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Electric vs. Propane Patio Heater: Which One to Choose?

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Patio heaters are great for making your outdoor space feel comfortable. Two popular types of patio heaters are electric and propane patio heaters. These patio heaters can help keep you warm on chilly nights.

electric heater

VS

propane heater

In most cases, electric patio heaters are the better choice. Electric patio heaters cost less in the long-term and are more environmentally friendly.

However, propane patio heaters can be moved wherever they are needed. While electric patio heaters are generally the better choice, propane patio heaters can be better suited for certain environments and activities.

In this post, you will find out exactly why the electric patio heater is better and why it is the right option for your backyard. Further, you’ll learn when propane patio heaters are the more viable option.

Below is more information about each type of patio heater, as well as some great options to purchase for heating your outdoor space. 

Comparing Electric Patio Heaters and Propane Patio Heaters

Electric and propane patio heaters give you the same desired outcome but are very different from one another.

Both will provide your backyard with more heat and warmth; however, an electric patio heater has many more advantages than a propane patio heater – with one limitation: electric patio heaters do not have the portability of their propane counterparts.

The following chart details the pros and cons of electric and propane patio heaters:

ProsCons
Electric Heater* Lower cost
* Better for the environment
* No fuel needed
* Can be used anywhere there is access to a grounded electrical outlet 
* Varied installation options to suit your needs
* Small, compact size
* Great for families with pets or children
* Requires a constant source of electricity
* Stationary; once it is installed, it can’t be moved
* Provides heat in only one direction 
* Tend to produce less heat than a propane heater
Propane Heater* Portable
* Warms in all directions
* No outlets needed
* Two standard designs: free-standing and tabletop models
* Can achieve high temperatures safely 
* Produces a lot of heat
* Powered by fuel, which can run out
* Requires ventilation
* Can be dangerous if used improperly
* Large and bulky fixtures in your yard or on your patio
* Usually more expensive upfront cost

(Source: Propane & Electric)

Which is Better?: Electric or Propane Patio Heaters

The electric patio heater is the better outdoor patio heating option. However, you must decide which heater to choose based on your outdoor space and what you need. 

Some factors to consider when deciding which patio heater to purchase include: 

  • Safety
  • Portability
  • Ease of use
  • Cost

Patio Heater Safety

As for patio heater safety, Electric patio heaters are generally safer than propane heaters. Electric heaters don’t need ventilation and don’t produce carbon monoxide. Electric patio heaters are also better for the environment because there are no fossil fuels used. Propane heaters require the burning of fossil fuel to produce heat.  You also need to make sure there’s enough weight on the bottom to keep propane patio heaters from tipping over.

One simple consideration is if you have children around, you may want to opt for the electric patio heater as it is cool to the touch and doesn’t have an open flame

Patio Heater Portability

Propane heaters are better if you are looking for a portable option. These heaters can easily be moved around your yard as needed. You don’t need to worry about having an outlet to plug into as you would with an electric heater. Electric patio heaters usually require a grounded electrical outlet, and the most common versions are mounted in place.

But with a propane heater, you must have proper ventilation. These heaters can be dangerous without proper ventilation. 

Patio Heater Ease of Use

Electric heaters only need to be plugged in and turned on. Propane patio heaters heat a large area but require some setup. You have to hook up the propane tank and usually hit an ignition switch or manually light the heater. 

If you are looking for the best heat output, you want to choose the propane patio heater to put out much higher BTUs. However, because electric heaters are not powered by fuel, you will have heat as long as you have electricity. Propane heaters require a propane tank, so when you run out of fuel, you run out of heat.

Patio Heater Cost

Electric patio heaters use less energy, which means lower costs in the long term. Electric heaters are better if you are looking for a low-cost option that does not require fuel. Propane heaters tend to be pricy at the point of purchase, and then you must continuously buy propane to use your heater. 

Electric Patio Heaters

Electric patio heaters are great options for families with a dedicated patio space. Since electric patio heaters are not usually portable because they require an electrical outlet, they can be a little more difficult to adapt to your outdoor space. 

Here are some times when electric patio heaters are ideal:

  • You have children running around – many electric patio heaters are cool to the touch.
  • Your patio is enclosed by screening or glass.
  • You have an umbrella covering your dining or seating area.
  • Your furniture set is not mobile, so a permanent installation of an electric patio heater does not matter too much.
  • You want a safe option you can install close to other fixtures and furniture.

Here are some times you may want to avoid using an electric patio heater:

  • You want a more portable option.
  • You do not have access to an electrical outlet.
  • You want flexibility in where to place the heater.
  • You want lots of heat or the ability to switch to higher BTUs.

How Does an Electric Patio Heater Work?

