15 Different Types of Patio Heaters (Buying Guide)

Discover the different types of patio heaters to find the one that best fits the size and make of your patio so you can still sit out and enjoy the outdoors even in the full swing of winter.

Winter is coming…and that means the outdoor patio heating season is now in full swing. What better way to spend time outside with friends sipping a winter IPA than outside on the patio overlooking a snow-white backyard.

This sounds like a good time but can quickly go from bad to worse if you don’t have any way to heat the patio. Your friends will just be shivering in their oversize coats while trying to “casually” sip their beer.

One friend will call it quits and then another and then another before you are left outside alone trying really hard to stop your hands from going numb. In this guide, we’ll go over all the different types of patio heaters so you can sit out and sip one with the boys this winter.

Important Patio Heater Buying Considerations

It’s not easy choosing a patio heater. Last year for our first massive house party in the Spring, we needed patio heaters for the patio and backyard tents. We bought a quartz tube freestanding (which is our favorite), a mushroom table-top model and two fire pits.

When it comes to choosing a patio heater, you need to consider the following:

Location:  Before choosing the perfect patio heater, it helps to know where you’ll put it. Will it be

Heating direction:  As you’ll see below, different patio heaters by design will emit heat different with respect to direction. Some heat downward from above. Some heat outward from the side.

Square footage:  Related to heating direction, and probably one of the most important considerations is how much area the patio heater can heat up. This is dictated by heating direction and BTU. The higher the BTU (British Thermal Unit which is a unit of heat. BTU for patio heaters range from under 10,000 to 75,000+), the more area it can heat up. Heating direction and height also matter. If it’s a tube-style freestanding, it will heat outwards 360°. If it’s a wall-mounted, it will heat downward in one direction.

Just so you get an idea of patio heater capabilities, the larger, more powerful freestanding can heat up to 1,000+ sq. ft. which is quite a bit. It goes down from there. Most patio heaters heat 100 sq. ft. to 400 sq. ft.  Ours (see my favorite below) heats 400 sq. ft. at full power which is quite a bit.

Outward vs. downward heat:  Most restaurant patio heaters, which is what you’re probably most familiar with, heat downward. The heat source is situated above the tables and directs heat downward. While these work just fine, you might prefer an outward-heating option like the freestanding tube heater where heat is emitted outward 360°.

Features:  Do you want a heating source that also serves as a table? Do you want to a smaller heater to place on a table? Will you mount the heater to your house? Or do you prefer a large freestanding style that will heat up a large area? Once you know where you’ll put your patio heater, you’ll narrow your options considerably.

Power source:  Most patio heaters’ heat source is propane. However, some use the small camping propane bottles while others use the large propane tanks that are used by most full-sized grills.