What Kind of Outdoor Space Heater is Best for You?

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Many people use their patio as an extension of their home. It’s a place where you can gather with friends and family and have the comforts of home while enjoying the outdoors. Whether it’s a Sunday brunch or an barbecue dinner, a patio can be the stage for many great parties. However, as the seasons change and the weather begins to cool, there may be many of you opting to move the parties indoors. Owning an outdoor space heater can take away the chill and extend the time you spend outdoors. When most people think of space heaters they may think of outdoor bistros and amusement parks. However, space heaters are now more affordable and useful in residential homes than ever. This article will outline the different types of space heaters to help you decide which is best for you.

Types of Space Heaters

There are two basic types of space heaters for homeowners to purchase: electric and propane. Although a third option is available, natural gas space heaters are very uncommon. Some newer homes have natural gas hook-ups to install a natural gas space heater, but they are still hard to come across. You are much more likely to use an electric or propane space heater. There are pros and cons to both of these types of space heaters.


Electric space heaters are ideal for patios or indoor spaces. Because they do not have an open flame, they can be used in spaces with a roof or that are otherwise enclosed. They are also safer for families with small children and pets. Unlike the propane space heaters, electric space heaters do not need to purchase fuel. They will however, need replacement bulbs. Electric space heaters tend to be smaller than propane heaters and thus do not heat large areas as efficiently. It is important to remember that electric space heaters have a cord and need to have access to an outlet. If you are using them outside make sure that your outlet is protected from the elements.


Propane space heaters are the most common type of outdoor space heater. These space heaters are powerful and can heat large areas in a short amount of time. The propane tanks are typically hidden from sight at the base of the space heater, which helps make them an attractive option for your patio. Some heaters can hold tanks of propane as big as 20 gallons. Larger tanks come in handy when you are heating large spaces for an extended amount of time. You can refill your old propane tanks at most gas stations for a small cost. There is a major concern with propane space heaters that carbon monoxide can build up. Because of that risk, propane space heaters should never be used in enclosed spaces like a garage or shed.  

Understanding British Thermal Units

Another factor to consider when purchasing a space heater is how much heat the heater can produce. This measurement is called British Thermal Units, often shortened to BTU. There are a lot of different factors that go into influencing the BTU number, such as size and style of your space heater. BTU is a number scale that is fairly simple to understand. The smaller the BTU number the less heat is emitted, the larger the BTU number is the more heat is emitted. If you are looking to heat a large outdoor area, look at the BTU to determine how many space heaters you will need.

Styles of Space Heaters

Once you have determined the type of space heater that will work best for you, you can choose the style that would work best for you. There are a few different styles of space heater, but the most popular styles include table top, freestanding, and mounted.

Table Top

Table top space heaters are a small and stylish option. They are often designed like small lamps. These designs can either be intricate or plain. Small table top space heaters can be either electric or propane. However, because these heaters are smaller than other styles their BTU is much smaller. The smaller BTU makes table top heaters perfect for small intimate settings with a few people around a patio table. Table top space heaters are small enough to be portable. However, it is a good idea to anchor them down when in use so they do not get knocked over.


A freestanding space heater is much larger than table top space heaters. These types of heaters typically stand between 7 and 8 feet tall. They can quickly heat areas of up to a 10 foot radius. This means they can easily provide warmth for an entire patio or small backyard. They consist of four major parts: the base, the pole, the heat source, and the reflector. Freestanding space heaters can either be electric or fueled by propane. If they run on propane gas the tank is typically hidden in the base. Before purchasing a freestanding space heater, double check that the space you are trying to heat is tall enough to accommodate a freestanding heater without causing a fire hazard.


The final style of space heater is the mounted space heater. These can be mounted on the ceiling or on the wall of an outdoor location. They are usually infrared and electrically powered. If you choose to invest in a mounted space heater, double check that the mounting equipment you are using is correctly and safely installed to the wall. You can adjust the direction of the lamp as well as the vents to allow for maximum heat directed where you need it the most. This option is a good option for those who would like the extra warmth, but have limited floor space for a freestanding heater.   

Safety Tips

Before you purchase and install an outdoor space heater it is important to think about safety. Remember that outdoor space heaters are there to warm an area, not heat it completely like an indoor furnace would do. If you have pets or small children, carefully think about where you place a space heater. It is safer if the space heater is mounted or placed in a location where children cannot easily access them without parental supervision. You can look into purchasing space heaters with built in safety features such as automatic shut-off functions, or propane heaters with matchless starting options. If you are using a propane heater and begin to feel dizzy, light headed, or nauseous you may be feeling carbon monoxide poisoning. If this occurs, shut off your heater immediately and seek medical attention.  

In Conclusion

Adding an outdoor space heater to your patio is an easy way to extend your time outdoors during the colder months of the year. With so many different options available to consumers, it is easy to find a space heater that can work for any of your outdoor areas.

Related Article: Best Space Heater for You: Our Top 10 Reviewed

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