There are two types of electric patio heaters, and they heat in different ways:

  • Infrared electric patio heaters use an emitter to release infrared rays, which warm the people and objects surrounding the heater.
  • Halogen electric patio heaters use halogen bulbs that emit heat at higher temperatures than infrared heaters but stay cool to the touch. Halogen electric patio heaters are a great option if you have small children or pets. 

If you are currently planning your outdoor patio space, consider adding a few electrical outlets to give you more flexibility for installing an electric patio heater. 

Types of Electric Patio Heaters

In addition to the two types of electric patio heaters, there are a few different models to consider depending on your outdoor space.

Both types of electric heaters draw on electricity, so they must be plugged in to work. This can limit where you can install your electric patio heater and is a major consideration when choosing between electric and propane patio heaters.

Electric patio heater models that you can choose from include:

  • Hanging electric patio heaters
  • Umbrella-mounted electric patio heaters
  • Wall-mounted electric patio heaters
  • Free-standing electric patio heaters

Hanging Electric Patio Heaters

Hanging electric heaters hang from the ceiling like a chandelier or pendant light. These are a great option if you have lighting on the perimeter of your space. These provide some light but not as much as a regular lightbulb. 

Here are a few highly-recommended options for hanging electric patio heaters to choose from:

Hanging Patio Heater

hanging heater
  • Indoor and outdoor uses
  • Three heat settings at 600, 900 and 1500 watts
  • Black exterior
  • Weather-resistant

Air Choice Patio Heater

patio heater
  • Up to 1500 watts
  • Heats up fast
  • Designed with no fan for quiet
  • Two year warranty
  • Indoor and outdoor usability
  • Halogen tubing used as a heating element
  • Waterproof
  • Remote control included

Umbrella-Mounted Electric Patio Heaters

An umbrella-mounted heater is installed on an umbrella’s pole. These heaters are usually collapsible. This is probably the most compact option you will find in any patio heater. 

Below are top-rated umbrella-mounted electric patio heaters that have stellar reviews:

Electric Patio Parasol Umbrella Heater

umbrella heater
  • Infrared heating element
  • Foldable heater closes with your umbrella
  • Three power settings: 500, 1000, and 1500 watts
  • Heats up to 12 square feet
  • No tools needed to install

Electric Parasol/Umbrella Patio Heater

umbrella heater
  • Heats up to 15 square feet
  • Can be used inside or outside
  • Waterproof
  • Multiple temperature controls
  • Up to 1500 watts
  • Heats up quickly
  • Foldable design
  • One year warranty

Wall-Mounted Electric Patio Heaters

Wall-mounted electric patio heaters are a permanent installation. Some have the option of attaching to a tripod or the wall, but most only work when horizontal, which can take up lots of room on a tripod. 

Here is a couple great wall-mounted patio heaters you can consider: 

TRUSTECH Patio Heater

wall mount heater
  • Heats up quickly
  • Heat settings at 500, 1000, and 1500 watts
  • Automatic shut off after 12 hours
  • Protection from overheating
  • Quiet
  • Indoor and outdoor capabilities
  • Timer functions
  • Remote control included

Dr. Infrared Patio Heater 1500W

infrared heater
  • LED display
  • Remote control included
  • 24-hour timer
  • Auto shut off option
  • Heats up fast
  • Can be used inside or outside
  • 90-degree angle adjustment
  • Ten power settings up to 1500 watts
  • 5000-5500 hours of life 
  • Infrared heating element

Free- Standing Electric Patio Heaters

Finally, there is a free-standing electric heater model. These are less common in outdoor spaces because they emit heat in a very small range. Additionally, they take up a lot of space without giving off much heat.

One free-standing electric patio heater you can try is: 

TURBRO Suburbs TS17 Compact Electric Fireplace Stove

electric fireplace
  • Auto shut off when tipped over
  • Weatherproof
  • Adjustable tripod
  • 13-foot electrical cord allows for mobility
  • Silent operation

There are many options available for electric patio heaters. From different finishes to the four different styles available, you can pick the electric heater that works best in your space. Many of them can look very elegant and sophisticated.

Which Electric Patio Heating Option Is Better?

Between the four styles and two types of heating elements, it can be challenging to select the electric patio heater that is best for you. Here are some electric heater suggestions you can use to choose the perfect option for you:

The Most Popular Option: Wall-Mounted Electric Patio Heater: Wall-mounted electric patio heaters can provide the perfect amount of heat, especially if your patio is enclosed. 

  • Great choice for large patios
  • Provides you with options to angle the heating element up or down
  • Heats up quickly
  • Can use a tripod or mount on the wall

The Cleverest Design: Umbrella-Mounted Electric Patio Heater: The umbrella-mounted electric patio heater takes up the least amount of space.

