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Can You Use an Outdoor Heater Under a Covered Patio?

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When going outside to relax on your patio, most people enjoy an outdoor heater to be just as comfortable outside as you are inside. To do so, however, you must operate the outdoor heater safely, and that means taking a few precautions when under a covered patio.  

You can use an outdoor heater under a covered patio, but it’s important adhere to your specific heater’s owner’s manual precautions to keep the risk of fire low. This may include limiting what you put near your heater and what your patio cover is made of. 

The mention of fire might scare you into staying away from using an outdoor heater, but the truth is, a lot of stuff we use every day can cause a fire if you’re not careful. So, let’s talk more about how to safely provide warmth on your covered patio.

How to Use an Outdoor Heater Under a Covered Patio

An outdoor heater can be used anywhere outside that you would like some heat.  But, when using an outdoor heater under a covered patio, you must be cautious of everything surrounding the heater. 

Items like an awning or umbrella above, furniture, and decorations should not be too close to it or they could melt or light on fire. Most heaters have specific measurements included in their directions of how far to keep items away from the heater. Generally it’s minimum of 2-3 feet all around a heater.

If you choose a propane outdoor heater makes sure it’s well ventilated. It should never be placed in a closed-off spot as that can greatly danger anyone in that area.

Choosing the Right Outdoor Heater for a Covered Patio

One thing you should do before even choosing the type of heater is to measure the patio space that the heater will need to heat. This ensure you get the right type of heater and the correct size for your space.

Most heaters require a specific distance between anything surrounding it for safety reasons so it’s important to know how large the space is that you’re wanting to heat up. 

Heaters also have different capacities. Some heat up larger areas, while others can only warm a small room or corner of your space. Make sure you buy the right size for your space. 

You should also check your access to power such as power outlets or gas lines which will determine where your heater would be best placed.

If you know that the heater will need to be moved often depending on where people are sitting, invest in a portable heater rather than a mounted or permanently-placed heater.

Since outdoor heaters require clearances, taller heaters like mushroom heaters should only be used in taller or pitch style patio roofs. A gable or hip roof gives the best clearance for a mushroom heater.

Are Different Heaters Better for Covered Patios?

Propane and electric patio heaters are available in several different styles including portable, tabletop, hanging, and ceiling/wall-mounted. This provides many options for you if you are considering a heater under a covered patio. 

Propane Patio Heaters

Propane heaters are easy to set up and low maintenance which is very appealing for someone who already lives a busy life. More benefits include:

  • Portable and permanent options
  • Propane gas is non-toxic
  • You can have it professionally installed if you are having it installed permanently
  • Doesn’t require special plumbing or installation
  • A large range in sizes
  • Most portable heaters fit the propane tank conveniently inside the base of the heater
  • It has safety features

Propane heaters are both versatile and convenient which makes things much easier for you. If you want, you can make it permanent, but you will need a gas line installed professionally. Another thing that makes propane heaters different from the others is the unfortunate price difference. Between propane, electric, and natural gas heaters, propane heaters are the most expensive.

Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are cheaper than propane heaters. That is far from the only benefit though which you can see below: They can be floor models or wall mounted.

  • Easy to set up, maintain, and clean
  • Safely usable for indoors and outdoors
  • A remote or wall-switch can easily control the heat
  • Integration for smart homes and zone heating
  • No flames, toxic smoke, emissions, or greenhouse gases are produced
  • 98% of energy can be converted to heat

Electric patio heaters are actually the easiest to set up! Some can use a standard 120-volt wall socket, but most produce a greater amount of heat at once meaning they require a higher voltage.

An electrician can verify whether you have the proper amperage rating for the specific outlet for your heater.

Natural Gas Heaters

Natural gas heaters are actually permanent heaters meaning that you won’t be able to move them around once they are installed. They are available in ceiling/wall-mounted, hanging, and ground-mounted styles.

Natural gas heaters have one of the most appealing benefits which is the price. It is the most affordable fuel option meaning you will be paying less money to maintain a natural gas heater. Much like the other options, there are many other benefits that you can find below.

  • Heat is produced instantly
  • Permanent installation
  • Burns clean (natural gas)
  • Heats a larger area than portable propane heaters
  • Large range of sizes available
  • You’ll never run out of fuel or have to change a tank

Special gas plumbing installation is required for natural gas patio heaters. You’ll also need to hire a professional to install a gas line if there isn’t already one available. An electrical outlet and gas supply is required to power wall and ceiling mounted natural gas heaters. 

