The 9 Best Patio Heaters of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Our top pick is the Arlmont & Co. Triplett Propane Patio Heater for its streamlined functionality, added safety features, and impressive heating performance.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Three of the Best Patio Heaters set up in a living space

Real Simple / Dera Burreson

If you want to enjoy your outdoor space year-round, it’s time to invest in a quality patio heater. Even in cold temperatures, the best patio heaters can help create a comfortable outdoor environment, whether it be for solo dinners or holiday parties

To find the best patio heaters on the market, we tested 18 propane models and 27 electric models in our Lab while considering factors such as setup, heating performance, ease of use, safety, and value. For expert tips, we consulted Brianne Deerwester, communications coordinator for the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), and Jennifer Schallmoser, media relations specialist for the National Safety Council (NSC).

“As temperatures begin to drop in communities across the country, portable outdoor appliances are increasingly being used to heat outdoor areas, particularly those where it is too cool to comfortably sit or stand,” says Schallmoser. “Many consumers are looking to buy patio heaters for their outdoor spaces at home, and the safe use of patio heaters can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the colder months of the year.”

Our top pick is the Arlmont & Co. Triplett Propane Patio Heater for its stylish and durable design, easy functionality, safety features, and heating performance. Our runner-up, which heats impressively and comes at an affordable price, is the Amazon Basics Propane Patio Heater with Wheels.

Best Overall Patio Heater

Arlmont & Co. Triplett Propane Standing Patio Heater

4.8
Arlmont & Co. Triplett Propane Standing Patio Heater

Wayfair

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    4.8/5
  • Heating Performance
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Safety
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Who it’s for: People who want a stylish, functional, and durable patio heater with added safety features.

Who it isn’t for: People who want a compact patio heater. 

This sleek, propane-powered patio heater performed impressively throughout the three-week testing period. “The materials feel like they will last a long time,” says our tester. “This patio heater is very sleek and classy looking and puts off a decent amount of heat all around it.” It features an automatic tip-over shut-off, propane tank straps, wheels, and a fitted cover. 

Our tester commended this heater for its ease of use—just simply press the ignition button and flames immediately appear in the innermost contained tube. The tower emits heat from all sides and was most evident at two feet away, though our tester could still feel warmth at four feet away. 

While the setup was straightforward overall, our tester encountered difficulties aligning the screws with the premade holes. They ended up drilling the holes so the screws could fit and used a step ladder to access the top part of the tower. For those who want an easy setup with no extra tools, opt for another patio heater on our list. 

Price at time of publish: $365

Product Details:

  • Output: 42,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 23 x 23 x 89 inches
Arlmont & Co. Triplett Propane Patio Heater

Jennifer May

Best Budget Patio Heater

Amazon Basics Outdoor Propane Patio Heater With Wheels

4.2
Amazon Basics 46,000 BTU Outdoor Propane Patio Heater

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    3/5
  • Heating Performance
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    4/5
  • Safety
    4/5
  • Value
    4/5

Who it’s for: People who want an affordable patio heater with a far heat reach. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a patio heater with an included cover. 

For those who want to bask outdoors year-round, this powerful patio heater from Amazon can transform your outdoor space into a cozy paradise. “It's definitely a basic-but-not-cheap model,” says our tester. “I honestly felt like I was living the dream as soon as it was on—reading outside on a brisk day without thinking twice.”

With an output of 46,000 BTU and a heat field of nine feet, this pick is well-suited to warm a large outdoor patio or deck. “Sitting in the cold outside and being perfectly comfortable thanks to this machine can be worth its weight in gold,” says our tester. It also features an automatic tilt shut-off valve, ETL certification, and an easy ignition button. 

Though this patio heater performed well through the three-week testing period, the initial setup process was challenging and took over two hours. “The instructions were okay but there were a few typos, and the pictures were grainy and hard to follow,” says our tester. “They didn't totally seem to match the parts, either. That said, as soon as we finished setting it up, it started working immediately.”

Price at time of publish: $132

Product Details:

  • Output: 46,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 32.12 x 32.12 x 91.3 inches
 Amazon Basics 46,000 BTU Outdoor Propane Patio Heater with Wheels

Rachel Christensen

Best Electric Patio Heater

EnerG+ Infrared Electric Patio Heater

4.3
EnerG+ Infrared Electric Outdoor Heater Freestanding with Remote

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Heating Performance
    5/5
  • Safety
    4/5
  • Value
    3.5/5
  • Setup
    4/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5

Who it’s for: People who want an electric patio heater with radiant heating. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a patio heater with an impressive heat field. 