  • Excellent for patios that are uncovered and requires an umbrella
  • Heats your outdoor dining space
  • Stores by folding up, just like your umbrella
  • Can heat a large space (12-15 square feet)

The Most Portable Option: Free-Standing Electric Patio Heater

  • Usually comes with longer cords
  • Allows you to rotate and reposition as needed
  • Heats up fast

The Most Permanent Installation: Hanging Electric Patio Heater

  • Can heat your seating or dining area
  • Provides some warm light
  • Installation is mostly permanent, especially if using a hard-wired connection and not an outlet
  • Can have a remote or a pull string for controls

(Source: Types of Heaters)

Propane Patio Heaters

Propane patio heaters are a great option for large outdoor spaces. The one downside is they cannot be used in an enclosed space. A propane heater releases carbon monoxide, which is an odorless and colorless poisonous gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly, so make sure to use your propane patio heater in a well-ventilated area. 

There are a few situations where a propane patio heater is preferred. However, you should also understand when a propane patio heater is not the best option. 

Here are times when a propane patio heater is ideal:

  • Heating a large, outdoor space
  • Heating a space at a distance from your house
  • When you want a large radius of heat

Here are times to avoid using a propane patio heater:

  • Enclosed spaces – You don’t want carbon monoxide to build up.
  • Too close to your home – You don’t want to catch your house on fire accidentally.
  • When children are running around – You don’t want any injuries from hot metal.

How Does A Propane Patio Heater Work?

Propane patio heaters use liquified petroleum gas (LPG) connected to a removable, refillable propane tank. The gas is lit with a lighter or switch, producing a flame to deliver heat. 

Propane patio heaters do not require electricity. They only burn propane gas, which provides enough heat for hours at a time. A significant disadvantage is that when you run out of propane, you run out of heat.

Types of Propane Patio Heaters

There are only two types of propane patio heaters. When choosing your propane heater, remember that the larger the propane tank is, the longer you will have heat. Also, a higher BTU means that the heater will produce higher heating temperatures. Usually, you can adjust the flow of propane gas to control the heat output.

The two types of propane patio heaters are:

  • Free-standing propane patio heaters
  • Tabletop propane patio heaters

Free-Standing Propane Patio Heaters

Free-standing heaters are the most common type of propane heater. There are many options to choose from, and they give you a lot of flexibility in finishes and overall design. 

Here are a few of the best free-standing propane patio heater options:

Hiland HLDS01-WCGT Propane Patio Heater

propane heater
  • Wheeled design for easy portability
  • 87 inches tall and 33-inch heat shield
  • Uses a 20-pound propane tank
  • 48,000 BTUs
  • Adjustable table included

BELLEZE Propane Patio Heater

patio heater
  • 48,000 BTUs
  • 87 inches tall
  • Copper finish
  • 32-inch aluminum shield
  • Adjustable table
  • Includes wheels for easy transport

Amazon Basics Outdoor Patio Heater with Wheels

patio heater with wheels
  • 46,000 BTU
  • Auto safety valve shut-off
  • Easy Push Button to start
  • Easily portable with built-in wheels

Tabletop Propane Patio Heaters

The tabletop propane heater is much less common. These are less practical because you can purchase a free-standing heater for a bit more money that gives off more heat. Again, you want to consider the BTU output of each model when making your purchase. 

Two fantastic options for tabletop patio heaters are below:

Fire Sense Electric Patio Heater

pation heater
  • Tip-over auto shut off
  • 35 inches high
  • 10,000 BTUs
  • Outdoor and indoor usability

Hiland Table Top Patio Heater

table top heater
  • 38 inches high
  • Easy ignition with the press of a button
  • Heats up to a 26.5 foot radius
  • 11,000 BTUs
  • 21in umbrella

Which Propane Patio Heating Option Is Better?

Now, you may be wondering which propane patio heating option will best suit your needs. There are a few things to consider when deciding between a standing propane patio heater and a tabletop propane patio heater.

Some times that a tabletop propane patio heater is more suitable are:

  • You want a smaller space warmed
  • For use on an outdoor dining table or end table
  • You want something easy to move

Some times that a standing propane patio heater is more suitable are:

  • You want a larger space warmed
  • Mobility is a little tougher due to the larger size and heavier propane tank
  • You want guests to be able to gather on all sides of the heater

In Conclusion

Overall, an electric patio heater is the better option. An electric or propane patio heater will provide a nice amount of heat to your outdoor space. But it is important to know that the propane heater option may be better for you based on your backyard and patio areas in specific cases. Don’t forget to check out our article about how to properly store your outdoor heater.

Electric patio heaters are preferable as lower-cost permanent installations but do have limited portability. Propane patio heaters heat a considerable amount of space and offer continuous heat as long as there is propane in their tanks. 

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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