Do Patio Heaters Work in the Winter?

There are many ways one can create a stunning and enjoyable home and garden, but having a patio is probably one of the things which can improve the outdoor-home experience the most.

The garden grilling sessions, late-night cocktail parties, or Halloween parties outside can be some of the most memorable experiences of a year. However, it is frustrating that you cannot use a patio for months due to the weather.

Using a patio can become a challenge in wintertime due to the cold, wind, rain, or even snow! But a patio heater can help you enjoy the fresh air, whatever the weather.

It can easily keep a patio warm enough to allow people to spend hours there. Many people fear using their patio heater in the winter because of snow, ice, and the cold. In this article, we will answer the question: Do patio heaters work in the winter?

Patio heaters work in the winter, and they are also one of the best options you have for heating your patio in cold weather due to the radiating heat they provide. 

This article is for you if you plan to build or maker making one in your garden and are worried about managing the heating in the colder seasons.

We have compiled all you need to know about how these patio heaters work, how effective they are, and how to use them as well. Read on if you want to find out more!

How Do Patio Heaters Work?

So, when talking about ways to heat your patio, more specifically about patio heaters, the most important thing one has to know is how these patio heaters work.

Before purchasing a patio heater, one must be aware of some essential components, fuels, temperatures, and what these devices are made and capable of. In this section of today’s article, that is what we will be looking at. 

There are several different types of patio heaters, but the first characteristic to distinguish them is probably their energy source.

There are typically three types of patio heaters broken down by fuel type:

  • Those that run on electricity
  • Propane gas
  • Natural gas

The more “extravagant” products use some other fuels, but these are the fuels used in 99% of patio heaters. 

There are also different types of patios for shape and build-type, such as the quartz tube types, mushroom style patio heaters, fireplaces, wall-mounted heaters, etc. 

Now, let’s talk about the way these patio heaters work. First, we have to clarify the idea of radiating heat, infrared rays, and everyday heat.

1. Radiant Patio Heaters

Radiant heater’s name comes from how they radiate heat constantly, in a constant and even flow. It isn’t like a fire where only a small area around it is heated up. It also heats the air around the heater itself. This way, radiating heat can spread evenly over large areas. 

2. Infrared Patio Heaters

When it comes to infrared patio heaters, they use technology that doesn’t heat the air but only the objects and the people it hits.

We would need to go into some unnecessary physics to discuss this, but this practically means that this won’t feel like opening an oven, but much more like you are not even in cold weather.

It is a beneficial and exciting technology that allows for more efficiency in outdoor heaters. If there is one analogy we could draw to illustrate how it works, think about the sun.

When you go outside on a warm day and have direct contact with the sun, you start warming up a lot more than you would in the shade, where the rays don’t hit you directly. Due to the infrared radiators acting like the sun, it heats your clothes and skin.

When you turn on a propane gas patio heater, it sends the heat up a vertical pipe into the burning chamber, which is the one that generally has a mushroom-like “hat” or metallic dome on it.

The heat will travel horizontally for a while before starting to dissipate, enabling larger areas to be heated instantly, even in freezing temperatures. 

3. Wall-mounted Propane Heaters

The same goes for wall-mounted propane gas heaters; only the design and efficiency are somewhat different there. The burning isn’t captured in a tube but instead immediately pushed away towards the desired space to heat.

Wall-mounted heaters are relatively inefficient, which is why wall-mounted heaters usually work with infrared, electric technology. 

4. Electric Heaters

The system is pretty much the same with electric heaters, except you will need a cord to provide the electricity, so it isn’t as mobile as a propane heater.

The significant difference is that these versions draw heat from running electricity through certain metal types to generate heat. In contrast, propane gas or natural gas products use internal combustion to generate heat.

However, both rely on certain heating metals to certain degrees to provide radiation heat instead of convection heat. 

Electric heaters are also more customizable. They can be placed anywhere and are also easier to insulate. In a sense, they are more modern and often much more practical than their older, gas-fueled patio heaters. 

Do Patio Heaters Work in the Winter?

So, now that we have covered the basics of how patio heaters function and what categories we can divide them into, we can talk about actually using them.

A patio heater’s job is to warm up the air in an otherwise cold area, meaning that you will primarily be using your patio heater from the beginning or middle of autumn to the center of spring.

The winter months like December or February will cause the most trouble out of these months, so the most critical question is: Do patio heaters work in the winter? 

Well, yes, they work and can provide you with the heat you need to enjoy a wintertime marshmallow cooking outside or perhaps a hot chocolate date night on the patio.

However, you might have to do more research on the exact type of patio heater you want to buy since not all are suitable for outdoor use in the winter. 

Patio heaters are some of the best ways to heat patios in winter for efficiency and effectiveness. There are a couple of other options like a fireplace or something similar, but a patio heater’s purpose is heating an outdoor area, so it has an edge. 

How Do I Keep My Patio Warm in the Winter?

So now we will get to the more practical aspects of using a patio heater in winter. Buying one or two heaters for your patio may be just what you need to enjoy that part of your yard during the colder months.

