Outdoor space heaters are an attractive option for many homeowners due to their relatively low cost and incredible convenience. However, there’s a good deal to consider before selecting the perfect product for your favorite outdoor space. We made this guide to educate you on key factors to consider and to showcase the best outdoor space heaters on the market.
Why buy an outdoor space heater?
Fire pits and indoor space heaters are great, but when it comes to heating outdoor spaces, almost nothing beats an outdoor space heater. Outdoor space heaters are known for excellent heat distribution, water resistance, and very little routine maintenance. They are also a great product to invest in if you host outdoor parties or gatherings so that your guests can feel comfortable when temperatures start to drop. Lastly, outdoor space heaters are incredibly versatile, so whether you’re looking for a product for your deck or the campsite, there is very likely an outdoor space heater on the market that will suit your unique needs.
What should you look for in an outdoor space heater?
- Heating Area: The size of the area you plan to heat with your outdoor space heater will largely determine what type of product is right for you. If you plan on heating a small, semi-enclosed space (such as a small balcony), an electric space heater is probably your best option. However, larger spaces (such as wide patios) may require powerful propane or natural gas heaters in order to distribute warmth across your space. For those who like to entertain outside in colder months, investing in multiple gas-powered outdoor space heaters might be your best option.
- Energy Source: The three main energy sources used for outdoor space heaters are propane, natural gas, and electricity. Each energy source has some pros and cons. Propane heaters tend to be simple to set up and are also fairly easy to move around your patio. However, you will need to regularly buy propane, which can be a bit pricey. Electric outdoor space heaters, on the other hand, are quite affordable, but you’ll likely need an extension cord to place it where you want it. Also, unlike propane space heaters, they can be used in enclosed or semi-enclosed patio areas. However, electric heaters tend to provide less heat than gas-powered options. Natural gas space heaters are great for people who want a permanent heating fixture attached to a fixed gas line. While these units tend to be very powerful, they are more cost-effective than propane options, although they lack the portability of their propane-powered counterparts.
- Ease of Use: Before making your decision, it’s a good idea to research various products in order to determine which ones are the easiest to use. Some outdoor space heaters (such as most natural gas models) need to be permanently installed, which can be much trickier than setting up an electric or propane model. Also, pay close attention to how your space heater will be controlled. Models that feature easy-to-use interfaces or a remote control will be much simpler to adjust and operate than models that will have you fidgeting with a complicated control panel.
Are there any other key features you should keep an eye out for?
Weather resistance and overall durability will be incredibly important factors, especially since your space heater will be primarily housed outdoors. Look for a model that is made of a durable, rust-resistant material such as stainless steel, as this will greatly prolong the lifetime of your outdoor space heater. Some models even come with covers, which are great to use when the product is not in use in order to protect it from the sun’s UV rays. Unless you opt for a permanent outdoor space heater, it’s wise to house your product indoors during prolonged periods of non-use. This will keep it looking and working like new for longer than if you leave it out in the elements.
Hampton Bay Stainless Steel Patio Heater
This outdoor space heater impresses in terms of reliable heating and excellent weather resistance.
Pros: Featuring durable stainless steel construction that holds up well under the elements, this budget-friendly outdoor space heater from Hampton Bay features a great price considering its heavy-duty 48,000 BTU heat output. In addition to providing the heat, this unit is also better at distributing warmth across a wider area than similar models, making it fantastic for outdoor occasions where people are spread out on the patio.
Cons: Due to its wheel-free design, this isn’t the easiest space heater to move around your patio, especially when there is a full propane tank in its base. While the strong and vigorous can likely handle it without issue, many will need to remove the propane tank in order to move it around without risking damage to the unit.
Bottom Line: In terms of cost and heat dispersion, this product is practically unmatched. That being said, it’s unlikely to win many beauty contests with its straightforward design. Although this is a product that would definitely benefit from a pair of wheels, it’s impossible to discount how it exceeds expectations in the most important ways. So, if you’re looking for something durable and weather-resistant that produces heat like a champ, this is the product for you.
Heat Storm Infrared Heater + Tripod
This budget-friendly electric space heater is easy to assemble and extremely effective at heating smaller spaces.
Pros: If you’re looking to save some money and don’t regularly contend with freezing weather, this offering from Heat Storm should do the trick. This outdoor space heater can be put together in minutes and provides a surprising amount of heat for a budget-friendly electric unit. It’s also incredibly sturdy, so you probably won’t have to worry about most dogs being able to easily knock it over. While this isn’t a product that you would want to run unprotected on a rainy night, it is resistant to splashing water, making it a great choice for your covered deck.
