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How to Select the Right Patio Heater for Your Outdoor Space


A Guide to Buying the Best Patio Heater for Your Business or Home

Are you looking for the best patio heater for your bar, restaurant or home patio?

Well look no further! In this guide, we will cover all that you need to know to choose the right patio heaters, including the styles, technology, power types, safety features, and the planning of the patio heater layout for your outdoor space.

Best Patio Heater for your Business or Home

Patio Heaters Increase Business Profits

An unused outdoor patio can be turned into a year round profit-making machine by any business. An increasing amount of customers like to eat outdoors, which gives them the chance to enjoy fresh air, good food, and the scenic views of the city or rural setting. It is a win-win for everyone. Installing a patio heater enables you to make the most of the outdoor space because it can be opened even on cold days and extend the amount of time your patio area can be used. This would be good for your business in the long run, and any money spent installing the patio heater can be recouped within a short time.

Installing patio heaters also allow you to open early and close late. This applies to every climate, even those with warm weather. With this heater, the chilling atmosphere, which usually occurs in the morning and late at night, can be remedied with a good patio heater. This will also help you to increase your revenue and generate profits.

That said, there are crucial things you have to consider when choosing the right patio heater so that it can be fully optimized.


The Different Types of Patio Heaters – Free Standing, Wall and Ceiling Mounted

Patio heaters can come in two different styles, and each of these styles has where they work best. You have to consider this when choosing a patio heater and make sure the style you go for is suitable for your intended purpose.

Free Standing Patio Heaters

Free standing patio heaters can stand on their own without being attached to anything. It is excellent if you don’t wish to have a patio heater installed permanently in a spot and provides the most versatility in staging your outdoor space. If you prefer the flexibility that allows you to move the heater from one location to another, a free standing unit is for you. With a freestanding heater, you don’t need to worry about getting mounting brackets, or paying for a professional to install them as the heaters are usually powered by a 20 lb propane tank. Each freestanding heater operates independently of the others and has its own controls, so if you have multiple freestanding heaters you can adjust each one to the preference of those sitting close by.

Mushroom Style Patio Heater

Mushroom Style Patio Heaters

A classic style of freestanding patio heaters is the Mushroom Head or Mushroom patio heater. These are typically the most affordable to purchase and are great for standing areas and outdoor guest walkways.

Glass Tube Patio Heaters

Glass Tube Patio Heaters

Quartz Tube, often referred to as glass tube patio heaters are an attractive alternative to the mushroom style heater. They not only heat the space around them, they also provide an unmatched style and ambiance.

Standing Patio Heater Pros & Cons

Free Standing patio heaters have their advantages. This includes the ambiance they add to your setting and the flexibility that allows it to be moved around. It is also perfect for small areas such as outdoor dining tables, and come at affordable prices.

Freestanding patio heaters are the least efficient style of heater. They only heat a small space, which means you will have to purchase multiple heaters in order to heat a large area. Its resistance to the wind is also low, and it is non-directional.

Best Uses for Free Standing Patio Heaters

The freestanding heater is best for events such as hotel events, parties, community festivals, etc. Since you can move them around, they can be used at those events and taken away when the event is over.

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Ceiling Mounted Patio Heater

Ceiling and Wall Mounted Patio Heaters

Mounted patio heaters are the best option if you have a covered outdoor space and want your heaters to be permanently installed. These heaters are mounted either on the wall or the ceilings in strategic places that allow them to provide enough heating for the whole patio. Precise positioning is essential in this case because most of the time the heater can’t be switched to face another direction.

Mounted Heater Pros & Cons

The pros of this style of heaters are numerous. Since they are installed on the wall or ceiling, they are less obtrusive and ensure that your outdoor space is maximized. This style lets you mount your patio heater up and away from foot traffic and tables. The controls of wall mounted heaters can be set up with a permanent wall switch or via handheld remote. One of the primary benefits of mounted patio heaters is the ability to synchronize their controls. You can install multiple wall or ceiling mounted heaters and sync their controls so that every heater can be controlled on one switch or split up into zones.