Infrared Heaters

Infrared heaters, seen in all three types of heaters previously listed, are heaters that use technology similar to how the sun emits heat. Rather than heating the entire space, they target objects and people to heat them up.

Infrared propane heaters are most commonly used for outdoor jobsites where immediate spot heating is necessary. Much like infrared propane heaters, infrared natural gas heaters are common for outdoor use. It’s important to note that infrared natural gas heaters and some infrared propane heaters need to be installed professionally.

A good perk for using infrared heaters is that it can be important to the quality of your health. Since the invisible infrared wavelength produced by these heaters heat up objects rather than the air, they are efficient at keeping the humidity levels consistent. They produce clean heat and some are made without the use of a blower which makes the air cleaner without any dust particles.

They are commonly used in yoga studios and saunas due to their ability to improve blood circulation along with several other health benefits like immune systems, arthritis, and drawing toxins from fat cells. However, this can still be useful outdoors on a patio.

Free-Standing or Portable Heaters

patio heater

Free-standing patio heaters are portable and the most popular are the mushroom style. Free-standing heaters are typically powered by propane gas, and the propane tank is usually hidden in the base of the heater.

Since portable patio heaters typically produce 35,000 to 50,000 BTUs (British Thermal Unit), they require at least 30 inches of clearance around and above the heater. These should only be used in higher patio ceilings such as a gable or hip roof.

If your patio roof is high enough, the Amazon Basics Patio Heater is a great deal and comes in several different color choices.

If you’d rather have an electric standing patio heater, the Infared Outdoor Space Heater might be your best choice. It’s not as tall as the mushroom heaters so if you have a shorter roof, it’s a perfect choice. Be sure to follow our tips on preventing a patio heater from tipping over, especially if you buy a standing model.

Tabletop Heaters

table top heater

This type of heater is ideal for anyone who is worried they don’t have enough roof clearance for a regular mushroom heater or the required clearance around the heater. You will be sacrificing heat distribution that you get from the larger patio heaters.

Some tabletop heaters look like lamps so you should be able to find one that goes along with your patio décor rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.

Here are two options for tabletop heaters that will provide a decent amount of heat without taking up any floor space. The first one is a propane mini mushroom heater. It is the Cuisinart Tabletop Patio Heater. It can be powered with the smaller propane canisters or hooked up to a larger tank for longer use.

The second choice is an electric model that looks more like a lamp. It is the Star Patio Outdoor Freestanding Electric Tabletop heater. As long as you have an outlet that is near the table, this heater will work well under a patio cover.

Ceiling/Wall Mounted Heaters

ceiling heater

Ceiling/wall-mounted heaters are available in all three fuel types. You can find one that uses propane, electricity, or natural gas. Hence the name, these patio heaters can be mounted on the wall or ceiling. This means that it is a great solution if your problem is having floor space for a patio heater.

If you are wanting a ceiling or wall-mounted propane patio heater, it will require a permanent gas line that forms a connection between the leather and large, residential, or commercial propane tank. The gas line will of course need to be installed professionally.

There are many options for ceiling/wall mounted heaters considering the options for fuel. One option that seems like a great affordable option is the Dr. Infared Heater Electric Wall Mount Heater.

This heater can be mounted on the ceiling, wall or mounted on a tripod for even more portability.

Hanging Heaters

hangin heater

Hanging heaters are commonly grouped in with ceiling-mounted heaters as they both installed from the ceiling. However, they are actually different in the sense that ceiling mounted heaters are installed close to the ceiling while hanging heaters are hanging down from the ceiling, similar to a chandelier.

If you’re interested in a chandelier-type heater for your patio, a hanging heater is the perfect choice for you. Your roof will need to be high enough to have 2-3 feet clearance on the top and bottom, yet high enough to walk underneath.

Conclusion

If you want to use an outdoor heater under a covered patio, you must be prepared to do your research and take precautions as it is important to have a fire hazard-free space for your patio.

There are many options for you which all have different requirements and guidelines. Knowing about these requirements and guidelines for safety and long-term use is important.

Now if you’re wondering if you can put a fire pit under a covered patio, we talk about that separately.

Depending on your patio’s size, you may need to purchase a combination of outdoor heaters to properly heat the space.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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