Searching for the best way to prolong your garden soiree? The ever-changing British weather is infamous for interrupting many a gathering, leaving you chilled to the bone and rushing to the warmth of the house. If this situation is far too familiar, it might be time to invest in a patio heater!
You may be familiar with these wonderful warmers if you’ve spent time in the outdoor seating area of a restaurant or shivering in the smoking area of a pub, but who’s to say they should be reserved for public spaces only? Nabbing yourself a couple of patio heaters for your own garden is a great way to keep the party going long into the night, offering a pleasing respite from the chill of the evening air to help you get the most out of your outdoor space. With one of these seasonal staples in your garden, the only thing that’ll be cold is the ice in your drink, so keep the cocktails flowing, relax, and enjoy - summer just got a whole lot hotter!
With so many patio heaters to choose from, it can be hard to decide which is right for your taste, space, and needs. Luckily for you, we’re here to help! In this guide, we’ll take you through a crash course of all things patio heater-related before introducing you to a hand-picked selection of some of our favourite offerings on the market today. Party supplies at the ready - this year, you’ll be hosting garden parties to remember!
How do patio heaters work?
Typically, patio heaters are available in two different types: electric and gas. Gas heaters will burn fuel such as propane to create a warming flame, whereas electric heaters turn electricity into infrared heat. Regardless of whether you choose gas or electric, both types of heaters will emit radiant heat. Radiant heat works differently to traditional space heaters you’d use indoors. A space heater will usually heat the air and then blow it around the room. Although great for indoors, this is ineffective in the colder outdoor air as it dissipates quickly, wasting energy. Radiant heat radiates out from the heating elements and travels through the air, offering warmth to an object or body. This makes it a much more effective way to cosy up outside.
Patio heaters will typically show their coverage in the product specifications. The size of the heater you need will depend on how big an area you’re trying to heat! Smaller heaters are great for intimate gatherings in a small, secluded space, whereas larger heaters are perfect for generous gatherings in grand, open spaces. Of course, as with most things, the larger the heater, the larger the price tag. If you have a limited budget to play with but a larger garden to heat, we suggest choosing a select space to house the heater, such as next to your garden table, beside your garden sofa set, or anywhere that you and your guests are most likely to convene. By selecting one smaller section of your garden, you can keep costs down and still provide a cosy space to warm up when the weather takes a turn. It’s also a good idea to invest in a fire pit for another area of your garden if the space you’ve set out is too small for all your guests to sit together at once. That way, you can provide warmth for all your visitors and the opportunity to toast some ooey, gooey marshmallows, too! What’s not to love?
Electric or gas patio heater?
Although they do the same thing, there’s quite a big difference between electric and gas patio heaters in terms of how they operate. We’ll go into this in more detail below, but here are some of the key differences to consider before setting your heart on a new heater:
Electric patio heaters
- Typically cheaper to buy than gas alternatives but more expensive to run over time
- Lower heating power compared to gas heaters
- Requires an electrical power supply
- Lightweight and easy to manoeuvre
- Less bulky and cumbersome than gas heaters
- Reduced fire rask
Gas patio heaters
- Lower energy consumption
- Enhanced heating performance
- Heavier than electric heaters - more stable in poor weather conditions but harder to move around your garden
- Requires licensed gas bottles
- Fire risk (naked flame is typically encased in a grille, but it still poses a risk if placed too close to flammable materials)
Gas patio heaters run on a fuel source to emit warmth and so will require the addition of a licensed gas canister. They’re a popular choice among those with larger gardens because they’re usually far more powerful than electric models, providing a greater intensity of heat with a greater coverage to boot. The unit is fully self-contained and won’t require any external wires to work, so you don’t have to worry about sourcing or installing an outdoor power supply. The downside is that they can be a little fiddly to set up and you’ll need to ensure you have plenty of spare gas to hand in case the canister runs out - the last thing you want is to cut your night short because you’ve ran out of fuel for the fire! They also pose a greater fire risk than electric models, despite the fact that the naked flame is often encased in a grille, so you should never leave it unattended. Plus, they produce a gaseous odour, which isn’t too intoxicating in open spaces, but certainly worth a mention. Gas patio heaters are best used in large, well-ventilated spaces away from any flammable materials to best protect you from fumes and fire risks. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure safe use.
