What are Patio Heaters?

What are Patio Heaters

Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

What are patio heaters?

What are patio heaters? Well, patio heaters quite simply are devices that are used to heat your patio and keep you warm. However, once you start looking into them you’ll realise that there is much more to them than that, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide.

In our patio heater guide, we will discuss the main types of heaters available and give you an insight into some of the most frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision when you decide to buy. The main topics we will cover are listed below.

  • 1) What are the different types of patio heater?
  • 2) How do patio heaters work?
  • 3) Are gas or electric patio heaters best?
  • 4) Are patio heaters safe to use?
  • 5) Are patio heaters bad for the environment?
  • 6) Are patio heaters worth it?

1) What are the different types of patio heater?

Patio heaters come in all shapes and sizes and each offers a number of valuable benefits over the next. The range available includes floor standing, wall-mounted and hanging and tabletop heaters and they are normally powered by either wood, electricity, bottled gas or mains gas.

Free-Standing Patio Heaters

Free-standing patio heaters are one of the most popular types of heater available and are often seen outside pubs, restaurants, and cafes. Free-standing heaters are the archetypal type of patio heater and are usually tall and thin with a burner on top. On top of the burner, you’ll normally see a reflective heat shield so the whole heater looks very much like a tall mushroom. Although in the past they were most commonly gas-powered, electric-powered floor standing heaters are now more common and popular than ever before.

Other types of free-standing patio heaters can include fire pits and chimineas. Both require more maintenance and cleaning and you can find out more about each on our Just Fire Pits and Just Chimineas websites.

Wall-Mounted and Hanging Heaters

Hanging heaters and wall-mounted patio heaters are becoming more popular due to their efficiency and size. They are perfect for anyone with limited space as they can be fitted to a wall or hung from another object and both can be easily positioned offering a versatile alternative to free-standing heaters. Hanging heaters also include parasol heaters that fit neatly on the underside of garden parasols and are often seen in commercial premises.

Often considered to be safer, due to their fitted location, wall and hanging heaters are predominantly electric and come in all shapes and sizes to suit all sizes of patios.

Tabletop Heaters

Tabletop heaters are much smaller than the other types and can be powered by either gas or electricity. They are highly portable and perfect for those wanting to heat a smaller area or for smaller groups. As you’d expect, they fit neatly onto the top of a table or other sturdy object and look like smaller versions of floor standing heaters.

How do patio heaters work?

How do patio heaters work? Patio heaters, like any other heat-producing appliance, use a source of fuel in order to warm a space, ie your patio. Excluding fire pits and chimineas, the fuel patio heaters use will either gas or electricity. Whichever fuel your chosen patio heater uses it will emit radiant heat. Radiant heat uses infrared waves to heat objects and people. Once objects directly in the path of the heat source are warm, heat is radiated to other objects and people.

What size patio heater do I need?

The size of the patio heater you need will depend upon a number of different things including the size of the patio, the temperature you wish to reach, and also how shaded or protected from the wind it is. Patio heaters temperature ratings will be measured in either BTU or Watts. Each Patio heater will have the area it will cover in its specifications so it’s important that you find this out before buying.

Are gas or electric patio heaters best?

The question as to whether gas or electric patio heaters are best is a difficult one to answer. There are many things to consider and it really does depend upon your circumstances.

Gas Patio Heaters

Gas patio heaters are powered with either mains gas or bottled gas. Bottled gas heaters are portable and very easy to add to your patio. They don’t really require any installation and can be put together, connected to a gas bottle and away you go. Mains gas heaters are slightly more complicated as they require professional installation. Both types of gas patio heater are more efficient at heating larger spaces than electric counterparts.

Bottle Gas Pros:

  • Very portable
  • No installation costs
  • Quick heating time
  • Good at heating larger areas


  • High running costs
  • Tanks need replacing
  • Higher maintenance costs

Mains Gas Pros:

  • Quick heating time
  • Cheaper to run than bottled gas
  • Good at heating larger areas


  • Installation costs
  • Not portable
  • More expensive than bottle gas alternatives

Electric Patio Heaters

Electric patio heaters connect directly to your electricity to provide heat for your patio. They are very cheap to run and offer more affordable heating than gas. They come in all shapes and sizes and are often much better for space-saving and can also be used undercover.

Electric Pros:

  • Quick to turn on and off
  • Cheaper running costs per hour
  • Convenient to use
  • Low maintenance costs
  • Can be used undercover
  • More eco friendly than gas


  • Limited to the location of power supply
  • May require professional installation
  • Not as portable as bottled gas

As you can see, there are a number of factors that will affect your decision as to whether gas or electric patio heaters are better.

Are patio heaters safe to use?

Despite some misconceptions, patio heaters are extremely safe to use so long as you follow the manufacturers instructions and safety rules.

You must also ensure that installation instructions, recommended distances and regular maintenance is adhered to when owning a patio heater. Although modern, well-designed heaters have cut off switches and anti-tip shut-offs, you will still need to make sure that they are located correctly and that there is no damage prior to turning them on. Common sense and safety run hand in hand, so as long as you follow the guidelines as with any heating appliance, they are perfectly safe.

Are patio heaters bad for the environment

Unfortunately, no patio heater is completely good for the environment. Simply the fact that they use fuel to heat outside where there is no insulation is a big clue that you are in fact wasting electricity or gas however modern patio heaters can vary in how eco friendly they are.

If you are looking for the most eco-friendly patio heater then electricity must be your choice of fuel. You then need to look at which electric heater is the most fuel-efficient which we will cover in a later article.

Are patio heaters worth it?

Are patio heaters worth it? Simply put, yes they are. Your patio is a great place to entertain friends or spend time with your family. When the weather is nice you want to make the most of your patio or garden but when the evenings start to get colder unless you get some form of heating, you will simply lose this fantastic outside space to the elements.

If you want to prolong the time you spend outside and extend your living/dining room into your garden then you need to consider adding some form of a heat source. Patio heaters are simple to install and provide the ability to extend your living space for a relatively cheap cost.

Yes patio heaters are worth it, you just need to pick the right one!