However, you don’t yet know how to place them, so they work best or, just in general, how to use them. For that reason, in this part of today’s article, we will focus on keeping a patio warm in the winter!

1. Choose the Correct Heater Size

So, the first thing you have to do is decide the heater’s you want to buy. You do this by measuring your patio area or the part of your patio that needs to be heated and check how many patio heaters you will need for it.

One average patio heater, which runs on propane gas and is of the mushroom design, will radiate heat in a circle of about 6-10 feet.

Depending on your patio’s size and the performance of the patio heater you are looking at, you can go ahead and choose the heater or heaters that you will use to heat your patio. 

2. Pick the Best Area to Place Your Heater

Once you have enough heaters to keep your patio warm, you can start the setup. Strategically, pick the best spots on your balcony where you can place the heater or the heaters you want to use to heat the patio.

Make sure you don’t put the heater too close to any single chair, since the person sitting there might feel like it is too warm, while someone a couple of feet away might feel too cold.

Try to position your heating devices in a way that covers the most essential and functional part of your patio (or the part you want to use and heat, at least). 

3. Warm the Area Up

With your devices chosen and strategically placed to provide ultimate comfort for you and your family and friends on the patio, you can go about warming the place up. You will need to know these three things:

  1. How you warm it up.
  2. How often you’ll need the heater.
  3. What extent you need it will depend on your situation, like during a specific event.

You might not even have to place the heaters directly on the deck, put them in your garage, and bring them out 30 minutes before you plan on sitting outside and try warming up the patio a bit before your guests arrive. 

If you have money and a patio, you would rather see it free of snow and always warm (perhaps it is where a dog has their heated dog house?)

You will need to find a way to turn them on for a couple of hours at a time and then turn them off for another couple of hours at a time. However, turning your heater off and on may cause it to damage, but it depends on your needs.

4. Customize Which Heater You Want

The best part is that you can truly customize it. You can buy one out of a thousand different types of patio heaters, each one better than the last one, and you can choose any kind which suits your goals the most.

If you need something that gets hot, get a propane heater. Still, if you have a more modern-looking patio, you should consider finding electric patio heaters for more convenience. 

Are Patio Heaters Worth it in the winter?

Before we dive into our product recommendations, let’s discuss another crucial element of buying and using portable heaters, especially in winter. Are they even worth it?

You might have to buy propane refills, pay higher utility bills, or use up a lot of energy your solar panels (if you have them) create. In any way, it costs to maintain a warm patio, but are these patio heaters worth the fuss and the coin too? Let’s find out. 

We believe that portable patio heaters are worth it for a few reasons:

  1. Pure functionality: You can take one or two pieces of metal out to your patio and have a BBQ to celebrate Christmas, all without feeling cold for a second.
  2. They don’t cost an awful lot: Aside from the possible events and activities you can organize outside, thanks to the patio heaters, they are worth it since they do not cost a lot to maintain. 

    There are certain types of patio heaters that run on literal pennies for an hour of heating. These are usually electric heaters that can automatically adjust the air, depending on the weather outside and your decision.

    These heaters can save you a lot of money compared to the other forms of having fun outside in winter, so it is a blessing to be able to spend the coldest but most beautiful season of all outdoors once in a while. 
  3. Another reason that patio heaters are worth it is quite simply the fact that other products don’t have all that much to give.

    Fireplaces and such do not radiate heat. A fireplace or fire pit has a heating circumference of a couple of feet. On the contrary, if you invest in a patio heater, you don’t have to worry about being cold on the patio. Patio heaters quickly clean up and store away, requiring little space due to their vertical design. 

Top 10 Best Patio Heaters for the Winter

In an article about patio heaters and their efficiency, it would be a sin not to provide at least a shortlist of great patio heaters you can buy, which will make your winter insanely better.

For this reason, we have collected ten heaters, which we believe are the best. We will also mention that we have reviewed every patio heater on this list and concluded after testing them out for one night each. We did ensure that our suggestions were based on authentic experience. Read on if you are interested!

1. EPROSMIN Outdoor Patio Heater Electric Heater – Best Overall

When analyzing a patio heater, you have to look at several features when deciding the best option. These options are (but are not limited to):

  • Price
  • The heating capability
  • Durability
  • Reliability
  • Design, etc.

Still, most people want a device that is just great overall. One that won’t break the bank but will still provide outstanding performance and will heat your patio enough for you to be able to enjoy a night outside even in the lowest of temperatures.

We have chosen the EPROSMIN Outdoor Patio Heater Electric Heater for the best patio heater in general and the best device overall. It combines all that you could want from a standard heater and delivers it at a reasonable price. 

The EPROSMIN patio heater is an incredible electric alternative if you are looking for an efficient and well-built product. It also looks sleek, so this device will not look out of place if you have a large, modern patio.

It has three “gears” or heat levels and is made of stainless steel and high-quality plastic to provide safety and a high-end feel.

It is also tranquil, doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases, smoke, fume, or dangerous radiation, so you can even use it indoors. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

2. Infrared Heater 1500W – Budget Pick

The second most common category people are looking at is the budget category. You might need some efficient heating for a smaller space, or maybe your other patio heater doesn’t work, and you need a quick fix.

