The best patio heater is not just for the colder months. Even in the height of summer, it can start to feel a little chilly in the average British garden, once the sun has gone down.
Yet there is no better feeling than spending a relaxed evening outside, perhaps with friends and a bottle of wine. So, people depend on their patio heater to warm their hands and keep their feet toasty while sat out enjoying the stars.
In our best patio heater guide we’ve included a range that will suit any garde. Most patio heaters are electric, and to be honest, those are our favourites. They often use infrared technology to warm your hands and face directly, instead of just heating the air around you, and they also come in freestanding or tabletop designs.
There are also the best gas patio heaters, which have the advantage of being completely plug-free. If your cosy space is right at the bottom of your garden, buying a gas patio heater will liberate you from your nearest plug socket to move your patio heater anywhere you need. They are a little bit easier to control than the best fire pits, but still have the allure of a naked flame.
We’ve included a mix of the best patio heaters from online retailers in our guide, with top picks for freestanding, tabletop, and even wall-hanging patio heaters to suit any space. If you order a patio heater online right now we’re hoping that you’ll have it in time for a summer or al fresco entertaining!
How to choose the best patio heater
Any patio heater you buy will need to be stored when not in use, meaning a mighty model will only suit those with a chunk of space on the shed, or a dedicated patio heater space in the garden. If you’re short on space and able to install, we suggest buying a wall-hanging patio heater to sit discreetly on your patio wall and keep you warm with the touch of a button. They are IP44 rated so you don’t need to worry about leaving them out in all weather.
You can also find some of the best patio heaters with remote controls that will give you controls over your heater even from a distance. That’s ideal for those who want something to occupy a large space in the garden.
Gas patio heaters are the classic heater you’ll recognise from trips to pub gardens, and they’re ideal for large crowds because they have pyramid shapes that contains the gas fuel neatly away. You can adjust the heat level completely with gas patio heaters because they come with fully adjustable dials. These patio heaters also offer a warm glow that acts as a patio light, as well as a warming feature. That’s perfect for making the most of every part of the garden.
Electric patio heaters need to be plugged in, but they’re more energy-efficient than gas heaters and aren’t releasing gasses into the air. Gas heaters warm the air around them, whereas infrared electric models heat you up directly, which means there’s less energy lost in the whole process.
The best patio heaters 2022
The Swan Al Fresco SH16310N Column Patio Heater is our top choice of the best patio heaters. It’s got two temperature settings to choose from, either 1000W or 2000W, and the power cord is 1.8 metres for extending out into the garden.
It was a little fiddly to set up, but in 10 minutes we had it connected and it certainly feels sturdy and well-made. The heating element is all at the top, which initially we thought was a waste of the lower part. However, we found this made it a little bit more versatile than some other patio heaters. For example, if you don’t want a tabletop option, it still heats faces and torsos, but is tall enough to warm a group who are standing up. This also felt somewhat safer where pets and kids were involved. This patio heater has a safety switch with a 360-degree tip-over, meaning it will automatically switch off when tilted to prevent any scorching or burning if it falls over.
You get a good range of directional heat from it, too. Those standing infront will get the most benefit of course, but we could feel the warmth while standing in line with it at the side.
Affordable and designed for a crowd, the Heatlab 2kW Outdoor Freestanding Electric Quartz Bulb Garden Patio Heaters is 71cm tall and offers adjustable three heat settings of up to 2000W. Lower settings include a 650 watt and 1350 watt setting.
The wide base means this patio heater is stable and perfect for placing on a patio. It’s also great for discreet use as the head can overlook your garden table while you drink or entertain. The set of two is great for entertaining.
Gas patio heaters don’t require an electrical cord, so they’re perfect for taking far out into the garden. The Dellonda Propane Gas Pyramid Patio Heater is our top pick of the best gas patio heater as it’s got in-built storage space for your gas tank.
The controls are available directly underneath the heater, and it has a wide and secure base perfect for entertaining.