If the thought of running out to buy propane on a frigid winter evening sends a chill down your spine, you might consider an electric patio heater like this model from EnerG+. During our testing, this infrared heat increased our testers body temperature by 27 degrees. While it has a limited heating field (under three feet), its impressive heating performance compensates for the lack of distance. 

“This gave off a decent amount of heat at the high setting at a little over 32 inches,” says our tester. “This would be great for people sitting together outside. The tower is tall so it would heat people from toes to top of head when sitting.”

During the tip test, the unit was stable, and no outer components of the heater became too hot—making this a safer choice to have around small children or pets. This electric patio heater also comes with a remote, which “is a nice feature that makes it easy to turn on and off from a distance,” says our tester. While it’s “expensive, it provides a decent amount of heat. If you were using this a lot it could be worth it.”

Price at time of publish: $300

Product Details:

  • Output: 1,500 watts
  • Fuel: Electric
  • Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 48 inches
EnerG+ Infrared Electric Patio Heater

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Best Patio Heater With High Heat Output

Sunjoy Avanti Outdoor Portable Propane Heater

4.2
Sunjoy Avanti Outdoor Portable Propane Heater

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    3.5/5
  • Heating Performance
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Safety
    4/5
  • Value
    4/5

Who it’s for: People who want an affordable patio heater with a high output. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a patio heater that is easy to assemble. 

You don’t need to splurge on the most expensive model to get an effective patio heater—the Sunjoy Avanti Propane Heater does the job just as well. “The overall design is attractive and sturdy, it's well priced, easy to use, and it provides abundant heat,” says our tester. 

The only poignant downside to this patio heater is that “assembly is somewhat complicated and will take about 1.5 hours even if you are mechanically inclined.” Our tester had to use a Phillips screwdriver and found that while illustrated, the instructions were not always detailed enough. 

“While the setup of this heater is complicated, it is easy to transport and turn on/off once it’s been assembled,” says our tester. “The operating instructions are clear—the push button starter/spark switch is built-in, and the heater starts easily with a few clicks of the button.” It also puts out ample, adjustable heat from a low to high setting—the 47,000 BTU output is one of the highest on our list, which is especially impressive considering the heater’s affordable price. 

Price at time of publish: $192

Product Details:

  • Output: 47,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 32.7 x 32.7 x 90.6 inches
 Sunjoy Avanti Outdoor Portable Propane Heater

Cassie Aulie

Most Stylish Patio Heater

Thermo Tiki Outdoor Propane Patio Heater

4.2
Thermo Tiki Outdoor Propane Patio Heater

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    3/5
  • Heating Performance
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    4/5
  • Safety
    4/5
  • Value
    5/5

Who it’s for: People who want a sleek patio heater with an impressive warmth field. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want an affordable or compact patio heater. 

If you want a sleek heater that doesn’t sacrifice performance for aesthetics, opt for the Thermo Tiki Propane Patio Heater. “It's a very beautiful heater that sustains a good heat especially if you're standing within six feet of it,” says our tester. “With the relative ease of assembly and amazing price point, it's an impressive appliance.”

While its shape is tall and narrow, “the pyramid design is pretty stable,” says our tester. “I did do a few quick bumps and it stayed upright with little to no wobbling.” This pick also features a quick ignition button and wheels for easy transport, though our tester noted that the dial for temperature adjustments could have been more intuitive, adding, "the higher setting is immediately to the left of the lighter so that you have to dial it way down so it's not fully blasting at first.”

The setup took over an hour, and our tester found that “it took a little longer than expected to set up because I had to decipher how each piece was supposed to fit.” Despite the somewhat challenging assembly process, our tester still would recommend this patio heater for its elegant design and heating performance. 

Price at time of publish: $285

Product Details:

  • Output: 38,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 18 x 18 x 90 inches
Thermo Tiki Outdoor Propane Patio Heater

Cecilia Delapaz

Easiest to Use Patio Heater

Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater

4.7
Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater

Frontgate

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Heating Performance
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Safety
    4/5
  • Value
    5/5

Who it’s for: People who want a patio heater with a streamlined setup and functionality. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a patio heater with an automatic shutoff feature. 

Our tester gave the Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater stellar ratings for its setup, ease of use, and value overall. “This feels like a very solid heater that produces good heat all around,” says our tester. “All the components feel high quality, and the knobs are nice and tight so nothing feels flimsy or like it will be breaking off.”

