. Think of it as an inverse way to stay warm—adjustable, radiant heat, powered by an electric plug, is around you versus on you. There’s no way around the price tag: These are high-end investments, but there’s just nothing like them on the market. In fact, the Helios Love chair moniker aptly describes how we feel about the brand. The Love chair is available in four sophisticated shades and three frame finishes, and both of these allow you to tune the temps to the seat, back, and arms, with a heat range between 80 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. And don’t worry about overheating: An off switch equipped with five temperature settings allows you to turn off the heat function for when the weather’s warm enough to do the job. Stainless steel frames are finished in powder-coated enamel, while the seats are clad in a weather-resistant semigloss finish. Both chairs operate by plug, and the Metreo—the more expensive of the two—stores your preferences for future use.
Pro Tips for Buying a Patio Heater
- Many electric heaters require a 220-volt plug, which could add a few hundred dollars to the total cost if an electrician needs to install the outlet.
- Think about how many people are gathered outdoors most of the time and choose the appropriate size for that purpose. In other words, if you have one massive gathering a year but the rest of the time it’s just the family, go with a family-size model.
- Some heaters need to be assembled, and the process can be tricky. Ask the retailer if it offers assembly services and what the associated costs are.
How We Chose These Products
Choosing a patio heater depends on several factors: your outdoor area, whether you prefer gas or electric, or if you intend to move your heater around. With so many products on the market, we zeroed in on styles that were designed to suit a variety of spaces and vetted them by their design (from tabletop to built-in) and energy efficiency. We also took into account the warming radius and factored in price. In addition to researching notable brands and retailers, we scoured reviews and interviewed designers, restaurateurs, and landscape architects for their recommendations on sourcing the best patio heaters based on size, innovative design, extreme climate durability, heating power, and more.