Cons: Although you can wall-mount this product fairly easily, its anti-tip safety feature won’t allow it to operate if it’s mounted to the ceiling. Thus, those looking for an electric heater for their ceiling will be better-suited with the next product on our list. Also, this infrared heater won’t put out as much heat as gas-powered options, so it’s not an ideal choice for those who want to enjoy their outdoor spaces during a particularly cold season.
Bottom Line: While this is a better space heater for a brisk autumn afternoon than a bitter cold night, it still has a lot to offer. From its intuitive remote control to its fast heating, this product is just as acceptable for indoor use as it is for outdoor use. If you need to heat up large spaces or are looking for a product that excels in extremely cold applications, this is not the heater for you. Otherwise, this is a great product at its price point.
Dr Infrared DR-238 Infrared Heater
This space heater works on standard 120V electrical outlets and silently produces heat at a wide angle.
Pros: If you’re in the market for an electric space heater that excels in outdoor spaces, the DR-238 is a solid option. This product heats up very quickly and works with standard 120V outlets, making it a compatible choice for most homes. While this product is water-resistant, it’s made of aluminum, so its ideal setup would be in a sheltered balcony or patio area to prevent corrosion. Although this isn’t the most powerful model on the market, it does put out an impressive amount of heat, and its tripod-friendly and remote-controllable design make it a breeze to set up and use.
Cons: Unsurprisingly, this electric outdoor space heater isn’t able to produce anything near the heat production of its gas-powered counterparts. So, those seeking to heat up larger areas will likely need to find a natural gas or propane-powered space heater in order to meet their needs. However, for those with larger covered patios that aren’t able to use gas space heaters, investing in a couple of these will get the job done.
Bottom Line: For those with smaller spaces or sheltered patios to warm up, this product is a dream come true. However, it’s definitely not the best space heater for heating up wide-open spaces. If you’re looking for something that is easy to set up and mount, this is a great pick. Just be sure that your space will allow you to place it near where the action is since it’s best utilized up close and personal.
Pros: For those with a little extra money to spare for outdoor heating, this patio heater from Hiland is well worth the investment. Featuring a sleek design and formidable heat dispersion, this outdoor space heater is great for when you’re hosting outdoor gatherings from the comfort of your patio. Despite its heft, it’s fairly easy to move thanks to its wheeled design, which makes setting up your party space that much easier. Also, this product comes in a nice variety of styles, making it simple to pair with your existing patio decor.
Cons: In truth, this is a fairly expensive product, especially considering there are outdoor space heaters on the market with similar BTU ratings for nearly half the price. This product also goes through a lot of propane, especially when used on its “high” setting, making the long-term costs of ownership fairly pricey as well.
Bottom Line: While this isn’t an outdoor space heater for those on a tight budget, it’s one of the most reliable and attractive heaters that can be purchased. For those who take outdoor living seriously and don’t mind the higher short-term and long-term investment, this product is as reliable and effective as it gets. However, those who value utility over style will benefit from a more cost-effective model.
Mr. Heater Portable Buddy
This portable heater is rugged enough for a variety of outdoor applications on the go.
Pros: Finding a worthy outdoor space heater for your hunting blind or campsite is not always easy. However, thanks to its rugged build quality, nifty safety features, and portable design, the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy is a convenient option. This product can actually be used indoors or outdoors, making it a nice companion for your garage or your patio. It also automatically shuts off if there’s trouble (such as low oxygen levels, or if it’s tipped over) making it safer to operate than many comparable portable space heaters.
Cons: While the low oxygen auto-shutoff function is a nice touch, this does mean that those who live in higher elevations will find their space heater sporadically shutting off, especially when used in enclosed spaces such as a tent. Also, while this little unit does put out impressive heat for its size and price, it also burns through mini propane tanks fairly quickly. Thus, if you’re going on a prolonged trip, be sure to bring a few extra cans of propane just in case.
Bottom Line: When shopping for a portable space heater, finding something that is as safe and rugged as it is effective is a smart move. In this regard, the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy really excels. If you are known to rough it in nature when temperatures start to drop, this product may prove to be more than a luxury buy. It can actually save your life!
There’s a lot to think about when shopping for an outdoor space heater. However, overcomplicating things probably won’t do you much good. If you focus on finding a reliable product that is built for your environment (in terms of both size and climate), you will very likely be satisfied with your choice.