Setup took 50 minutes with “clear, easy to follow” instructions. All the assembly tools are included with the heater and the pieces were clearly labeled, which made for a stress-free assembly process. At an outdoor temperature of 31 degrees, our tester could feel the warmth from the heater at around four feet away. “The ‘sweet spot' seemed to be about two feet out, but it should be noted that the instructions note reduced efficiency once temps are below 40 degrees,” says our tester. The heat was also evenly distributed around the heater. 

This patio heater was also exceedingly easy to use, as all the functions are “clearly labeled on the heater itself so if someone not familiar with this heater needs to turn on/off or adjust they have instructions listed out for them.” One downside: There is no automatic shut-off feature in the case that the heater tips over, though our tester said it feels sturdy enough to withstand even strong winds. It does not include a cover, so if you want one you will need to purchase it separately. 

Price at time of publish: $399

Product Details:

  • Output: 46,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 33 x 18 x 89 inches
Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater

Jodi Espinosa

Best Patio Heater With Safety Features

East Oak Patio Heater

4.2
East Oak Patio Heater

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Heating Performance
    4/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.2/5
  • Safety
    4/5
  • Value
    4/5

Who it’s for: People who want a patio heater with all the best safety features. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a heater for a small outdoor space. 

Safety should be a top concern as you search for a patio heater, especially for those with children or pets. The East Oak Patio Heater is equipped with additional safety features including tilt shut-off and an automatic gas stop system if the flame extinguishes. It also has brackets on the base you can attach to your patio or deck for even more stability. 

The setup took just 30 minutes, making it one of the quickest assemblies of the heaters we tested. “The setup was straightforward with the instructions that are provided,” says our tester. “The hardware was numbered in a blister pack with every step having a different number for hardware.”

This pick also has an impressive heat output of 50,000 BTU, which extended to a six-foot field around the heater during our testing. It also offers straightforward functionality—just “turn the knob to the high location and hold it down while pushing the ignition button once or twice,” says our tester. They noted that you may need to hold the button a bit longer to make it fully ignited. 

The only worry our tester had with this heater was its longevity, since it’s so budget-friendly—though the included three-year warranty and lifetime customer service support provided some reassurance. Still, they “would recommend this heater to anyone that is looking for one.”

Price at time of publish: $180

Product Details:

  • Output: 50,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 33 x 18 x 89 inches
East Oak Outdoor Patio Heater

Tammy Gardini

Best Portable Patio Heater

AZ Patio Heaters Pyramid Propane Patio Heater

4.6
AZ Patio Heaters Quartz Glass Tube Hammered Bronze Propane Patio Heater

Home Depot

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Heating Performance
    3/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Safety
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Who it’s for: People who want a stylish patio heater that’s easy to move around. 

Who it isn’t for: People who won’t have help building their patio heater. 

The AZ Patio Heaters Propane Pyramid Patio Heater has an elegant pyramid shape, with an enclosed glass tube for the flame and a bronze base that can complement most outdoor spaces. While this heater is one of the largest options on our list, the convenient wheels make it easy to move around. For those who frequently reshuffle their outdoor space, this function is a must-have—plus, it means you can bring the heat wherever you need it. 

But if you plan on building your patio heater alone, you may want to consider another option. “This patio heater's assembly is not for the faint of heart,” says our tester. “I'm not exaggerating when I say that my whole family pitched in to help me build this patio heater. Despite arriving in a huge box, the heater essentially needed to be assembled from scratch.”

This pick has a heat output of 40,000 BTU, which could reach four feet away from the heater. While elegant, our tester remarked that the glass tube “causes it to take some time before you can actually feel the warmth of the fire.” 

Price at time of publish: $358

Product Details:

  • Output: 40,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 91 inches
AZ Patio Heaters Quartz Glass Tube Hammered Bronze Propane Patio Heater

Dera Burreson

Best Small Patio Heater

Bali Outdoors Portable Patio Heater

4.2
Bali Outdoors Outdoor Propane Table Top Heater

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Heating Performance
    4/5
  • Ease of Use
    3/5
  • Safety
    4.3/5
  • Value
    4/5

Who it’s for: People who want a compact patio heater that can fit on their tabletop. 

Who it isn’t for: People with a large outdoor space. 

The Bali Outdoors Portable Patio Heater is ideal for cozy evenings on a small outdoor patio. Its compact size doesn’t take up too much space and can add a few degrees of warmth to your next outdoor gathering. While its heat output is lower than full-size patio heaters, “it is enough for a chilly night in the fall or spring,” according to our tester. That said, they would not recommend it for very cold weather. “It sits on my patio table and if you are within a couple of feet you will feel some warmth when facing the heater.”

