The best electric patio heater for your outdoor living space
Your patio or backyard is a great place to spend the afternoon with family or celebrating with friends. That is until the temperature starts to drop. The addition of an electric patio heater is a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to ensure you can spend more time in your outdoor living space.
Before you buy, think about how much area you’ll need to heat, what type of heat you prefer and where you’ll have to mount or install your heater. Below are features and considerations to keep in mind when purchasing an electric patio heater and some quality options.
What to know before you buy an electric patio heater
Electric patio heaters generate radiant heat via a powerful bulb or bulbs, warming the immediate area. Most heaters do not require professional installation and are safe to operate indoors and outdoors. The United States Department of Energy does have some safety tips to consider before using your devices, such as installing it away from the reach of children and pets.
Most electric patio heaters require a typical 120-volt outlet. If a patio area already features a wall outlet, these models allow the user to plug in and turn on your heater.
Some electric patio heaters require a higher voltage to operate and may need a certified electrician to wire the device into the home’s electricity.
Before purchasing an electric patio heater, ensure that the device has sufficient power to adequately heat the chosen patio area. Typically, you measure a heater’s power in watts. To determine how many watts are needed, assume that every square foot of patio area will require 10 watts of output. If the patio space is 150 square feet, a heater that produces at least 1,500 watts is required.
Radiant vs. infrared heat
Most electric patio heaters produce radiant heat and operate by warming the air around the unit. These models typically take a few minutes to reach operating power and begin heating the area. Some models are considered infrared heaters and warm the objects and the people in the area and the air. You can feel the heat from these devices more immediately.
Free-standing electric patio heaters: Usually between 5 to 8 feet tall, free-standing electric patio heaters look like oversized floor lamps. Most models have a bulb at the top that produces enough heat to warm an area 5 to 10 feet in radius.
Tabletop electric patio heaters: A more portable version of their free-standing counterparts, tabletop electric patio heaters also use a bulb to produce radiant heat. Tabletop heaters are similar in design to table lamps and likewise are meant to sit on a table. Some models can also fit through the hole in a patio table customarily reserved for the parasol. Usually, tabletop models do not produce as much heat as free-standing electric patio heaters.
Mounted electric patio heaters: Permanently affixed to a patio ceiling or wall, mounted electric patio heaters are more difficult to install and may require the help of a professional electrician. These models are ideal for patio areas with minimal floor space or table space and usually have adequate power to heat a large area. Some models produce infrared heat.
Hanging electric patio heaters: Hanging electric patio heaters are similar to mounted heaters. Placed on the ceiling, hanging heaters can involve a complicated installation process and work well in areas with limited floor space. However, unlike mounted electric patio heaters, hanging heaters typically do not produce enough heat to warm a large area.
What to look for in a quality electric patio heater
Though typically used outdoors, some electric patio heaters can also be placed indoors to heat a basement, garage or workshop.
When using an electric patio heater outdoors, look for a model made from high-quality, weather-resistant materials, such as high-grade stainless steel, which is corrosion and rust-resistant.
Many electric patio heaters only have an on/off switch, making it difficult to consistently regulate the temperature in an area or room. Some models have variable temperature controls, allowing you to choose a low, medium or high setting, producing as little or as much heat as needed to keep you comfortable.
Most electric patio heaters will need to be plugged into an electrical socket and have a cord length between 5 to 15 feet unless using a mounted or hanging model. If the power cord is short, the placement of the model is limited. If the power cord is too long, it can become a tripping hazard, compromising safety. Before buying a heater, inspect your patio area and note the distance between the preferred installation spot and the nearest outlet. Some models have retractable cords, allowing for more accessible storage when the device is not in use.
Auto shutoff: Models with an auto-shutoff feature ensure that it will automatically turn off if the patio heater gets too hot. This prevents the device from becoming a fire hazard and can increase the heater’s lifespan, keeping the materials from melting or warping due to the excess heat.
Tip-over switch: For free-standing and tabletop models, a tip-over switch feature prevents the device from becoming a fire hazard by automatically turning off the device if it’s knocked over.
Safety certifications: Beyond auto-shutoff and tip-over switch features, the heater should meet critical safety standards. Look for models approved by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent safety testing company.
How much can you expect to spend on an electric patio heater?
Prices for electric patio heaters vary greatly depending on wattage, heat type and other features. You can purchase most models for as low as $60 or up to $700.
Electric patio heater FAQ
Q: How much does it cost to run an electric patio heater?
A: Many factors can influence the cost of running your electric patio heater, including electricity rates in your area and the wattage of your device. Typically, you can expect to spend between 40-60 cents per hour.
Q: How do I clean an electric patio heater?
A: Always consult your owner’s manual before attempting to clean your electric patio heater and see what precautions and procedures the manufacturer recommends. In most cases, you can safely clean your patio heater with a rag, wiping the device’s exterior with a mixture of warm water and dish soap.
Q: Do electric patio heaters include a warranty?
A: Most models of electric patio heaters offer some form of warranty protection, typically between one to five years. However, most warranties will only cover normal wear and tear or manufacturer defects. Usually, the warranty will not cover any accidental damage or damage due to misuse of your device.
What’s the best electric patio heater to buy?
Best of the best
Our thoughts: This is a durable and versatile heater that can be effective in multiple settings.
What we like: It’s dust-proof and water-resistant, the Patioboss comes with great safety features and it has three heating modes.
What we dislike: The provided remote is the only way to turn it on.
Where to buy: Amazon
Best bang for your buck
Our thoughts: This option works well in various settings and is available at a very reasonable price point.
What we like: It’s excellent for indoor and outdoor settings, is built with weather-resistant aluminum and can be mounted to walls or ceilings.
What we dislike: It’s most effective when used to heat a smaller space.
Our thoughts: This is a quality heater with a unique and low-profile design that works well indoors or outdoors.
What we like: It produces two types of heat, including infrared, which you can feel up to 8 feet from the device. It’s ceiling mounted with a subtle appearance.
What we dislike: It requires the installation and does not come with a remote.
Where to buy: Wayfair
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Gerrad Frei writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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