One of the limiting factors with mounted patio heaters is the additional cost of installation. Gas powered units should be plumbed to your gas utility lines and all mounted heaters will require an electrician to wire them into a circuit.

Best Uses for Mounted Patio Heaters

The wall or ceiling mounted heater is best for covered patio areas where permanent installation is preferred, such as a restaurant or an outdoor space with a fixed sitting arrangement.

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Patio Heater Fuel Types – Propane, Gas & Electric

Now that we know whether a free standing or mounted heater is best for you, our next step is finding which fuel to use. Outdoor heaters are fueled by propane, natural gas, or electricity. So you have to choose one that uses the fuel that is accessible in your outdoor space and that fits your needs and budget. When choosing between gas or electric patio heaters, you must note that the ventilation and mounting requirements are quite different. These three heating options each have their best use cases. For instance, if you live in a rural location or off the grid, gas may not be accessible, so it is better to go for electricity instead. On the other hand, if your business operates with natural gas, it would be the ideal option to go for. That said, each of these fuel options has its pros and cons, which are explained below.

Electric Patio Heater Icon

Electric Patio Heaters

Electric patio heaters are powered by energy from a renewable resource, and they provide heat almost instantly. With an electric patio heater there is almost no warm up time which in turn, will heat your outdoor space as fast as possible.

The advantages of electric heaters include its wind resistance, energy efficiency, and versatile installation options. They are more environmentally friendly than their gas powered counterparts while also allowing the most control of the amount of heat produced. They require the least amount of wall clearance, and can be installed recessed into the wall. The controls of electric patio heaters are easier and more effective, having the most available heat settings.

However, the biggest disadvantage of electric patio heaters is they are also the most expensive type of patio heater to operate.

The electric heater is best for places where gas and propane are not easily accessible, and electricity is readily available.

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Natural Gas Patio Heater Icon

Natural Gas Patio Heaters

One way to power your outdoor patio heater is by using natural gas. It has its advantages and disadvantages as well, which you have to consider before making a choice.

Natural gas patio heaters have the lowest operating cost as natural gas is very inexpensive. Gas powered outdoor heaters also provide the largest area of heat coverage of all three fuel types and the highest BTU outputs. It is indeed the best option where natural gas lines are already installed.

A notable disadvantage is that gas patio heaters have a lower resistance to the wind when compared with electric powered models and require much larger clearances when mounted. Natural gas outdoor heaters cannot be recessed into the wall, and the settings for heat levels are limited. Generally, there are only 1-2 level settings available limiting your heat options.

The natural gas patio heater is a great option for wall and ceiling mounted heaters and where natural gas is available. A great example of this is when your business is connected to the grid or when you are already running on natural gas in your operations. It is suitable if you are covering a large outdoor space.

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Propane Patio Heater Icon

Propane Patio Heaters

Liquid propane outdoor heaters are by far the most popular choice for business and homeowners alike. These heaters are fuelled by the same propane tanks that are used for BBQ grills.

Their portability is their biggest advantage as they aren’t required to be connected to the utility grid. Portable free standing heaters are almost always powered by propane gas with the tank tucked away in the lower compartment of the unit. They are a great option for venues with ever-changing layouts and seating arrangements. Propane outdoor heaters are the easiest to set up, take down and best of all, do not require professional installation.

The weaknesses of propane patio heaters are similar to those of natural gas. Like natural gas, the settings for heat setting are minimal. There are only 1-2 level settings that cannot be compared with what electric heaters have. Propane costs more than natural gas meaning your propane outdoor patio heater will also cost more to operate than natural gas.

Propane gas patio heaters are best used where you require versatility and portability. You can easily transfer it from one place to another, and this is why it is most efficient.

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Safety Features to Look Out For

Safety is paramount when you are getting outdoor patio heaters. There is a reason most of these heaters are only approved for outdoor use in an open and ventilated area. They are generally required to be placed very far away from flammable materials, among other features. This is why most of the outdoor patio heaters come with safety features. Some of these features are crucial, and you must specifically look for them in any patio heater you want to buy.