If you opt for an electric heater, you’ll need to place it near a socket or have an extension cord on hand. Electric patio heaters are usually mounted to walls or above head level, casting down heat over a group. This is particularly good for targeted heat in smaller spaces, but not so suitable for larger areas. Mounted models are a fabulous way to maximise your space, but this limits their portability considerably. You can find plenty of free-standing electrical heaters out there, so if freedom of movement is important to you, opt for one of these over a mounted or hanging alternative. It’s worth mentioning that some mounted models boast a tilting head which can be used to direct warmth - while this may not be as effective as being able to move the unit entirely, it can help to direct heat to those who are a little chillier. Regardless of the type you go for, electric heaters in general aren’t quite as powerful as the gas alternatives. As such, they’re best suited to smaller areas, such as balconies. While they can be more costly to run over time, you can find models that have automated time settings to preserve energy. It may be a bit of a faff to get up and turn it on again, but it’ll do wonders for your utility bills. Plus, electric heaters pose less of a fire risk, which certainly stands in their favour. But, just like gas models, you should use your electric heater vigilantly, never leave it unattended, and always follow the manufacturer’s safety and installation instructions.
Don’t like the idea of either? Why not opt for a wood burner instead? These rustic patio heaters are similar to fire pits and are ideal for getting snug on a budget, offering comforting light, cosy warmth, and a charming aesthetic that’s sure to make your garden the envy of all. All you need for a wood patio heater is the unit, such as a chiminea or an outdoor fireplace, and the wood, making it fabulously cost-effective. Plus, as they’re usually far more compact than patio heaters, they can be easily stored away between uses, maximising your available space - bonus!
Free-standing or mounted?
Whether or not you decide to opt for a free-standing patio heater depends on where you’re planning on putting it. For something that can be easily moved or relocated, a free-standing unit is ideal. Most models can be collapsed and raised to the height you desire for easy storage and typically come on wheels for portability. Unfortunately, these units tend to be rather bulky, so they may not be ideal for smaller spaces.
Limited on space? Look to a patio heater that can be mounted to walls, umbrellas or ceilings. Of course, these kinds of heaters are more permanent, so they’re less easy to move around, but they’re perfect for more cramped or compact areas. Additionally, if you own a pub or restaurant, a static fixture will take up less room in your outdoor space and provide less of a trip risk for your guests.
Once you’ve decided between a free-standing or mounted patio heater, you need to choose whether you want a design with a vertical or horizontal heat output. To summarise: Vertical output is widely considered the best option as the heat is radiated down onto everyone evenly, making it ideal for large groups of people gathering together. Horizontal heaters, on the other hand, are great for warming smaller groups of people really well, providing targeted heat to a limited area. They also work really well in pub gardens, where each individual bench can have its own horizontal heater. The heat is cast out sideways, sometimes in an oscillating pattern, offering warmth to tall and short folks alike. Ultimately, the one that works best for you will all depend on the area you want to feel the benefits and the size of the group.
Feeling hot, hot, hot!
Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of patio heaters, it’s time to discover some of the most magnificent models on the market today! Whether you already know what you’re after or you’re still stumped for ideas, our hand-picked selection of heaters below should help to give you some ‘shopspiration’! From timeless classics to contemporary choices, our line up showcases some of the hottest picks (no pun intended!) from a wealth of big name brands, including Heatsure, Outsunny, and Oypla. Ready to make your garden the place to be this summer? Keep reading!
Pros: Practical yet pretty design, variable control valve allows you to adjust the intensity, wheeled design enhances portability, comes with a protective cover
Cons: Rather cumbersome - may not be suitable for smaller outdoor areas, can be quite fiddly to change gas canister
When it comes to patio heaters, you can’t get more timeless than this beauty from the garden specialists at Heatsure. With a tried and tested design, this gorgeous gas heater promises to extend the fun of your al fresco festivities for even longer, keeping you and your guests warm and toasty well into the night.