For those concerned with the hassle of setting up an outdoor heater, this one was “fairly easy to put together,” says our tester. “It came with clear instructions that were easy to follow. All of the parts were packaged together which made the installation process smooth.” 

Price at time of publish: $110

Product Details:

  • Output: 10,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Propane 
  • Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 34 inches
 Bali Outdoors Portable Patio Heater

Andrea Tenborg

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Arlmont & Co. Triplett Propane Patio Heater for its stylish and durable design, easy functionality, safety features, and heating performance. If you want an equally effective patio heater at a lower price point, opt for the Amazon Basics Propane Patio Heater with Wheels instead.

Our Testing Process

Our final selection of the best patio heaters includes electric heaters and propane heaters, which underwent separate testing processes. While the testing was different, some processes were completed for both models. 

Electric Heaters

To find the best electric patio heaters, we acquired 27 models and ran a series of outdoor tests. First, our testers timed how long it took them to unbox and assemble their electric patio heater. They noted whether it was easy to assemble, if they could accomplish the process alone or needed assistance, and if the instructions were clear. If the heater had an adjustable height, our testers raised and lowered it to evaluate how easy it was to maneuver. They also gently pushed the heater and observed whether it remained steady, wobbled, or fell over. 

Our testers placed a chair three feet away from the heater and used an IR thermometer to take the surface temperature of their body as an initial reference point, and then rotated through the available heat settings from lowest to highest, allowing the heater to run for five minutes in each mode. After the five minutes passed on each setting, our testers recorded their body temperature again. They assessed how consistent the heat was, how many settings were available, and the mechanism used to control the heat settings. Once our testers ran through each heat setting, the heater ran at the highest temperature for the remainder of the testing process. 

To find the maximum distance where our testers could still feel the emitted heat, they started by standing 10 feet away. If they detected no heat from this distance they moved two feet closer until they could feel the heat and recorded the farthest spot. 

Once the heater ran for 15 minutes, our testers recorded the temperature on the front grill/opening, the housing at the rear, and the housing on top of the heater. The testers then turned the heater off and waited five minutes before taking temperatures in the same locations. 

After the tests were complete, our testers looked at the retail price of their product. They evaluated the price in conjunction with the electric patio heater’s performance during tests to assess the overall value of the product. They also rated the product for its setup, heating performance, ease of use, and safety.

Propane Patio Heaters

To find the best propane patio heaters, we sent 18 models to testers for real-world testing over a three-week period. Testers timed how long it took to assemble and set up the patio heater and evaluated how complicated or simple the process was. Before turning on the heater, the testers gently pushed it to see if it stayed steady, wobbled, or fell over. 

Over the three-week testing period, our testers used the patio heater at least five times for a minimum of 30 minutes per use. Before evaluating the heater's performance, our testers noted the outdoor temperature and wind speed. 

They turned on the heater using the ignition system and observed whether it started easily or if multiple attempts were required. After it was successfully lit they assessed how long it took for the heater to emit warmth. Our testers looked for any smoke from the heater, also accounting for if it dissipated quickly or lingered. 

While in use, our testers sat on all sides of the heater to see if it distributed heat evenly. If the heater featured a rotating or swivel arm they rotated it to see how effective the mechanism was and whether it successfully redirected the heat. 

To find the maximum distance where our testers could still feel the emitted heat, they started by standing 10 feet away. If they detected no heat from this distance they moved two feet closer until they could feel the heat and recorded the farthest spot. 

As propane and pellet heaters utilize a flame for their heat, our testers surveyed whether the flame went out during use and if the design of the heater made it particularly susceptible to being blown out by the wind. For propane heaters, they also noted whether the fuel output automatically shut off if the flame extinguished. 

After the tests were complete, our testers looked at the retail price of their product. They evaluated the price in conjunction with the propane patio heater’s performance during tests to assess the overall value of the product. They also rated the product for its setup, heating performance, ease of use, and safety.

More Patio Heaters to Consider

Cuisinart COH-400 Perfect Position Overhead Propane Patio Heater: This pick provided ample heat and made our tester's outdoor space warm enough to hang out in for several hours. While an overall quality option, it is more expensive than many of our other options and took several hours to set up. 

Living Accents Freestanding Propane Patio Heater: For a heater that rivals those at upscale restaurants, opt for this pick from Living Accents. The elegant design is stable, easy to use, and has safety features, though the heat output left some to be desired during our testing.

