As we flip another month on the calendar and the weather turns cooler, one of the ways to keep enjoying the outdoors with friends and family is to use a commercial patio heater. Whether you have a deck, patio or other outdoor living space, there are ways that you can incorporate heating so that it’s comfortable to sit outdoors on chill days and cold evenings. Commercial patio heaters are great because they put out a lot of warmth and extend the use of your outdoor space. Many types of commercial patio heaters are available, so you’ll want to do some research first, and then consider these tips for selecting the next patio heater for your outdoor space.
Electric, Propane or Natural Gas?
Where you live and the size of your space may be what determines the type of fuel your outdoor patio heater will use. Each option has its pros and cons, so it’s important to consider what you want from your heater.
Propane patio heaters are portable and don’t need a professional for installation. These are the simplest to set up and use because they generally have a propane tank — just like the one used for a typical gas grill — that sits inside the base and fuels the heater at the very top of the unit. Easy to use, propane patio heaters mean you’ll have to keep an eye on the fuel level in the 20-pound tank. The full-size heaters generally come in one of two styles: A tall cylinder with a mushroom shape at the top or a tall pyramid that has the flame encased in a glass tube.
Electric patio heaters are generally considered to be the most sustainable option because they don’t burn any fuel so they don’t create any emissions. Electric heaters are not portable and must be mounted to a wall or a ceiling. These types of patio heaters also tend to put out more heat and are only slightly affected by wind and weather conditions. The biggest disadvantage to some of these types of patio heaters is that they require an outlet, although there are many types that can be mounted and hardwired to eliminate the dangling cord. Either way, in the past these were more commonly found in restaurants or other public places because they are permanent fixtures and can be more expensive. Now, however, with life having changed during the pandemic, residential customers are increasingly turning to commercial patio heaters so that can stay outdoors later in the season.
Natural Gas patio heaters are similar to propane types but are professionally installed and hooked up to your home’s natural gas supply. These are an eco-friendly and permanent option that’s considered more convenient than propane because you don’t have to fill any tanks and the cost to run them is very low.
What Size Patio Heater Do You Need?
This might be the most important question to answer with one added twist: You might need more than one patio heater depending on the size of space you want to heat. A few variables also play into the equation: Is the space covered or open, and will you be using it every day for extended periods like dining, or is this for occasional use, mainly for a setting area? Most experts say it’s doubtful that you need to heat the whole patio area and likely just need targeted areas to stay warm. Plus, it’s key to consider the climate that you live in: You’ll need less heating power to make a patio comfortable on a chilly evening, while it’ll take much more power to stay warm in frigid temperatures.
In a covered patio, a basic rule of thumb is one heater for 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. In an open space, a free-standing heater is only going to heat areas that are about 20 feet in diameter. If you have a large patio and several setting areas, you’ll likely need more than one heater. Before you buy any model, pay attention to the specific range for that particular heater. A side note regarding covered patios or screened-in porches: If you choose a freestanding propane heater, you’ll need to check the height of the heater as well as the height of your ceiling to make sure that you have enough clearance to operate it safely.
Depending on the type of fuel, heating power is measured differently. For propane or natural gas heaters, the temperature output is measured by BTUs, which stands for “British Thermal Unit:” A single BTU can heat 1 lb. of water by 1° F. Electric heaters, on the other hand, measure their output in watts. In either case, bigger is not always better because a high BTU rating doesn’t necessarily equal improved heating efficiency.
Extra Features To Look For
Many models may offer similar features but sometimes it’s the details that make the difference. Some of the extras that you’ll want to look for include safety mechanisms to protect people as well as property. Propane and natural gas models may have a safety shutoff that allows you to manually cut off fuel the supply and immediately put out the flame. Free-standing models should also have a tip-over switch that turns it off when it tilts sideways.
Other features are more for convenience and ease of use, such as wheels that let you roll a tall propane unit around your space to reposition it, or a remote control that lets you adjust the power or heating levels on an electric commercial patio heater.
Once you’ve chosen the type of fuel, size and extras that you want, it’s time to go shopping. Here’s our list of the best commercial patio heaters that will help you get more enjoyment from your outdoor space.
1. Bromic Heating Tungsten Smart-Heat 56-Inch 6000W Dual Element 240V Electric Infrared Patio Heater
Stay toasty all fall and into the winter with the Bromic Heating Tungsten Smart-Heat 56-Inch 6000W Dual Element 240V Electric Infrared Patio Heater. This model has a number of features that make it super useful for a residential setting, including a thick quartz heating element that has a steel coil to put out high heat, combined with a spectral reflector that radiates heat. This construction not only maximizes performance with infrared energy, but it also creates an attractive soft amber glow. The heater puts out 6,000 Watts (20,500 BTU) of radiant heat that will warm up to 160 square feet.