Featuring a Piezoelectric ignition system, this patio heater boasts an impressive adjustable wattage of 5000-12000, which can be controlled via the variable control valve. The reflective hood prevents heat from escaping, cascading waves of warmth down into the area it’s positioned. On the subject of positioning, thanks to the handy wheeled design, you can effortlessly move this heater around your outdoor area - without having to worry about scratches and scuffs damaging your patio or decking. This is also beneficial for when the heater is not in use, as you can move it well out of the way to maximise your available space, or wheel it into an outdoor storage unit to protect it from the elements during the winter months. Don’t have access to outdoor storage? No problem - this patio heater even comes with its own protective cover which can be easily slipped over the unit - bonus!
The only real downside to this patio heater is the fact that it’s a little on the cumbersome side. This is a necessary evil however, as it’s fuelled by gas and requires a large storage area to house the canister. There’s also the minor point about fitting a new canister when your old one runs out, which can be a little fiddly at first. However, once you get used to it, it shouldn’t be a problem.
If your main determinant is safety, this fabulous model is CE, CSA, and AGA approved, so you can feel safe in the knowledge that it adheres to a variety of international safety standards. It comes in a range of different colours and pairs fantastically with a whole host of garden furniture designs, so it won’t look out of place in any outdoor space. All in all, if you’re after a traditional gas patio heater, you really can’t go wrong with this magnificent model.
Pros: Sleek and stylish design, automatic off feature prevents overheating and conserves energy, adjustable heat panel, 2m power cord
Cons: Requires assembly, weatherproof but not suitable for use in rainy conditions
Dispensing with the conventionally clunky design of a standard patio heater, this free-standing electrical model from Oypla is the streamlined heating solution you didn’t know you needed! Fabulously thin, this elegant electric heater is perfect for all manner of outdoor areas, providing warmth without ever encroaching on your space.
Adjustable by nature, you can tilt the heater panel to provide targeted warmth to a specific area of your choosing and change the height of the telescopic stand to suit your needs. Plus, you can even choose between three heat settings to adjust the intensity on the fly. For balmy evenings in need of a little extra warmth, select the lowest setting (650W). For chilly nights under the stars, opt for the impressive full strength setting (2000W). Or, for those in-between evenings, go for the middle ground (1350W) - the choice is yours!
As the heating element emits a warm glow when operational, this practical patio heater even doubles up as an outdoor light, creating an inviting atmosphere that’s perfect for all those long summer evenings. It even comes with a 2m cord, giving you the flexibility you need to move it around your space with ease.
It’s worth noting that, while this heater is weatherproof and IPX4 rated for outdoor use, it shouldn’t be used in rainy conditions. This is a significant downside - particularly given the ever-changing UK weather - but the likelihood of anyone wanting to spend long hours in the garden when the weather takes a turn is minimal at best.
Pros: Contemporary design, adjustable heat output, fully-enclosed gas cylinder chamber, regulator and hose included
Cons: Modern style may not be to everyone’s taste, can only be used in a well-ventilated area
Bored of bog-standard designs? Well, look no further than this pyramid patio heater from Dellonda! Eye-catching and elegant, this stunning model takes everything you thought you knew about gas heaters and reimagines them. The result? A truly breathtaking piece of kit that not only looks incredible, but performs exceptionally well, too!
Just like a classic patio heater, the gas cylinder is fully-enclosed, preventing any unsightly canisters from ruining your outdoor aesthetic. It also features a reflector that directs heat downwards and outwards, providing a generous area of warmth for you and your guests to enjoy. Unlike a classic model however, this heater showcases the lit flame in a turret that extends all the way up to the very top, rather than keeping it concealed in the mantle flame screen. This works in tandem with the striking pyramid design, making for a truly show-stopping statement piece that won’t look out of place in any garden. While it gives the illusion that the flame is free, don’t fret: it’s actually encased in a transparent tube which is covered by a grille - a necessary safety feature that doesn’t sacrifice style.
