Even in midsummer, temperatures can drop after sunset and before you know it, what starts out as a pleasant evening around the Best Barbecue suddenly turns into a race for the wooly jumper.
While we admit it's not considered the most environment friendly way to keep warm in the great outdoors, a patio heater is nevertheless one of the most effective ways to enjoy an al fresco gathering without everyone feeling uncomfortably chilly.
There are many types and styles of patio heater and you can swot up on the choices by dipping into our guide notes at the bottom of this feature. Also, don't forget to head over to our guide to the Best Fire Pits where you'll find a great selection of log burners that will also keep you suitably warm and cosy.
In the meantime, we think these are the best patio heaters you can buy today so have a mosey, take your pick and start warming your cockles. And while you're at it, perhaps take a look at our equally handy guides to the Best Hot Tubs and the Best Outdoor Solar Lights.
The best patio heaters available today in 2023
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We think the best patio heater that most people can buy today is the electric Swan Al Fresco SH16310N Column Patio Heater. This heater stands at 79.4 cm high and offers up two power settings, 1000W and 2000W, which means you can tailor its heat output depending on the situation.
It's super easy to use, too, with a mid-height, centrally-mounted knob allowing easy switching on and off as well as between heating levels. The heating element isn't the largest but it delivers very effective heating in the region around it and it boasts a 360-degree tip-over safety feature that cuts the power.
The Swan Al Fresco SH16310N Column Patio Heater is waterproof, too, meaning that it can be left outside all year round and in all weather conditions.
A 1.8-metre cord isn't the longest, though, so we advise people to think where they're going to place the Swan Al Fresco before ringing it up, as you may need a 13amp extension cable.
You can compare this top-rated patio to heater to a strong rival in T3's Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW comparison feature.
You know the scenario… You have half a dozen guests lounging about on your Manutti Zendo garden suite and half of them are freezing to death because you unwisely bought only one outdoor heater. What you need is this pair of 2kW-a-piece freestanding electric reflective bar heaters to keep everyone’s teeth from chattering.
Each two-bar Heatlab pedestal provides three levels of heat output – 650W, 1,350W and 2000W – plus height adjustment. The reflectors can also be angled downwards by up to 45˚ and their IPX4 rating means they can be sited indoors or out. Running costs are said to be about 10p an hour which seems quite cheap.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced electric option that covers a greater area while throwing extra light on the proceedings, then put this pair on the consideration list.
You can see how this patio heater stacks up against a strong rival in T3's Heatlab 2KW vs Opranic 2KW comparison feature.
Providing you're happy with a more modern aesthetic, and want a free-standing electrically powered patio heater then the Opranic 2KW Electric Patio Heater is worth scoping out.
This tower heater boasts a power-to-heat conversion rate of 96 per cent, which is very, very efficient, and also offers five power levels to choose from in terms of how toasty things get. You also get a remote control to operate it while you enjoy a drink in your nearby chair.
While it is a free-standing unit, it isn't super heavy and therefore can be moved from place to place, which adds a dimension to its value that a fixed or mounted heater does not offer. The cable length of the heater is two meters, so that is something consider when purchasing it, as you may need a 13amp extension cable.
Overall, though, this is a strong free-standing patio heater that retails firmly in the mid-range price point.
If your seating is on a verandah or close to an outside wall, the wall-mounted Gtech Heatwave is an excellent choice that belts out 2kW of sun-like infrared heat that you will feel on your face and body no matter how cold the outside air temperature. That’s the beauty of infrared energy: it cuts straight through the air to alight on solid objects – like you – instantly, and without costing the earth to run.
This model is best installed by an expert but its low 1.5kg weight makes it easy to attach to any wall. Just be sure to have it mounted out of reach of children because the outer casing gets very hot. The HeatWave’s IP65 enclosure, meanwhile, protects it from inclement weather.
At just 57cm in width and 18.5 cm in height, the Gtech HeatWave is unobtrusive and very energy efficient given the amount of heat it produces.
Electric patio heaters are great but they are never the most portable as they need a wired connection to mains electricity. Enter gas, which allows you to remove that power cable entirely. The Dellonda Freestanding Gas Outdoor Garden Pyramid Patio Heater is a great example of this type, offering an ability to deliver a massive 13,000 Watts of heating power.
It's powered by a gas canister, so you can take this patio heater anywhere in your garden and it will work without any trailing wires ruining the aesthetic. So, for example, if you've got a pergola that sits at the end of your garden then you can simply move the Dellonda patio heater there.
You can obviously vary the level of heat delivered, and the whole system works like a gas stove would, with a gas level knob and igniter button working in tandem to fire it up. Gas isn't the most cost effective or environment-friendly fuel source for a patio heater, but if you need serious heating and freedom of placement, then this is a great choice.
If you specifically want a patio heater so you and your friends and family can stay warm while eating outside then the Charles Bentley is well worth considering.
This patio heater is designed to sit directly on a table, in the middle ideally, and then heat diners sat around it with its strong 2,000-watt infrared heating element. At 81cm in height, it’s a pretty tall lamp so make sure your table is large enough to accommodate it.
Obviously, the downside with a table-based patio heater is that it will not warm anyone's legs, and as soon as you move away from being sat at the tablet its potency is completely voided.
Nevertheless, this model could be ideal as a complementary dining-focussed heater that can be used alongside a full-size column patio heater.
If you're looking for a cheap, electrically-powered wall-mounted patio heater, the Prem-I-Air 2 kW is worth a gander. You get the 950 watts of heat, which is not great, it has to be said. Nevertheless, it definitely does the job for close-proximity warmth. It also offers an adjustable head for easy positioning. The heater is turned on and off with a long cord pull, so you don't have to be super tall to turn it on.
