Best patio heaters 2019: keep your garden warm at night

Don’t let chilly evenings spoil your outdoor entertaining

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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, runs on fossil fuels, and keeps you warm during the traditional spring bank holiday snow storm.

But if that’s not an option and you need to beat the chill of the great outdoors, you have three kinds of heat to consider: gas, solid fuel 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, long-wave infra-red 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 infra-red 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 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.

T3 Roundups are product guides where we've chosen the products based on our opinion. Usually we'll also only include a product in one of these 'best' lists if they're highly rated by users and/or appear in the best-seller lists at major retailers such as Amazon, Argos or John Lewis.

Finally, there's the good old log. 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 are pretty effective, but you’ll need to keep a stock of logs – and logs are notoriously expensive given how quickly they burn down. Firepits and chimineas can also be a danger with young kids running around.

There are hundreds of patio heaters to choose from, but these are our favourites based on opinion, customer reviews and keeping an eye on cost and running cost.

Our pick of the patio heaters available today

best patio heater, Firefly 2KW

1. Firefly 2KW freestanding infrared electric garden patio heater

Best for heating on a budget

Specifications
Type: Free standing
Power: 2KW
Adjustable: Yes
Fuel: Electric
Heat type: Direct
Reasons to buy
+It’s cheap+It’s cheap to run
Reasons to avoid
-It’s ugly-2KW isn’t huge heat  

Amazon’s best-selling electric patio heater is great value for money. It has three heat settings - 650W, 1350W and 2000W - and a 3m cable, and it’s adjustable between 174.5cm and 210cm. The heavy base means it won’t blow over in a breeze, and while the quartz heating element won’t be up to the job of heating a huge deck it’s fine for small gatherings and the adjustable head enables you to heat what you want rather than huddle around under its hood. It’s not remotely pretty but at £39.99 for the freestanding version and £29 for the wall-mountable one, it’s one of the cheapest ways to get a decent bit of evening heat.  

best patio heater, La Hacienda Oxford Contemporary Steel Chiminea

2. La Hacienda Oxford Contemporary Steel Chiminea

Best for fashionable fire fans

Specifications
Type: Free standing
Power: n/a
Adjustable: No
Fuel: Wood
Heat type: Fire!
Reasons to buy
+Pretty+Won’t break in winter
Reasons to avoid
-Thin steel-Small heat radius

While most La Hacienda chimineas take the traditional Mexican design the company has also dabbled in more contemporary versions, such as this one with a modern appearance and an integral log store. It’s steel rather than clay so you needn’t worry about it cracking in the British winter, but as owners of multiple steel chimineas - including several from this manufacturer - over the years we’re well aware that the thin steel rusts if you so much as mention water anywhere nearby, so a cover is essential and indoor winter storage is a very good idea. Don’t be entirely surprised if you have to get the sandpaper, rust killer and stove paint out every spring - but with third-party sellers offering this model for as little as £66, you probably won’t mind a little bit of maintenance.   

best patio heater, Original Kadai on Tudor Stand

3. Original Kadai on Tudor Stand

Best firepit for trendies

Specifications
Type: Freestanding
Power: n/a
Adjustable: No
Fuel: Wood/charcoal
Type: Fire!
Reasons to buy
+Rustic looks+Includes BBQ grill
Reasons to avoid
-Requires a lot of wood-Expensive

•Buy the Original Kadai on Tudor Stand from Kadai

If you feel the urge to add some rustic chic to the exterior of your abode and cost isn’t an issue, consider this beautiful 100-year-old rusty fire bowl sourced in Rajasthan, India. Kadais (also known as karahis) have been used as family and community cooking bowls across India for centuries. Presumably a Western visitor saw one while on his or her travels and thought ‘to hell with cooking in it, that would make a very stylish fire bowl for my Hoxton pad’ and promptly bought it home.

Kadai now sells a wide range of them starting at £280 for this 60cm Tudor model to £1,550 for a 1.7 metre wide behemoth that probably holds enough firewood to warm a congregation.

The Tudor Kadai comes with a stand, a grill grate for those who plan to actually barbecue on it, a pair of tongs and a wire brush to keep it like, er, old. If you can’t afford an original model, plump instead for one of the company’s recycled oil-drum models which retail at a more affordable £139 or the even cheaper Travel Kadai (£49.50).

best patio heater, Shadow NOIR 3200W Zero Light

4. Shadow NOIR 3200W Zero Light

Best for rich people who are cold

Specifications
Type: Wall mounted
Power: 3.2KW
Adjustable: No
Fuel: Electricity
Heat type: Direct
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly efficient+Heat without light
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty expensive-Best for enclosed spaces

No, it isn’t cheap. But the NOIR has an innovative design that enables it to pump out up to 3200W of heat while the casing doesn’t exceed ninety degrees. It’s rated above 13A so you’ll need an electrician to install it, but as soon as you finger the remote control you’ll appreciate the investment: long wave IR-C heating it provides the instant warmth of electric heat without the bright light of a halogen bulb, heats an area of 5.5 square metres and is fully waterproof so you can mount it wherever you fancy. It doesn’t run as hot as a halogen heater, so it isn’t a good idea for windy patios, but it’s a superb option for more enclosed outdoor spaces.

£700 | Heat Outdoors

best patio heater, La Hacienda Camping Firebowl

5. La Hacienda Camping Firebowl

Best for camping

Specifications
Type: Portable
Power: n/a
Adjustable: No
Fuel: Wood/charcoal
Heat type: Fire!
Reasons to buy
+Foldable legs+Comes with a carry case
Reasons to avoid
-Not one for really small cars

What makes this particular firebowl stand out in a ridiculously crowded market is its portability: the legs are foldable, it comes with a carry case and it’s not so big you’ll damage a shoulder lugging it around. It’s 56cm wide and 39cm high, includes a mesh lid and also has a BBQ grill, so it’s a portable BBQ as well as a fire pit. For families who like to travel around and eat al fresco it’s an excellent option.  We love the Amazon reviewer who was concerned about the wood grate: “Where does the wood grate go? Surely it would burn?” As the seller patiently points out, “It’s not made of wood. It’s a metal grate that sits in the base of the bowl for the wood to sit on.”