Depending on your specific space, this heater can be mounted on the wall or ceiling and adjusted to direct heat toward your targeted area. It can also be wired into smart system controls to fit your own custom heating preferences. This particular model only has one heat setting, however, it can be combined with the Bromic’s dimmer to control how much heat is being produced. The Tungsten Smart-Heat 56-Inch 6000W Dual Element 240V Electric Infrared Patio Heater has weather-resistant construction made from stainless steel and a corrosion-resistant, high-temperature coating. The wiring enclosure is tamper-proof uses 240V AC current. This commercial patio heater must be installed and hard-wired by a licensed electrician. Bromic Heating covers its patio heaters with a one-year warranty, guaranteeing them to be free of defects or faults in materials or workmanship, while the tungsten electric element is covered for its intended lifetime.
2. Infratech WD-Series 61 1/4-Inch 6000W Dual Element Electric Infrared Patio Heater – 240V – Stainless Steel – WD6024SS
Efficient and eco-friendly with toasty warmth to boot, the Infratech WD-Series 61 1/4-Inch 6000W Dual Element Electric Infrared Patio Heater converts more energy into heat than a gas patio heater does. The infrared radiant heat provides great warmth and extends the useful season for your outdoor space. UL-listed for indoor and outdoor use, the Infratech heater puts out 6000 watts that can keep a space about 11 by 11 feet in size toasty warm. It can also be installed with a duplex switch that gives you the option of running it at half power. The sleek heater, crafted from stainless steel, makes it durable for outdoor use, however, it is recommended the heater be installed under a protective roof or weather cover to protect it and give it a longer lifespan.
Made in the USA, this infrared heater has the feature that makes this type of heat most desirable: It heats people and objects, not the air, and that’s because infrared heat travels in waves until it hits an object — be it person or thing. By concentrating the heat, infrared technology means that you’ll lose far less heat to wind and the atmosphere. Even more appealing is that this heater is constructed with recyclable materials. Like most all commercial patio heaters, this one must be installed and wired by a professional electrician. Infratech warrantees its heater for three years heater to be free from defects in materials and workmanship.
Advanced technology distinguishes the Aura Carbon Series Electric 38 3/5-Inch Patio Heater, allowing it to provide directional infrared heat instantly. it uses an advanced carbon fiber emitter technology that puts out great warmth without harsh light or glare. Because they are electric heaters, the CF series models run silently without producing any odors or gases, which means your deck or patio will be even more enjoyable. Made from aircraft-grade aluminum and stainless steel, the heaters have excellent resistance to water and dust and are great for any weather conditions. It can be installed on any wall or ceiling surface for virtually maintenance-free operation.
One of the major added bonuses of the Aura Carbon Series Electric patio heater is an accessible on and off switch that also comes with a remote control, letting you customize the heat level to one of six different options. A shorter length of this model is also available for smaller spaces. Aura warrantees its infrared heaters against defects in workmanship and materials for one year and the included emitter bulb is covered for three months.
If propane or natural gas are your preferred types of fuel, then you can upgrade your outdoor heating with the Bromic Heating Tungsten 300 Smart-Heat 20-Inch 26,000 BTU Propane Gas Patio Heater. Unlike the typical free-standing propane heater, this one is meant to be mounted on the wall or ceiling and can evenly heat an area up to 160 square feet with its 26,000 BTUs. This model can also resist winds of up to 8 miles per hour. A larger 43,000-BTU size is also available. A unique feature of this Bromic model is that it has a single switch, electronic ignition, with which you can control one or more gas heating units. This lets you heat your whole patio controlling just one device!
This propane heater also features a pivoting arm for mounting, which lets you rotate it 25 degrees to either side, adjusting the direction of the heat. Even better, it can be wired into smart system controls that let you set your desired temperature for the heater each time it starts up. It also has an automatic safety feature that will shut off the fuel of the pilot light if it cannot be reignited after three tries. Weather-resistant, the brushed stainless steel construction protects the unity from dirt buildup and tampering, while a high-performance mesh screen helps with wind resistance. Bromic Heating covers its patio heaters with a one-year warranty against defects or faults in materials or workmanship.
With a super stylish profile, the Hiland HLDSO1-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Propane Heater w/Wheels is a freestanding, propane-fueled option that’s great for patios, decks and backyards. The looks the same as you’ll find in many outdoor restaurant spaces and will warm an area up to 10 feet by 10 feet. It’s ideal for a space where you might want to use multiple units for larger coverage. Using a standard 20-pound propane tank housed in the base, this pyramid heater will provide 8 to 10 hours of 40,000 BTUs heat on the high setting. The tube flame design — visually stunning and will mesmerize your guests — sends heat in every direction.
The portability of the heater is enhanced with wheels so that you can easily move the heater to the wherever on the patio the party is happening. For those who want to use it in a covered patio, the height of the unit is a little more than 6 feet, however, the ceiling must be at least 9 feet tall for safe operation in the enclosed space. AZ Patio Heaters covers the Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater with a one-year warranty against the manufacturer defects and offers a complete line of replacements parts and a full-service repair center. With 85 percent four- and five-star reviews, this heater is very popular. Buyers do note that the required assembly is made challenging by the poor manual, with instructions that are difficult to decipher.
The range of options is so wide that you can certainly find a heater that will suit just about any size space, and any type of conditions. The key to finding what’s right for your particular space is planning ahead, assessing your local climate and defining how you’d like to use your patio in the colder months.