Natural gas outdoor patio heaters are more cost effective to operate than propane heaters, but they need a professional to install the line.
These natural gas heaters are stylish and efficient. They require a fixed natural gas line to the unit and need to be installed by a licensed professional for safety. The above Royal Garden Patio Heaters were almost $600.00 from Amazon, but are on sale for 50% off as I write this post.

Fall officially arrived September 22nd and many areas experienced the first cool weather of the season. Individuals, like me, restaurants, resorts, and bars are using outdoor patio heaters to extend the useful life of outdoor socializing and dining as temperatures start to drop.

Why Buy a Patio Heater?

Chilly weather doesn’t need to end your outdoor dinner parties if you buy a patio heater. If you want to eat outside in the fall or winter, and who didn’t during the Covid pandemic, you can use an outdoor heat source to make the space more comfortable. Today’s patio heaters can make enjoying the backyard an almost year-round reality. In some regions of the US, your decks, gazebos, porches, and patios will be a natural extension of the living room.

Should you buy a Gas or Electric Heater?

Patio heaters use electricity, propane, or natural gas to create indirect heat that warms the objects in your outdoor space usable again. All patio heaters produce radiant heat. Modern heaters pass energy to warm up their surrounding objects — walls, ceilings, people, furniture — instead of heating the air.

1. Natural Gas Patio Heaters

Natural gas heaters require a fixed gas line to the device and therefore are a permanent, not portable, fixture. They need a mounting surface (floor or wall) and require professional installation. A big plus is the fixed gas line won’t run out of fuel unless you don’t pay your bill. Natural gas heaters can only be used in well-ventilated outdoor areas. Natural gas patio heaters are cost-effective once they are installed. My subdivision does not have natural gas as a utility option, so I need to cross this off my list.

2. Propane Patio Heaters

Propane heaters are easy to set up and run. The patio heaters are widely available and reasonable in price. They run on the same tanks as your propane grill and that makes them easy to stock with fuel. You can easily move them around the yard to a variety of seating areas because the fuel source is self-contained. Since they run on propane tanks and propane tends to burn pretty quickly, we’ll need to plan ahead to have a spare tank available or the party moves indoors.

3. Electric Heaters for Porches and Semi-Enclosed Spaces

Electric heaters are easy to operate and are the most “environmentally friendly” choice. Some electric heaters run on a standard 120-volt electrical current, but most will require an upgraded 240-volt connection. Electric patio heaters do not require any special ventilation. Electric heaters can be expensive to run depending on the utility costs in your area and how the temperature change they need to create.

How well does a patio heater work outside?

Patio heaters do an excellent job warming outdoor living spaces quickly. How well they will work for you is measured by how much space you need to heat and how hot it needs to get. Heater strength is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). The higher the BTU rating, the larger the space the heater will heat.

Start with the cubic measurement of your space (length x width x height). If your patio or back area is uncovered, use the height of your tallest guest as a guide (for most of us that’s 6 or 7-feet). Next, consider how cold it gets in your area versus what temperature you want the surrounding area to be. I’m in Florida where it generally doesn’t drop below 50 degrees at night.

My desired temperature is 75 degrees. So the increase is 25 degrees. My patio is 25ft x 10ft x 8ft. My total cubic feet is 2000 feet. I will need 20 BTUs per foot, so to heat my patio I will need 40,000 BTUs either 4 10,000 BTU units or 2 20,000 units. Translate BTUs to KW electric 12,000 watts is the equivalent of 40,000 BTUs.

Here is my example. The patio heater on the left is made by PAMAPIC and is rated for 48,000 BTUs. It is a floor-standing unit. It comes with a rain cover and wheels for easy mobility. It will warm my 2000-foot patio space to 75 degrees based on my calculations.

The PAMAPIC heater gets high ratings, 4.5 stars, from Amazon buyers. It does weigh about 40 pounds, so Amazon’s free delivery certainly is an additional value.

It is also a commercial-grade unit, stands 88-inches tall, and can be purchased in black, bronze, silver, or stainless steel.

How much money should you spend on a patio heater?

Style, form, or function are what ultimately will determine the base price of your perfect patio heater. You can purchase a basic outdoor tabletop heater for less than $100. A floor model heater using propane for less than $150.00. This is the patio heater above and is typical of what you see at restaurants around the country. There are high-end designs for $500-$600 today that showcases big flames. Many are currently on sale if you shop online.

Natural gas heaters are going to be the most expensive, and they require a professional installation on top of the initial investment for the heater. Natural gas is also the most cost-efficient and convenient to operate once installed. The fixed gas line all but ensures you are never without fuel for your patio heater. You should plan to spend a minimum of $500.00 for a basic design heater and full installation and the price goes up from there.

If natural gas isn’t an option, propane gas is an efficient choice. Most outdoor patio heaters that run on propane use the standard 20lb propane tank that is available at the local garden centers. A floor model heater will cost between $150 – $200. Most people should be able to assemble these units and hook up the standard tank connection, and garden centers do offer assembly for a small fee for those who want the convenience of on-site setup. Tabletop units most likely house a 1lb tank, but offer a conversion kit to accommodate the larger tanks. None of the heaters ship with a tank.

Electric infrared patio heaters could be the best solution for families desiring to warm up a semi-enclosed patio, garage, or screened porch. Gas and propane heater exhaust requires good ventilation. Electric units don’t produce exhaust. The math formula to determine the strength of a propane or gas heater (length x width x height = total cubic feet) also can be used to measure the size and number of electric heaters needed to heat my patio.

Electric patio heaters become the most flexible option because they are available in tabletop, free-standing floor units, or wall or ceiling-mounted options. Smaller heaters are usually compatible with standard 110v outlets. However, the higher wattage often will require a 240v outlet.

Bromic Smart-Heat Tungsten Electric 4000W Radiant

These Bromic Smart-Heat 4000w patio heaters pictured left earned great reviews for efficiency, directed heating, and ease of use. They are more expensive than gas heaters, but they are best used in areas where ventilation issues make gas heaters impractical. Electric heat is directional and each unit can be installed to direct and control heat to designated areas for the best experience. These units require a 240v circuit, so a professional electrician will need to install an adequate outlet.

Running two of these electric heaters (8000w) will cost about $1.00 per hour. That makes it cost-effective as well as safe.

Whichever option you choose for your outdoor area, adding a patio heater or even multiple units will definitely increase the usability of outdoor spaces well into the colder seasons.

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