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By Michael Tedder
September 30, 2020
Courtesy of Retailers

Summer is fading, as are our memories of safe, socially-distanced backyard cookouts. But are you going to let nature and the passing of seasons tell you how to spend your leisure time?

If you’re not ready to give up on the enjoyment of the outdoors, consider bringing a patio heater into your life. A patio heater can make the good times last longer and bring some warmth to those crisp, cool evenings in your backyard or porch.

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But first, a word of caution. Patio heaters are generally not for indoor use. They are designed to generate a lot of heat in a wide-open space, and can pose both a fire hazard. Some patio heaters are gas-fueled, and some are electric, and the propane-fueled ones can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when used in an enclosed space. There are exceptions, but unless your heater specifically states it is appropriate for indoor usage, stay safe and turn it on outdoors only.

Got it? Great. Now it’s a matter of figuring out what patio heater makes the most sense for your space.

Patio Heaters: Gas or Electric? What Size and Style?

Here is some general advice to consider before picking out your patio heater, courtesy of Bailey Carson, Head of Cleaning at Handy, the New-York based online marketplace for home services.

  • When buying an outdoor heater, you should first consider the size of the area you’d like to heat and make sure the heater covers that space. Depending on the area, you may consider buying more than one and strategically place them to warm up the whole area.
  • Most electric heaters connect to a standard outlet, so if you’re considering an electric heater, you’ll need to make sure you have power accessible. Gas heaters usually run using a propane tank, similar to your average barbecue grill, so they tend to be more portable.
  • Above all, keep in mind that these heaters get hot. Be safe! Make sure you place the heater on sturdy ground and that you read the safety instructions and follow their guidelines.

When it comes to the style of your patio heater, Rob Shaw, a Boston-based construction expert with the home improvement app ProTip, breaks it down like this:

  • Standing space heaters are very common, you see them all the time at restaurants.
  • Tabletop space heaters are good if you’re trying to save space, or if you’re heating a smaller area.
  • Mounted space heaters are the best option for small spaces because you can hang them overhead so they’re out of the walking path and won’t restrict any seating space.

If you’re looking to keep things warm, here are the best patio heaters for your money, according to recommendations from experts in home improvement and design.

Best Patio Heaters: Propane Gas Power

Hampton Bay 48000 BTU Stainless Steel Patio Heater: $149

Courtesy of The Home Depot

“This unit uses the same propane tank we use for our grills to pump out an impressive 48,000 BTUs, so heat will reach eight feet in every direction. The stainless steel construction makes this heater suitable for year-round conditions,” says Shaw. “It weighs around 30 pounds, so it’s a manageable weight that is still sturdy enough to hold its ground during a winter storm. One ProTip pro even joked about using the heater’s propane tank for his grill during a cookout when his grill ran out, the heater saved the day!”

In order to continue to get the most out of your product, David Cusick, chief strategy officer for the Durham-based home resource House Method, recommends that “for a large, free-standing outdoor patio heater, like the Hampton Bay 48000, be sure to invest in a cover as well. It’s a small cost that can significantly extend the longevity of your purchase.”

Hampton Bays products are sold at Home Depot. At Amazon, you buy a similar 48,000-BTU patio heater from Garden Treasures, but it’s costs over $100 more (list price: $284.99)

Hiland HLDSO1-GTCB: From $530

Courtesy of Amazon

If design aesthetics are important to you, and you don’t mind spending more for something fancy, then Michael Dean, co-founder of the Asheville-based home resource Pool Research, has an idea. “In an average year, I show over 40 homes to prospective buyers. Since I work out of NC, patios and backyards are a major selling point for homeowners,” he says.

“This is my own personal go-to patio heater. It’s pricey, but worth it. First, you get a beautiful design that adds to your patio’s presentation. Second, you get uniform heating that distributes warmth along the whole glass tube, not just in one specific place. There’s an auto shutoff tilt valve, which is comforting, as I have three kids,” he says. “Last but not least, you get a beautiful fire show every time you look at the heater.”

Stansport Portable Outdoor Propane Radiant Heater: $32.46

Courtesy of Walmart

It’s also possible to stay warm on the cheap. “If you’re looking for a personal heater, you can’t go wrong with the Stansport Portable Outdoor Propane Radiant Heater,” says Dean. It’s sold at Walmart, and is very affordable. “This one is currently under $33, which is a fantastic price for personal comfort outdoors.”

Best Patio Heaters: Electric Power

Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W: $123.24

Courtesy of Amazon

If you have rambunctious children or dogs in your life, wall-mounted units are the best way to keep patio heaters out of reach. Cusick says that “for wall-mounted models, the Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W is a great choice for around $100. Easy to clean, works on electricity, and stays out of the reach of pets and children for safety.”

TRUSTECH Patio Heater: $149

Courtesy of Amazon

If you like the idea of a mounted unit but you’re worried about your mounting skills, then Dean recommends the TRUSTTECH Patio Heater. “My initial reason for buying this heater was the form factor, which looks great on patios. To my surprise, the heater also turned out to be an outstanding product,” he says. “It uses infrared technology to literally start warming you in seconds. TRUSTECH made an effort to minimize the unit’s energy consumption, so it provides plenty of warmth despite only being a 1,500W unit. Perhaps most importantly, this unit is sturdy. We’ve had ours fall down several times with 0 change in functionality.”

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