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Do Patio Heaters Work? (A Closer Look at Each Type)

Do Patio Heaters Work? (A Closer Look at Each Type)

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When winter rolls in, spending time on your patio, deck, or backyard becomes a challenge.

Luckily, a patio heater can help you keep your outdoor space warm so you can enjoy hosting parties or relaxing on your own throughout the cold months.

That said, many homeowners wonder: do patio heaters work? In today’s guide, I’m explaining the operation of a patio heater, its effectiveness, and the types you can use.

Are Patio Heaters Effective?

Patio heaters are equipment designed to provide warmth across an outdoor setting. These devices allow you to spend time comfortably on your patio, deck, or yard during cold weather.

As such, using a patio heater helps you make the most out of your outdoor living spaces.

It also saves you from the hassle of other outdoor heating methods that may be messy or impractical such as fire pits, bonfires, or space heaters.

Patio heaters are more efficient, easier to control, and come in various designs and powering options to cater to your varying heating needs.

How Do Patio Heaters Work?

The operation of a patio heater involves using an energy source (electricity or fuel) to provide warmth via heat waves that move through the air in various directions to turn up the ambient temperature.

This mechanism is called radiant heating, and it makes patio heaters superior to other outdoor heating devices that operate by generating hot air so they fail to cover a wide area.

The extent of a patio heater’s coverage depends mainly on the device’s size, which varies according to the area of the space you’re looking to heat.

So how do you check the coverage of a patio heater?

Simply look at its BTU value. This number corresponds to the thermal capacity of the device and gives you an idea of the area it can operate efficiently.

The higher the BTUs, the more heat the patio heater will produce and the larger the space it can cover.

Types of Energy Sources for Patio Heaters

As I mentioned above, patio heaters rely on an energy source to emit heat. They can be electrically powered or fuel-powered via propane or natural gas.

Here’s a breakdown of each type:

Electric Patio Heaters

Like most household devices, patio heaters can use electricity as a power source.

Unlike popular belief, running an electric patio heater won’t cost more than other appliances. The operation cost is pretty much equal to other electrical home devices, higher than natural gas, and lower than propane.

In electric patio heaters, the emitted heat is in the form of electromagnetic waves that travel through the air. This is the more environmentally friendly option as it doesn’t produce toxic gas emissions.

If you’re opting for an electric patio heater, you need to position it somewhere with access to power outlets. It should be as close as possible to the outlet to avoid using extension cords that can cause tripping accidents.

Natural Gas Patio Heaters

Patio heaters can also burn through natural gas to operate. With this type, the emitted heat is the result of open-air combustion.

Expense-wise, the cost of running a natural gas patio heater is lower than propane and natural gas.

However, you’ll pay more initially for setup because natural gas patio heaters require professional plumbing and installation to ensure safety when running.

With a constant supply of natural gas reaching the device via pipes, you won’t be able to change the position of the patio heater once installed.

Also, you should keep in mind that natural gas patio heaters aren’t very eco-friendly due to the production of toxic emissions.

Propane Patio Heaters

Patio heaters can also use propane as a power source. Like with natural gas, the emitted heat results from open-air combustion.

Most homeowners choose propane to power their outdoor appliances thanks to its easy installation. There’s no need to bring in a professional to set it up and you can place it anywhere you want.

Propane also delivers the highest thermal capacity compared to electricity and natural gas.

However, propane patio heaters cost the most to run. Also, you’ll need to refill or replace the propane tank once it’s empty.

Different Designs of Patio Heaters

Patio heaters are available in multiple shapes to accommodate different space and coverage needs. Here’s a quick look at the most common patio heater designs:


  • Space-efficient design
  • Uses a bracket for mourning and directing heat
  • Uses electricity


  • Meant to be placed on a table; can serve as a centerpiece and/or lamp
  • Compact build
  • Can’t use natural gas


  • Resemn;e a giant mushroom or umbrella
  • Consists of 4 sections: base, pole, heater, and reflector
  • Offers higher BTUs

Final Thoughts

So, do patio heaters work?

The answer is yes. Patio heaters can effectively deliver heat outdoors to keep you and your surroundings warm.


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