Patio heater buying guide

Patio heater buying guide

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

187 guides

Whether powered by gas or electricity, patio heaters are stylish space heaters designed to allow you to enjoy your outdoor space all year round – or even just when it's just a bit chilly out! Available in stainless steel, aluminium and steel, patio heaters can even be equipped with lights. Read on for our top tips!

Important features

  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Heat output
  • Material
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Two key factors for choosing the right patio heater

Want to choose the right patio heater but don't know where to start? Before you start comparing different models there are two key elements to consider.

  1. Location: it goes without saying that an electric patio heater will need to be placed near an electrical outlet while a gas heater will require gas bottles. Electric heaters can be set up very quickly. However, an extension cable may be necessary if your patio space is at the bottom of the garden. Gas patio heaters do not require proximity to an electrical connection as they are function by means of gas bottles which are sold separately and must be replaced when empty. Gas heaters are also heavier which makes them more stable.
  2. The heat output or heating area: just like indoor heaters, patio heaters are designed to heat up spaces of different sizes. From heaters designed to heat a table of two to those equipped to heat entire terrace bars or garden lounge areas, the power of these devices can vary. All the same, it's not worth opting for a greater heating capacity than necessary. Similarly, be careful not to overestimate the power of your heater as you may end up getting cold! Pay special attention to this factor in order to ensure your outdoor heater is able to perform as required.

Three tips for choosing an outdoor heater

  1. Choose a stainless steel patio heater if you live in a coastal or mountainous area.
  2. Gas heaters are less energy intensive than their electric counterparts.
  3. Vertical heat distribution is more pleasant than horizontal heating.

How do patio heaters work?

Patio heaters come in a number of forms with new models arriving on the market all the time. These devices are primarily space heaters which function differently depending on how they are powered. There are two main types of patio heaters.

Electric patio heaters

The power rating of electric patio heaters is given in watts. These heaters require an electrical connection and function by infrared heating technology.

Gas patio heaters

Propane gas is best suited to outdoor use. These heaters distribute heat via a burner and an emitter screen. When using a gas heater, you will require a gas hose and regulator.

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Pros and cons of gas patio heaters

Gas patio heaters do not require mains power and offer powerful and reliable heating technology. However, these devices are recommended for outdoor use as they can emit fumes.

The power rating and output of gas patio heaters are often slightly higher than electric models.
These heaters are also heavier – as they incorporate a 13 kg propane gas tank within their stand – and take up more room. These factors can, however, be seen as advantages as they make the heater more stable.

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Electric models

Pros and cons of electric patio heaters

Reliant on mains power – like all electric heaters – electric patio heaters must be plugged into an outlet. Bear in mind that their cords can be tripped over and you may require an extension cable! These patio heaters work by radiant heat (meaning the closer you get to the heat, the warmer you'll be). This heat is provided by infrared technology.

Less cost-effective than gas patio heaters, electric patio heaters are better suited to indoor use as they do not give off any odours. Thanks to their energy type, electric heaters are less hazardous to use.

Smaller and lighter than gas models, electric patio heaters are also easier to handle.

Patio heater features

There are various other factors – beyond energy type – that directly impact the level of user comfort provided by patio heaters.

Heat output

The heat output of these heaters depends on thepower ratingof the device. The level of coverage is either provided in squared feet or British Thermal Units (BTUs) and should be calculated according to your needs.

Heat coverage

The heat coverage of patio heaters denotes the surface area that can be heated. Some manufacturers provide this information in BTUs, other in terms of surface area.

Heat distribution

It's worth noting that, due to the effect of the wind, column-style heaters may be less efficient as they emit heat horizontally. This heat loss is less noticeable with heaters that emit heat vertically.

Emitter screens

Large emitter screens offer greater comfort for use beside tables. Some models can also be tilted which allows you to direct the heat as required.


All materials perform differently. Stainless steel is the material of choice for humid environmentsand for coastal use while steel patio heaters are better suited to dry environments.

Stability and size

Do not forget to consider the stability and size of your model – especially when it comes to smaller areas.

Variable control

Models offering variable controls are more economical as they allow you to change the intensity of the heat according to weather conditions.

Power connection

Gas patio heaters offer the advantage of not requiring a mains connection.

Patio heater standards

All patio heaters must conform to the appropriate CE and BSstandards.

Safety regulations for outdoor heaters

As for all types of heater, you should leave a minimum clearance of50 cm above the heater and 60 cm around it.
The top part of the heater (featuring the burner or heating element) should be placed 2 metres from the ground. Bear in mind that these are rough guidelines and you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Manufacturers do not recommend using gas heaters in enclosed spaces. If you do plan on using a gas heater indoors, you must ventilate the room well to protect yourself from fumes (as for all indoor gas heaters).
Both electric and gas patio heaters should be equipped with a tilt shut-off valve in case they are tipped over.

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Gas heaters

Tips for choosing the right patio heater

When choosing a patio heater, your decision will ultimately come down to the energy type, power rating, size and material you want. It's a good idea to compare a number of different models.

Be sure to check the compatibility of your patio heater with its gas equipment (hoses and regulators). Some models can be used with two types of gas (butane and propane).

If you decide to equip your patio with an electric heater, pay attention to its exposure to the elements. It's a good idea to secure the heater to the ground if it will be exposed to strong winds, for example, and be careful of the power cord.To keep your patio heater safe, use a protective cover when it is not in use.

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 187 guides

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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