Regardless of the reason, many people look for budget options, but this shouldn’t mean getting a low-quality product.

Some features (mainly design and build quality) will be less developed with the budget patio heaters. However, you can still get an excellent product for a lower price, like the Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W Patio Heater. 

The infrared heater is also electric, but not a mushroom-styled one like the previous one that we mentioned. You can purchase a tripod to place it separately, but otherwise, it is a wall- or ceiling-mounted device.

With three heat settings (900W, 1200W, 1500W), you can adjust the amount of heat you want it to produce to heat your patio. Just like the previous device, it is also wholly environmentally friendly, with no greenhouse emissions. 

Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested! It is also an Amazon’s Choice product, which gives you extra peace of mind about its quality. 

3. Style Selections/Garden Treasures Liquid Propane Patio Heater

As the first propane heater on this list, we give you the Style Selections/Garden Treasures Patio Heater. It is a powerful heating device that will surely provide all the warmth you need for a lovely evening on your patio. 

The 48000 BTU stands for British Thermal Units, but since thermal units are pretty hard to intuitively understand and visualize, an easier way to put it is that this patio heater can heat about 200 square feet of space.

That might not be a whole, large patio, but it certainly places this device on the list of powerful heaters. Also, we are talking about heating 200 square feet outdoors and in the winter. That isn’t easy to pull off. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

4. COSTWAY Wall-Mounted Patio Heater

Another great option if you’re looking for a wall-mounted patio heater is this COSTWAY device, which will give you excellent performance for a reasonable price.

This device also has an IP34 rating so that it won’t have trouble in harsher climates. The three heat settings will allow you to personalize the heating to fit your needs.

This electric patio heater takes about 3 seconds to heat up to working temperatures, so you can have reliable and fast heat whenever you want it. Check it out on Amazon by clicking on this link!

5. Luxeva Carbon Infrared Patio Heater

When purchasing a patio heater, you look at the features to decide which one you want to go with (affordability, reliability, etc.).

However, in some situations, when two devices are equal in these specs, a badge like “Amazon’s #1 Best Seller in the Patio Heater Category” is bound to help. It turns out; the Luxeva Carbon Infrared Patio Heater is the device that claims that position.

It is a floor-standing, modern-looking, electric patio heater which can deliver 2000 Watts of power. The tip-over protection system and the heat-resistant external casing defend you and your family from further accidents.

It is also very reliable and covers a pretty large amount of space due to its position near the ground. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

6. Oypla Electrical 2KW Garden Patio Heater

Another tremendous electric patio heater, the Oypla, provides excellent performance for a great price. It has an attractive design that stands out from the typical dome-top free-standing heaters.

It can work at 2000 Watts, which is more than enough to heat a smaller patio, especially with the infrared technology and the radiant heat it produces.

Tip-over protection and a heavyweight base design make it highly unlikely for any accidents to occur, so you can safely enjoy a warm outdoor night in the winter. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

7. Stainless Steel Outdoor 13KW Gas Patio Heater

One of the benefits of gas over electricity is higher performance. It is much harder to heat a piece of metal to the temperature that a propane fire can burn with electricity.

Gas, contrary to popular belief, is also completely green and has a clean-burning. This means there are no harmful materials produced while the propane burns.

Aside from this, a fire looks very cozy as well. This Stainless Steel Outdoor Gas Patio Heater works at 13 KW, six times more than most previously mentioned electric heaters. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

8. YANGAC Gas Patio Heater

Talking about gas patio heaters, one of the best we found on Amazon is the YANGAC Gas Patio Heater. It can produce heat of up to 46 000 BTU, which is more than enough for most small- to medium-sized patios.

This device is made very well. It has a neat yet straightforward design that will fit anywhere without standing out. It comes with wheels for easy transport, so if you don’t like the first position you placed it in, you can quickly move it.

Aside from the tip-over automatic shutoff and the automatic turning off of the device when it runs out of fuel an added safety feature is that you can also screw the device to the floor to avoid tipping over in the first place. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

9. WANGZI Electric Patio Heater

The most exciting and one of the most compelling devices on this list, the WANGZI Electric Patio Heater stands out with its design and customizable functioning.

This electric heater comprises three separate electric heaters connected to one central point, like a star. It can be closed down to minimize the space used, and each heating element can be opened separately, depending on the amount needed and the direction of heat. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

10. Design Outdoor Gas Fireplace for Garden – Lighthouse Planika

This Planika product is a beauty. It should be called a heating block more than just a patio heater due to its eye-capturing block-fireplace design.

This isn’t a piece of equipment that will heat massive amounts of space to sunbathing temperatures but is enough for decent warming of a smaller area. If you check out the fantastic design, you will want to purchase more of these patio heaters anyway, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

With a low maintenance price and a 40 h burn time, you won’t be sorry when you can sit outside all night next to one of these heaters and enjoy the cozy winter night. Check it out here on Amazon!

Conclusion

Putting everything together, patio heaters are an excellent choice to use outside during the winter months! You can ensure that you will still be able to use your outdoor living space in a comfortable manner.

Photo of author

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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