How to Shop for Patio Heaters Like a Pro

Size

Before shopping for a patio heater, consider what type of space you plan to heat—whether it be a large outdoor dining area or a small backyard porch. For small spaces, opt for a compact patio heater that won’t consume all the square footage. While these models might have a lower heat output, smaller areas require fewer BTUs for effective heating. If you want to heat a large outdoor area, opt for a standard patio heater, multiple heaters, or mounted options that can radiate warmth from above. You can take the square footage of your outdoor area and use it to find how much output you need.

Output

After appraising the size of your outdoor space, you can calculate how much output you need for ample heating. Most patio heaters list their heating output in BTUs—a higher BTU means more warmth. Take the square footage of your space and multiply it by 20 to find the appropriate amount of BTUs for your outdoor area. 550 square feet will only need about 11,000 BTUs for adequate heating, while 2,000 square feet require over 40,000 BTUs. Keep this figure in mind as you compare patio heaters and opt for one that hits at or above your desired output level.

Type

Electric

Electric patio heaters are more environmentally friendly and require less maintenance than their propane counterparts, so you won’t run out of the fuel source and be left out in the cold. They’re also a safer alternative and emit no gasses, so you can warm up your outdoor space sans worry. The main downside to electric heaters is that they tend to emit less warmth, as they warm the air around the heater with electricity rather than with more direct, radiant heat. After testing, we only recommend one electric heater: the EnerG+ Electric Patio Heater.

Propane

When it comes to heating power, propane heaters are the clear winner. They emit radiant heat, which warms nearby objects in a similar fashion to the sun. Unlike electric heaters, you will need to replace either the pellets or propane gas, which can be inconvenient if you suddenly run out of fuel. They are also less environmentally-friendly, so if you’re in search of a more sustainable option, we recommend opting for an electric patio heater instead. 

“Where propane heaters are used, special attention must be paid to ensure that the cylinders are stored properly when not in use,” says Schallmoser. NFPA 1 requires the following:

  • Cylinders must not be stored inside a building.
  • Cylinders in storage must be placed in a location with minimal potential for physical damage, tampering, or exposure to excessive temperature increases.
  • Cylinders must not be stored on the roof.

Safety 

“While up to the consumer to choose which kind of heater is best for them, the National Safety Council urges safety to always be at the forefront of decision-making,” says Schallmoser. “This fact sheet provided by the National Fire Protection Association includes information to help ensure that propane heaters and electric heaters for outdoor heating are used safely and in accordance with NFPA 1, Fire Code (2018 edition).”

“Shoppers should only purchase those which have been certified and tested by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL),” according to Deerwester. “NRTLs test and certify electrical equipment and other products to ensure that they meet current safety standards and are safe with proper use. Also, only purchase from a well-known and reputable brand and retailer.” 

And if you do use an electric heater, “do not plug a heater into an extension cord or power strip as they could overheat and cause a fire. Any devices that generate heat should be plugged directly into an outlet,” says Deerwester. “Ground fault circuit interrupters should be installed where electricity and water may come in contact, such as outdoors, to prevent shock and electrocution. Also, never leave patio heaters unattended and keep out of reach of pets.”

Questions You Might Ask

Is a gas or electric patio heater cheaper to run?

Generally, natural gas, or propane, is cheaper than electricity, though the price of utilities can vary depending on your location. If cost is your primary concern when selecting a patio heater, opt for an option fueled by propane fuel or pellets. The frequency of use will determine how often you purchase and replace your fuel, but it’s a safe bet that it will cost less overall than an electric patio heater.

What’s the difference between infrared and electric patio heaters?

Electric patio heaters heat the air, which means they heat the area with convection, making for an overall warmer environment. Infrared heaters instead use radiation, which warms objects rather than just the surrounding air. Infrared heaters are more effective at delivering heat in outdoor areas, so that may be the better option if effectiveness is your top concern.

Is a higher BTU better for patio heaters?

A higher BTU means more heat output, so a larger number is a safe bet to ensure your patio is sufficiently heated. That said, if you have a small space, you may not need as large of an output. A rule of thumb is that the square footage is multiplied by 20 to find the amount of BTU suitable for your outdoor space.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Quinn Gawronski, associate commerce editor for Real Simple, who has three years of experience writing and editing product reviews and roundups. To compile this list, we tested 27 electric heaters and 18 propane heaters and evaluated them on setup, heating performance, ease of use, safety, and value. For expert tips, we consulted Brianne Deerwester, communications coordinator for the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), and Jennifer Schallmoser, media relations specialist for the National Safety Council (NSC).

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