The Swan Al Fresco SH16340N Wall Mounted Patio Heater can be mounted either vertically or horizontally on your patio wall for year-round use. It’s waterproof and designed for any weather conditions, and the 1.8 metre power lead means it can be placed a good distance from your living space.
There’s a remote control included, as well as an on/off button on the side of the heater itself, and there’s a total of 1800W of power which combined with the reflective back makes for a very effective heating system. We found it actually had a better heating range (both wider and further) than the top pick from Swan on this list, but is slightly less versatile as it needs to be mounted within a couple of metres of your seating area. This means that while it is a really strong heater, it won’t suit as many gardens.
It is fairly lightweight meaning it was easy to mount and requires nothing but switching on once you have it on the wall. It is IP44 rated so is waterproof, but we would think about getting a cover to ensure its longevity in winter months.
If you want a patio heater to sit on your tabletop while you enjoy an evening meal, look no further than the reasonably priced and lightweight Martello Infrared Table Top Patio Heater. It has two heat lamps, each with 350 watts of power. You can operate the heater on one lamp or two, depending on which level of heat you need.
At 41cm tall, it’s perfect for placing on the top of a table and even taking out and about on trips. The oscillation is perfect for those who like to entertain, but you don’t have to have it on oscillation mode if you’re sat out on your own. It’s not capable of heating a crowd, but it will be the little injection of warmth you need to sit out in the evening.
The Opranic 2KW Electric Patio Heater has an aluminium body and knitted carbon flament. The infrared function means it’s super efficient, only heating objects nearby and not the air itself.
This heater has 2000W of power and comes with a textile cover to keep it safe when not in use. There’s also a safety function that automatically shuts the heater off when tipped. Opranic also claim that the IP34 certified heater has at least 10,000 hours of battery life.
For gazebos, pergolas or covered balconies, choose the ALUK 2000W Patio Heater. It’s infrared, meaning you’ll feel the heat directly when sitting underneath it. There’s also a remote control for easy operation and an aluminium frame to keep pergolas and balconies safe.
Given its small frame, the 2200W power is pretty impressive.
What is the best type of patio heater?
Patio heaters are available in both gas and electric models. Gas patio heaters are great because they don’t require a lead to be plugged in, so you can take them to the bottom of the garden and enjoy all evening long. However, they are not very efficient and as well as wasting a lot of energy heating the great outdoors rather than just the people nearby, they release gasses too.
We have a couple of gas models on our list, but as a rule, we prefer electric for a more sustainable option.
See also: The best BBQs
Electric patio heaters typically come cheaper and with more direct heat, especially when they use infrared heat. This heats surrounding objects directly, instead of the air around the heater itself.
In our guide to the best patio heaters we’ve included small and large options. Some can be placed on top of or underneath tabletops, making them easy to carry around and great for smaller gatherings. There are also wall-mounted and hanging patio heaters available, which can be hooked up to gazebos and pergolas for prolonging evening drinks.
How long do patio heaters last?
The best patio heaters can last in excess of 10,000 hours. Most patio heaters indicate the lifespan of the heater bulb when buying, as well as the running cost per hour.
If you opt for a gas patio heater the lifespan could be endless, because you’re always able to replace the gas tank and when the old one runs out. This is best suited for those who like to entertain, which is why you’ll often see gas patio heaters in pub gardens.
How do we test patio heaters
We are working our way through the products on this list to test them all in person. To do so, we set them up, as you would. After testing how easy it is to set up, we check how well it does it’s intended job – keeping us warm.
This means a fair bit of lounging in the garden drinking cups of tea (or something stronger) to check the heaters help keep us cosy. We compare how far we can be from each before losing the benefit and highlight if any do not work well out of sheltered spaces.
So far we have only tested a couple of the products on this list but we will update as we go. Where we have not been hands on ourselves, we value the reviews of third party users and our team mates. Find out more about our testing process.