Obviously, there are more powerful patio heaters out there, but if you want modest heating in a relatively small area then this is one of the most affordable ways to do it. It's clearly a best seller on Amazon for a reason.
This keenly-priced 240-volt wall-mounted electric bar is just over a metre in width and provides up to a substantial 2,000 watts of outdoor warmth. It’s an ideal model for verandahs and patios but, despite being weather resistant, it should be installed under full cover with zero chance of horizontal rain affecting it. Naturally, you’ll also want a professional to install it, if only to ensure that there are no unsightly wires dangling about.
The Blumfeldt is equipped with an aluminium casing for rust-free durability, a damp-proof rocker switch on the side and a handy remote control that, aside from switching the unit on and off, allows the user to select three levels of heat: 750W, 150kW and the full 200kW monty.
If you’re in the market for an outdoor heater that is always to hand when you need it, then this attractive and unobtrusive TV sound bar-style model is a great option.
This electric 1,200W portable is a brilliant solution for keeping legs warm when having a natter around the outdoor patio table. Simply plug in the 1.8-metre cable (you’ll need a 13amp extension if you don’t have have an outdoor electricity supply), grab it by the handle and place it under the table (or anywhere else nearby) and bask in the warmth of its 360˚carbon fibre heating element.
At this price this is a great-value option for outdoor warming and a boon for chilly outdoor rooms like work sheds, cabins and home offices.
This portable gas model was designed for camping but it’s an excellent patio heater too. According to the stats, it kicks out between 4,000 and 9,000-BTU or radiant heat which is quite phenomenal for a heater of this size (just 28cm tall). While we haven’t actually laid our hands on one, the general consensus among Amazon users is that it excels at warming the air around your feet – or torso if you’re sitting low. It features four heat levels, an integrated Piezo sparking mechanism and a low-oxygen and tip-over shut-off mechanism for added safety.
We would advise against using it indoors, simply because it uses cartridge-based propane gas as a fuel and this may lead to a build up of dangerous carbon monoxide. Gas burners also produce condensation as a byproduct. If planning to use it inside a tent, we would advise keeping the main flap wide open. When it comes to CO, you can never be too careful.
The practically-named Mr. Heater weighs a tad over 2kgs so it’s easy enough to carry short distances. Granted, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing model on this page but, judging by the swathe of positive reviews, it’s highly efficient even though it does tend to swallow gas at quite a high rate.
Here’s an easy-to-install, remote-controlled electric halogen patio heater that’s designed to be hung from the ceilings of verandahs, open conservatories, covered pergolas or any enclosed room that requires a 2,000-watt blast of intense warmth.
If used outdoors, just be sure to have an electricity supply close to hand or you’ll need to unfurl a durable 13amp extension lead – which you will doubtless forget to roll up and bring indoors at the end of the evening whereupon it will rain, a big bang will occur and your pergola will catch fire. Or something like that.
The ALUK Patio Heater also delivers three different heating levels, features an aluminium cover and has an integrated chain that makes hanging from gazebos and ceilings simple. This patio heater also comes with a remote control.
This mains-powered, floor-standing patio heater from Olsen & Smith offers an affordable way to inject your patio with some outdoor heating.
This heater doesn't do anything special, but what it does do is offer rock solid heating up to 2kW, with three different heating settings (650W, 1,300W and 2000W). It’s also height adjustable from 1.75m and 2.1m, while the head itself can be tilted between 45 and 90 degrees.
Those buyers with children will also be pleased to hear that this model comes with an auto shut-off feature if it is knocked over. However, the power cord is only two meters in length, so most people will likely need a 13amp extension cable if they're using it away from an outdoor power point.
While not the best looking or premium garden heater we’ve ever seen, it's super affordable and offers strong, AC-powered heating.
Everything you wanted to know about patio heaters
Let’s get the environmental argument out of the way first: the most environmentally friendly patio heater is a woolly jumper. But the best patio heater is one you buy online that usually runs on fossil fuels but keeps you warm during spring and cooler summer al fresco evenings.
If you need to beat the chill of the great outdoors, there are two main kinds of heat source to consider: propane gas and electricity.
There are pros and cons to each. Electricity feels free, although of course it isn’t, but it offers instant heat and fairly quick cooling. There are two main kinds of electric heating: long-wave infrared and halogen. The latter is much cheaper but suffers from very limited range, so you need to sit fairly close and you’ll probably end up complaining about a too-hot head. Long-wave infrared is much more expensive but doesn’t emit visible light and covers a much larger area.
Gas heaters can be very effective, but of course you need to buy gas for them – and that means thinking ahead so you’re not driving around the local garages and DIY stores on a Sunday afternoon looking for a new canister fifteen minutes before your guests arrive. They cost more to run than electric heaters do, but they warm a larger area without the hot-or-not issue that affects electric patio heaters.
Finally, there’s the good old log which we cover in detail in our guide to the Best Fire Pits. Despite being fossil free, logs do create a lot of smoke so they're not especially environment friendly. That smoke will also waft over the patio table from time to time causing everyone to choke and splutter. Your guests' clothes will also smell, but they'll still enjoy the experience because nothing smells more earthy than wood smoke, cow pats notwithstanding.
Solid fuel patio heaters such as fire pits and chimineas can be very effective, but you’ll need to keep a stock of logs – and logs are notoriously expensive given how quickly they burn down. Fire pits and chimineas can also be a danger with young kids running around.