Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW: which is the better patio heater?

We compare the excellent Swan Al Fresco Column and Heatlab 2KW patio heaters

Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW
(Image credit: Swan)

While the summer sun is currently with us, things are likely to take a colder turn soon, making for some cold evenings for the unprepared. To help, we've found the best patio heater and today we're comparing the Swan Al Fresco Column and Heatlab 2KW, two excellent options.

Of course, the best "patio heater" of all is simply layering up – we recommend a good thick jumper – but for some people, having an external heat source is a must and this guide exists for them.

There are a variety of different power sources to choose from when it comes to outdoor heating, including electricity, solid fuels (eg, wood), and propane gas. Both the Swan and Heatlab use electricity, making them pretty cheap and easy to run.

We've also compiled guides on a range of different outdoorsy items, which will helps spruce up your garden this summer. Check out the best garden fire pits, the best barbecues, and best hot tubs for some inspiration.

So, let's jump into our comparison buying guide between the Swan Al Fresco Column and Heatlab 2KW to find the best patio heater going.

Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW

(Image credit: Heatlab)

Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW: features

Beyond both being electric, there are a lot of similarities between these two patio heaters: both produce 2KW of power, have a free standing design, and are water resistent, meaning you don't have to worry about inclement British weather.

The Swan comes with two heat levels (1,000W and 2,000W), one less than the Heatlab's 650W, 1,350W and 2,000W options. However, in our testing, we found that 650W isn't much heat at all, especially given that you're likely only going to be using the patio heater when it's cold already.

In terms of the actual heating, the Swan Column uses an innovative carbon heating element, coupled with an aluminium reflecter, giving you heat when you need it. Heatlab opted for a more traditional quartz bulb design (rated for up to 2,500 hours), with protective guard.

Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW

(Image credit: Swan)

Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW: design and use

The biggest difference between these two patio heaters is also the most obvious: the design. On the one hand, Swan has gone for an elegant cylinder, with a sturdy base, that strongly resembles a column, as the name suggests.

On the other, Heatlab has gone for a freestanding design where the heating unit is placed atop a stick atop a base. In our testing, it was surprisingly sturdy and impervious to knocks, but there is always more of a risk with a design like this.

On balance, we favour the design of the Swan: the overall aesthetic is elegant and thoughtful, helping the heater blend in more easily with its surroundings. While the Heatlab definitely does the job, it sacrifices something in terms of the design.

In use, both the Swan and Heatlab heaters performed very well, projecting heat at a fair distance across the higher power options. In some ways, the Heatlab's design is actually more useful here, with both adjustable height (up to 210cm) and a 45° adjustable head.

The main difference really is the aesthetic and which one will fit more comfortably into your existing garden furniture.

Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW

(Image credit: Heatlab)

Swan Al Fresco Column vs Heatlab 2KW: verdict

There really isn't a huge difference between the Swan Al Fresco Column and Heatlab 2KW besides the overall design, making the decision easier and likely based on which aesthetic you prefer.

Heatlab does a good discount if you buy two heaters at once, although we recommend thinking careful about whether you need that, even if the deal is compelling. One patio heater can cover a surprising amount of space while also costing a lot less to run.

On balance, we think the Swan has the better design, but also costs twice as much for a single unit and so the Heatlab 2KW is the best bet for most people.