With a user-friendly variable heat output dial to the rear, you can adjust the intensity of the flame to suit your needs with ease. Igniting is just as easy, as is connecting it up to your gas canister, as it comes with an easy-to-use ignition button, a regulator, and a hose for easy assembly with a propane patio gas bottle.
For safety reasons, this gas heater should be used in well-ventilated areas only.
Pros: Wall-mounted design won’t encroach on your space, three heat settings to choose from, IPX4 rating
Cons: Cable length is a little on the short side, can be expensive to run over time
Proof that you needn’t have buckets of room at your disposal to enjoy a patio heater, this wall-mounted marvel from Kingfisher is the perfect way to keep warm without sacrificing space - think of it as the space-saving solution dreams are made of!
Small but mighty, this electric heater boasts three different heat settings, ranging from warm and wonderful to intense and incredible, allowing you to tailor the strength to suit your needs. Choose from 650W, 1350W, or 2000W to find the optimal heat setting for you, and provide targeted warmth by adjusting the 45-degree tilting up-down heat element to any position you desire - it’s really that easy!
Not only ideal as a space-saving alternative, this practical patio heater boasts a wealth of safety features to keep your mind at ease, including overheat protection, anti-tilt protection, and a weatherproof rating of IPX4.
Before purchasing this patio heater, it’s worth identifying whether or not your home has any outdoor power sources or investing in a long extension cord, as the cord that comes with this heater is less than 2m long. This can make positioning it in a suitable area a little more difficult, as the length of the cable doesn’t give you much room to play with. Aside from that, we can’t think of many reasons why this wouldn’t be a fabulous choice for any outdoor area, albeit a balcony, terrace, patio, or veranda. Essentially, if you have a wall and a power cable nearby, you’re good to go!
Pros: Hanging design provides flexibility, emits a warm light as well as heat, lightweight, provided hook and chain for easy hanging
Cons: Not the most powerful, needs something overhead to hang from
Looking for an all-in-one hanging outdoor light and patio heater? Your search ends here! With a 2-in-1 design, this ceiling patio heater by the outdoor specialists at Outsunny is as functional as it is fabulous, providing a welcoming glow and a wonderful warmth that’s perfect for when the sun goes down.
Coming complete with a hook and chain, you can attach this electric heater to anywhere you’d like, from a gazebo to a garage and beyond! Unlike a gas model, you won’t have to worry about any fume emissions, so it’s safe to use both indoors and outdoors, and it’s environmentally-friendly, too. All you need to do is make sure you have a power cable in close proximity and something to hang it from, and you’re good to go.
With no permanent mounts, cumbersome bases, or heavyweight designs to worry about, this patio heater is wonderfully portable. Once cool, you can take it with you wherever you desire, as long as there’s a power source available! From camping trips to garden parties, this portable patio heater has got you covered! Plus, thanks to its easy-to-use on/off switch, you have full control over its operation, allowing you to conserve energy and keep running costs down.
Unfortunately, this patio heater is considerably less powerful than most of the other models featured on this list and it doesn’t offer any adjustable settings. The standard heat setting is 600W - typically the lowest setting on most other models - and you can’t increase or decrease the intensity. While this is more than enough for those balmy summer evenings, it may not be strong enough for those chillier nights.
Relight my fire!
Ready to enjoy the hottest summer on record? While we can’t promise the weather will behave itself, you’ll certainly be enjoying the warmth of your very own patio heater with one or two of these magnificent models in your al fresco arsenal! For an even greater selection, check out our full range of patio heaters here, or take a browse through our extensive range of outdoor heating solutions to discover a wealth of different ways to keep the chill at bay.
Of course, no outdoor area is complete without some garden furniture to unwind in! From fully-loaded sofa sets to comfy, cosy chairs, all-in-one outdoor dining solutions to terrific tables, we’ve got everything you need to make the most out of your glorious garden this year. Not sure where to start? Take a look at our dedicated garden furniture guides and outdoor living blogs for a whole host of tips, tricks, ideas, and inspiration to transform your garden into the communal hub of the home. Whatever your space, we’ve got the solution for you! So, what are you waiting for? A summer of fun awaits…
The information in this buyer’s guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.