One of such features is the emergency shut off switch. This generally allows you to switch off your heater as fast as possible in case of an emergency. It helps to prevent any serious damage or injury that may occur without. You should ensure that the patio heater you are buying has it or where it doesn’t. It must be possible to get one for it. The emergency shut off switch stops the heater from working with a simple flip of a switch.

Another safety feature that the patio heater must have is the Automatic Tip-Over Switch. This feature will interrupt the power that makes the heater work when the patio heater is tilted or tipped above 45 degrees from its set operating position. This essentially prevents any fire outbreak that will occur if the heater should fall over by switching it off before it does.


How to Plan Your Patio Heater Layout

Designing the heating layout for your patio can be fun and challenging. It is something that will affect not only the efficiency of the heating system but also the safety of the whole patio. An improper layout could lead to a fire outbreak, for example, in a situation where the heater is placed close to flammable material. Thus, it is vital to know the available clearances, the total space you are covering, and the dimension of the outdoor space.

Generally, it is something you should call an expert for. But if the space is small, then you can consider doing it yourself. In such a case, you will have to consider many things as well.

One of the first things to consider is where to place the heaters, whether on the wall, ceilings, or freestanding on the floor. This will depend on the outdoor space in question. It may also depend on how big the space is. Large spaces usually do better with wall or ceiling mounted heaters in specific locations based on the correct calculation of the coverage area. For small spaces, on the other hand, freestanding heaters will be sufficient to provide the heating.

How Many Patio Heaters Do I Need?

The number of patio heaters you need is dependent on the size and type of patio you are heating. Most people recommend considering your space’s square footage and the recommended BTU for such an area. The BTU (British Thermal Unit) is the measurement of the thermal energy in fuels. It is how much energy is necessary to heat a place, and it is used to determine how much energy a heater produces. The typical BTU to square foot recommendation found online looks something like the chart below:

Area In Sq. Feet Recommended BTUs
100-150 square feet 5000 BTUs
150-250 square feet 6000 BTUs
250-300 square feet 7000 BTUs
300-350 square feet 8000 BTUs
350-400 square feet 9000 BTUs
400-450 square feet 10000 BTUs
450-550 square feet 12000 BTUs
550-700 square feet 14000 BTUs
700-1000 square feet 18000 BTUs
1000-1200 square feet 21000 BTUs
1200-1400 square feet 23000 BTUs
1400-1500 square feet 24000 BTUs
1500-2000 square feet 30000 BTUs
2000-2500 square feet 34000 BTUs

It’s important to know that these BTU to square foot recommendations are based on heating an insulated indoor space and not on outdoor areas. Currently, there isn’t a standardized BTU rating for outdoor spaces but don’t worry our guide will help you determine the right number of heaters for your patio.

Patio Type & Seating Areas

If your patio is covered, the heating requirements are quite different than a totally open air patio setting. This is because a covered patio’s roof will help retain more ambient heat, which means fewer heaters would be needed to heat the same sized open patio.

Rather than only using the BTU output of the heaters and square footage of your patio to calculate the number of free standing patio heaters you will need, we recommend the following method:

If your patio has a roof covering, place at least 1 free standing patio heater 8-10 feet from the center of each table. If your patio or outdoor space is open air, place the heaters about 6-8 feet from the center of each table. Free standing patio heaters can heat a 6-10 foot diameter from their base. Strategically placing them between tables will allow you to comfortably heat 2, or in some situations, even 3 tables with a single patio heater. Regardless of where you place the heater, you should make sure that the distance between any seating position and the heater does not exceed 10 feet.

Another strategy we recommend is placing heaters on the outer edges of your patio which will effectively create an insulating wall of heat for your patio guests. It’s worth noting that you should make sure that all heaters are far away from any flammable material such as wood structures, furniture cushions, rugs, paper, etc.

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