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, you have three kinds of heat to consider: propane 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 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 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. 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. Fire pits 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 expenses. You might also consider perusing the best garden firepits for further heating inspiration.
These are the best patio heaters available today
We think the best patio heater that most people can buy today is the 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 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 also 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 an 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 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 5 power levels to choose from in terms of how toasty things get. You also get a remote control to power 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 2 meters, so that is something consider when purchasing it, as you may need an extension cable.
Overall, though, a strong free-standing patio heater that retails firmly in the mid-range in terms of price point.
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're got an pergola that sits away from your home at the end of your garden then you can simply move the Dellonda patio heater there and be just as warm as if you were sat by your home.
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 fuel source for a patio heater, but if you need serious heating and serious 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 Lume 1500W Table Heater 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 15000 watts heating element. Heat is directed downwards on a diagonal in 360 degrees, with the heat turned on and off with a lamp-like pull chord.
Obviously, the downside with a table-based patio heater is that it will not warm anyone's legs (unless they have them jauntily put up on the table), and as soon as you move away from being sat at the tablet its potency is completely voided.
This could be ideal as a complementary dining-focussed heater that can be used alongside a full-size column patio heater, though, and there is nothing on the market better for heating diners as far as we are concerned.
If you're looking for a cheap, electrically-powered wall-mounted patio heater then the Prem-I-Air 2 kW is well worth looking at. This is a patio heater that retails for significantly less that the other patio heaters in this guide and, proving where you want to heat is near a wall, and you can feed it electricity, then you're golden.
You get the 2KW of heating might, which isn't huge but definitely does the job within a close proximity (max two meters), and it also offers 4-position adjustable head rollers for easy mobility. The heater is turned on an off with a 62-inch cord pull, meaning you don't have to be super tall to turn it on, either.
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 a best seller on Amazon for a reason.
While most La Hacienda chimineas take on a traditional Mexican design, the company has also dabbled in more contemporary versions, such as this modern-looking option with integral log store. It’s steel rather than clay so you needn’t worry about it cracking in the British winter. However, as an owner of multiple steel chimineas (including several from this manufacturer), over the years I’ve become well aware that the thin steel rusts over time if left uncovered. That said, to some people that may be a good thing, since it will eventually take on a rustic hue.
The Skyline measures 1.5 metres in height and 36cm square so it doesn’t take up much patio space. The good thing about this model is that the smoke it creates is mostly ported out of the tall chimney rather than into your face like so many open fire pit models. The small but sufficient log store beneath is another useful touch. Just be sure you don’t touch this thing when it’s alive or it could result in a visit to A&E. Keep kids and pets well clear, in other words.
This keenly-priced 240 volt wall-mounted electric bar is just over a metre in width and provides up to a substantial 3,000 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: 1000W, 2000W and the full 3,000W 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. Available in silver or black.
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 (19.56 x 34.04 x 38.1 cm). 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.
Although the Amazon listing says it’s also suitable for indoor use, we would advise against it, simply because it uses cartridge-based propane gas as a fuel and this may lead to a build up of dangerous carbon monoxide, as some users have reported. 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 4kgs 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 extension lead – which you will doubtless forget to roll up and bring indoors at the end of the evening.
The ALUK 2000W Patio Heater also delivers three different heating levels, features and aluminium cover and has an integrated chain that makes hanging from gazebos and ceilings simple.
This patio heater also comes with an included remote control.
Another mains-powered, floor-standing patio heater from the brand Olsen & Smith offers an affordable way to inject your garden 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 setting selectable (650w / 1300w / 2000w).
Its stand height and head are also adjustable, meaning you can move the heating head up and down between 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. Although, one thing to remember is that the power cord is only two meters in length, so most people will likely need an extension cable if they're using it at a distance from their home.
Overall, then, it's not the best looking or premium garden heater, but it's super affordable and offers strong, AC-powered heating.
- Now your outdoors heating is sorted, why not upgrade to one of the best barbecues