What Is the Best Outdoor Heater for a Patio?

Outdoor pyramid style gas patio heater

Just because the weather is getting colder in some areas it doesn’t mean you have to be confined to indoor gatherings until spring. A patio heater is a great way to extend your outdoor space for use almost any time of the year. If you love entertaining or just want to spend more time outside in the fall and winter, an outdoor patio heater is a perfect choice.

Available in various styles, sizes, and fuel types, outdoor patio heaters are designed to make staying outdoors stylish and comfortable, even when the temperatures drop. So, set up the deck chairs and call the neighbors. With the right patio heater, you’ll all be cozy and warm!

Choosing A Patio Heater

So, what’s the best outdoor heater for a patio? There are four different heater fuel types available today: natural gas, propane, electric, and firepits.

Ultimately, the best outdoor heating option for you will depend on your personal preferences.

  • Natural gas: Natural gas patio heaters are more expensive upfront and a long-term commitment because they’re connected directly to your home's gas line. But they’re easier to maintain and offer continuous, unlimited patio heat for as long as you need it.
  • Propane: These patio heaters are less expensive upfront than natural gas ones and they’re portable. But they cost more to operate since propane is more expensive than natural gas and, with regular use, you’ll often need to change out the propane tanks on them.
  • Electric: These heaters are also portable and very easy to use, maintain, and operate. They’re safer than other types of heaters too, but they’re usually smaller and not as powerful.
  • Wood-burning: Wood-burning heaters for your patio are typically called firepits of chimineas. People enjoy wood-burning patio heaters for the ambiance. However, they may be challenging to get started, require tending to, and must be cleaned before each use.

Electric vs. Propane Patio Heaters

The two most popular types of patio heaters are 1) electric and 2) propane. There are reasons why people choose one over the other, but that's for you to decide!

To help, let's look at their pros and cons:

Electric Heaters


  • Inexpensive to purchase.
  • Easy to use—all you need is an electric outlet.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Safe for use in covered or enclosed spaces.


  • Cost more to operate (electricity costs).
  • You need an outlet to use (not entirely portable).
  • They warm up more gradually, taking extra time to get the patio warm.

Propane Heaters

  • Pros
  • Inexpensive to buy.
  • Very portable.
  • Begin working immediately with no installation required.
  • Heats up patios quickly.
  • Come in various sizes.
  • Cons
  • More expensive than natural gas (when in use).
  • Depending on use, the gas tanks may need to be replaced frequently
  • It cannot be used in a covered or enclosed space.

How Long Does a Patio Heater Propane Tank Last?

Should you choose propane for your heat source, you will need to plan for replacing the tanks. How long your propane tank lasts will vary depending on how big your tank is and what kind of patio heater unit you have. For example, a 20 lb. propane tank will last about 10 hours. As a reference point, the size of a 20 lb. propane tank is the same size you would use for a gas grill or pick up at a gas station or hardware store.

How Many BTUs Do I Need to Heat My Patio?

If you want to keep your entire patio warm with a single heater, look for a unit that has higher BTUs (this is applicable to all fuel or energy types). To calculate the BTUs required heat a space, multiply the square footage by 20. For example, to heat a 1,000-square-foot space, you need a 20,000 BTU heater or two 10,000 BTU heaters.

Why Invest in Outdoor Heating?

When you purchase an outdoor heating element, you make your outdoor space a year-round, useable location. Choosing a patio heater can increase the usability of your outdoor kitchens, patio, or deck and allow you to enjoy the outdoors more comfortably. Not only that, but they make entertaining outdoors that much more fun!

When the Party Moves Indoors, Trust Aire Serv

If you’re looking to extend the time you spend outdoor this winter, an outdoor heater is a great way to do it. These heaters not only help keep you warm, they create a cozy outdoor atmosphere when gathering with family and friends. To make sure you keep it comfortable on the inside, too, reach out to your local Aire Serv professional for HVAC repair, maintenance, and replacement. To learn more, call us or request an estimate online today.