If you’re in the market for a patio heater, the sheer number of options can seem intimidating. Between propane, natural gas, and electric patio heaters, there’s a lot to choose from.
Today, we’ll be talking about the best electric patio heaters on the market. Because different people will need different heaters to meet their needs, there’s no single best option for everybody. So we’re going to start by talking about different types of outdoor heaters, and why an electric patio heater might be your best choice. After that, we’ll talk about the different features you should be looking for.
Let’s get started!
ELECTRIC VS OTHER TYPES OF PATIO HEATERS
There are three types of outdoor heaters based on fuel type: propane, natural gas, and electric. So, why might you choose an electric heater over a different type? It depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a quick look at each type of patio heater, and what it’s good and bad for.
Propane patio heaters have a liquid propane tank, similar to a propane grill. This makes them easy to set up. All you need is a propane tank and a regulator, and you’re ready to go. The only downside is that you’ll typically want to keep two sets of propane tanks on hand, just in case you run out of gas.
You might also need to install a permanent line for wall or ceiling-mounted heaters. But in most cases, propane heaters are designed to be portable.
NATURAL GAS HEATERS
Natural gas patio heaters come in several different varieties. They can be free-standing like propane heaters but a more popular set up would be wall-mounted or ceiling mounted. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re in a fixed location because they’re tied into a natural gas line.
This is a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, it costs less over time than a propane heater and you don't have to remember to constantly buy more fuel. On the other hand, it isn’t very portable, and you’ll need a professional installation.
ELECTRIC PATIO HEATERS
Electric patio heaters can either be hardwired or plugged directly into a standard outlet. This means that they can be portable, like propane heaters, or fixed in a specific location, like natural gas heaters. But there’s a tradeoff involved in this choice.
A plug-in electric patio heater can be built with several different designs, which we’ll talk about in a moment. Generally speaking, they’re designed to be portable. However, their power is limited to your wall socket’s 120 volts.
To get more power, you’ll need a hardwired heater. These can either be built as pedestals or more commonly attached to a wall or ceiling. Hardwired heaters aren’t portable, and require professional installation. That said, they offer significantly more heating power than plug-in heaters.
Electric heaters use infrared or halogen light to project heat, which is over 90% efficient, more environmentally-friendly than propane or natural gas, and cost very close to natural gas to operate (this depends on electricity and gas rates in your area).
Electric heaters don’t require ventilation. You can use them in an indoor space as needed. If you need to heat a barn or a ballroom in the dead of winter, they’re a safe, affordable option.
With electric heaters, you don't have to sacrifice the look of your space. Electric heaters are more discrete and some models can even be recessed into the ceiling making them virtually invisible.
Finally, electric heaters require less maintenance and cost much less than gas heaters which is a huge plus.
WHAT TYPES OF ELECTRIC PATIO HEATERS ARE AVAILABLE?
If you’ve decided to invest in an electric patio heater, you’ll first need to choose the installation style you want. In general, electric patio heaters come in two main installation styles: free-standing, and wall or ceiling-mounted many of which can also be mounted on a poll. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Free-standing heaters can stand alone on the ground or on a table. Most models simply plug into a standard household outlet making these heaters super-easy to install and ready to use right out of the box.
Click here to Shop Free Standing Electric Patio Heaters
OVERHEAD ELECTRIC HEATERS: WALL, CEILING, UMBRELLA, POLE MOUNTED
Overhead electric heaters are popular as a more permanent solution. They don't take up any floor space and are very discrete, some models can even be recessed into the ceiling preserving the style of your decor. These heaters also have versatile control options allowing you to fully control the temperature and even connect them to your smart home.
Overhead electric patio heaters need to be hardwired in by a licensed electrician. Even though the installation is a little more complicated than with free standing models, these heaters are more powerful because the Voltage (and hence the power output) can be increased with the hardwired installation.
Click here to Shop Overhead Electric Patio Heaters
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM?
So, what makes each type of electric space heater unique? We’ve put together a handy list.
Free-standing electric heaters:
- Lightweight and portable
- Easy installation
- Can be plugged into a standard household outlet
- Can usually be rolled away or put away as needed
- Decorative designs available
- Designed for small to medium-sized areas
- Moderate power output
Wall and ceiling-mounted electric heaters:
- Take up no floor space
- Can seamlessly blend with the decor
- Easy to operate
- Low maintenance
- Full temperature control including Smart Home integration options
- Designed for larger areas
- Require professional installation
- Larger power outputs available
WHAT APPLICATION IS EACH TYPE BEST FOR?
Now that we’ve taken a broad overview, let’s take a look at what each type of patio heater is best suited for. Since we know what we’re looking at, this should be easy.
- Free-standing heaters are a great choice if you are looking for a heater that will work right out of the box and don't want to do any remodeling. These heaters will work for smaller outdoor or semi-enclosed patios. Tabletop models are popular for outdoor dining areas and small restaurant patios.
- Wall and ceiling-mounted heaters are generally better suited for high-end homes and commercial use. They require professional installation, and they’re not portable. That said, they can heat a large area with ease, and there are many ways you can operate them from a simple wall switch to a smart home integration.
3 STEPS TO CHOOSE ELECTRIC PATIO HEATER
To sum everything up, you can decide on which electric heater is right for you by following these three steps.
1. DECIDE ON INSTALLATION TYPE
2. DECIDE ON HOW MUCH HEAT
3. DECIDE ON HOW MUCH CONTROL
And the last important step determines the convenience of operation. You want to decide what kind of control you are looking to have over your heater(s) is it a simple On / Off with just one heat setting, full temperature control, or full-blown smart home integration?
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
There are a few other features that are important when choosing your electric heater. So, what else should you be looking for?
One important feature to look for in any patio heater is safety. To find the safest choice, make sure your electric heater is UL Listed or ETL Approved. These are industry-standard ratings that ensure that a heater has been tested for safety. All models by the top brands of electric patio heaters like Infratech, Bromic, Victory, and Endless Summer are UL Listed.
Depending on what you need, you may be looking for a heater that’s purely utilitarian. Conversely, you may want a heater that lends a dash of flair to your patio. Bromic overhead heaters and Endless Summer tabletop heaters are an excellent choice if you’re going for looks.
INFRARED OR HALOGEN?
Another important consideration is the type of heat you want, infrared or halogen. Halogen heat is slightly more powerful but it produces a bright light that can be distracting and intrusive. Infrared heat is more efficient and infrared heaters only create a mild glow that is barely noticeable.
You’ll also want to check your owner’s manual to see what kind of clearance you’ll need. For example, your manual will tell you how far your heating element should be from flammable materials like deck umbrellas.
CLEANING & MAINTENANCE
For most outdoor patio heaters, cleaning is easy. All you need to do is wipe down all exposed surfaces with water and a mild household cleanser. You can use a damp cloth or paper towel, and the process will be done in mere minutes.
Electric patio heaters require minimal maintenance. This is one key advantage they have over propane heaters. That said, make sure your power cords are protected if they’re in a high-traffic area.
TOP BRANDS COMPARISON
At Patio Fever, we provide outdoor space heaters from several major brands. Here are a few of the brands we’re about to look at:
- Infratech is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of overhead infrared electric heaters. They’ve been in the business for 50 years, and they have a long track record of quality. All Infratech heaters are made in the USA.
- Bromic Heating is an Australian brand of beautiful infrared electric patio heaters that are favored by high-end homes, resorts, and restaurants.
- Endless Summer stands out with its uniquely designed tabletop heaters that look like lamps.
- Victory is a brand of halogen overhead heaters from the UK. The combination of price and quality makes them stand out among the competition.