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Comparing Electric vs. Propane Patio Heaters

Comparing Electric vs. Propane Patio Heaters

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Patio heaters are an excellent way to spruce up your backyard. They can provide a ton of warmth and add a dramatic flare to the space.

That’s why thousands of homeowners invest in these devices every year. There are a couple of different options to choose from when picking out a patio heater.

For instance, people can pick between electric or propane devices. Each one of these relies on a distinct fuel source to deliver heat.

So, if you’re comparing electric and propane patio heaters, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about each device.

I’ll also cover the differences and similarities between the two patio heater types.

Electric Patio Heater Overview

Over the past few years, electric patio heaters have become incredibly popular. This is due to several reasons.

For starters, all you have to do to operate them is plug them in and click the on-switch. After that, your outdoor space should warm up in no time.

Besides that, the devices don’t rely on an open flame to provide heat. Instead, they come with infrared bulbs that radiate warmth.

These special lights will produce heat that warms objects, not the air. So, the chances of anyone burning themselves are close to zero.

To top it all off, electric patio heaters come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You can find small freestanding ones that fit almost anywhere.

Plus, there are a few tabletop and wall-mounted styles.

The only drawback of this type of patio heater is the electric bill. After a few hours of operation, you’ll notice that the device uses up a lot of power while it runs.

Propane Patio Heater Overview

Propane devices are arguably the most versatile patio heaters in the world. That’s because they come in a variety of designs, each one suited for a specific application.

For instance, these gadgets come in the form of umbrellas, fire pits, and even heating tables. So, you should be able to find one that perfectly matches your space and needs.

Aside from that, propane heaters are usually easy to set up. All you have to do is follow a few simple instructions and you’re ready to go.

Although, if you’re connecting to a direct gas line, you may need professional help.

Moving on, the heaters rely on propane tanks as their main fuel source. This can be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, with tanks, you can place the heater almost anywhere. You won’t have to worry about finding an outlet.

Yet, this also means that you have a limited fuel store. So, the device won’t be able to operate forever.

Electric vs. Propane Patio Heater

Now that you have some background information on each device, I can move on to the comparison. In this section, I’ll cover how propane and electric patio heaters are different.

1 – Fuel Source

The most glaringly obvious difference between the two devices is the fuel source. This means the operation of each device will be distinct.

As I mentioned, electric heaters rely on infrared bulbs.

These pull energy from your home’s power grid and can run continuously for 5,000 to 7,000 hours. That’s because the lightbulbs are durable and can handle constant operation.

Moving on, gas heaters burn propane to generate heat. Yet, depending on your tank size, these devices can only warm a space for about 10 hours.

2 – Portability

You can find movable versions of both propane and electric patio heaters. However, the former is much more portable.

For starters, mobile propane heaters tend to be on the lighter side. They’re not all that heavy, which means you should be able to shift them easily.

As for mobile electric heaters, they’re typically on the heavier side. That’s because they need a rechargeable battery to operate on the go.

These power stores can be bulky and hefty.

Besides that, it’s easy to pack a few extra propane canisters. So, if your gas heater runs out of fuel, you can simply replace it.

Yet, if an electric heater runs out of juice, you’ll need to find a power source to charge it back up.

3 – Types

When it comes to types and designs, you won’t find many differences between the two devices. Both propane and electric patio heaters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Some of the most common designs include:

  • Wall-mounted
  • Umbrella
  • Hanging
  • Freestanding
  • Lighted
  • Tabletop
  • Fire-pits

That means, no matter what you’re after, you should be able to find propane and electric versions.

4 – Safety

When you’re dealing with devices that generate heat, you have to take safety precautions. Although, depending on the type of gadget, these will change.

With propane devices, you create an open flame. So, you have to be exceptionally careful about the surroundings of the heater.

This means installing it away from any flammable objects. On top of that, propane heaters burn fossil fuels, which means they can produce harmful gasses.

That includes carbon monoxide. For that reason, you need excellent ventilation when using a propane device.

As for electric heaters, they won’t directly warm the air. Because of that, you should be able to get pretty close to the devices without being in danger.

Plus, they don’t produce any gasses as they heat up a space.

Finally, regardless of the device you’re using, it’s best to keep kids away from your heater.

5 – Ease of Use

Both electric and propane heaters are relatively easy to use. Yet, the latter involves a few more steps.

With an electric device, all you have to do is plug it in and turn it on. Some gadgets even come with remote controllers, so you can adjust the heat from your seat.

Moving on, propane heaters require a little more effort. That’s because you have to secure the gas tank in place, then manually ignite the flames.

6 – Heat Generation

If you’re looking for a device to warm up a large area quickly, then a propane heater is the way to go.

That’s because this gadget generates a higher British Thermal Unit (BTU). On average, it can reach temperatures of 120℉ to 140℉.

For that reason, propane patio heaters tend to be much more efficient.

7 – Environmental Impact

It shouldn’t be a surprise that electric heaters are better for the environment. As I mentioned, they don’t produce any gasses as they operate.

Yet, you still have to consider where the devices are getting their power. Since they rely on electricity, they also use up fossil fuels.

So, while they may not generate carbon monoxide, they aren’t all that great for the environment.

8 – Cost and Availability

When it comes to expenses, propane heaters take the lead. They’re much more efficient at using fuel, which means they can generate more heat with less power.

This should considerably lower your running costs.

As for availability, you shouldn’t face any issues finding both types of heaters.

Are Electric Patio Heaters Expensive to Run?

Electric patio heaters can be incredibly expensive to run. On average, they can cost more than twice as much to operate as a propane device.

Do Patio Heaters Use a Lot of Electricity?

Electric heaters require a lot of power to generate heat. This means they’ll use up quite a bit of electricity to run.

Are Electric Patio Heaters Bad for the Environment?

Electric heaters are better for the environment than propane heaters. Yet, this doesn’t mean they’re completely harmless to the ecosystem.

That’s because they rely on fossil fuels for electricity generation.

Final Thoughts

If you’re comparing patio heaters: electric vs. propane, there are a few factors to consider.

For starters, the former relies on infrared bulbs to generate heat. As for the latter, it requires propane to warm up a space.

So, electric devices are usually safer and less harmful to the environment.

Yet, propane heaters are much more fuel efficient. That means they’ll be less expensive to use.


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