The weather forecast and public-health recommendations are starting to not line up so well. Those of us who have been spending time with friends and family outdoors, where virus transmission is lower, are suddenly realizing that colder temps are not great for our social lives. But, as they say, there is no inappropriate weather: You can stay outside in your backyard when temperatures drop with a patio heater, which — because everyone has the same idea — are selling like hand sanitizer in March 2020.
Designed to warm outdoor spaces, patio heaters come in two basic types. The first (and usually the cheapest) are electricity-powered options. Shaped like a strip and oriented parallel to the ground, they’re mountable and can come in a range of colors, making them great for fixed areas like lanais, sunrooms, and pergolas. They will, however, keep you anchored to your nearest outlet.
The second (and more powerful) are propane-powered tower units. They’re movable (some easier than others) and work better for heating large areas or customizable layouts. However, they often come with a correspondingly larger price tag and the need for propane tanks, which are somewhat difficult to come by these days.
We’ve assembled a host of options for both types so you can push the good times in the outdoors further into the cooler months. Some of these heaters are backordered, though, so pay attention to the fine print before you order and keep an eye out for restocks.
This no-frills 46,000 BTU propane patio heater isn't a work of art. But it will seem like one on crisp cold nights. It's on wheels, so it's easy to move around as needed. And it has anti-slant protection built-in, so it won't tip over.
Got a small space and a nearby bulkhead? Then try screwing on the Dr. Infrared Heater 1500W. As its name suggests, you’ll be pumping in its 1,500 watts of weatherproof warmth from a nearby wall or ceiling thanks to included hardware and a 120-volt cord. While not the preferred method, it can also easily be mounted on a tripod should you need more flexibility with location. The included remote lets you select one of three heating modes without leaving your chair, and has an on/off timer function, too.
For high-end outdoor spaces and a specific aesthetic, nothing beats the Infratech WD-Series Outdoor Heater. Available in lengths up to 39 inches and with a variety of finishes, it is simply the best for top-down heating. With as many as 6,000 watts of heat pumped down for wide coverage and up to 14 feet of height, it maintains a 90 percent energy efficiency rating. It’s also nearly silent, and thanks to a quartz heating element, it’s effective even during breezy conditions. When it comes to adding the best to your partially enclosed outdoor space, Infratech reigns supreme.
Possibly one of the best values on this list, the specs and performance of Fire King’s bargain offering are impressive. Despite its conservative price, it still manages to throw its 47,000-BTU heat in a claimed 20-foot diameter (although there is a sharp fall-off over that distance). Its portability game is strong thanks to built-in wheels (a help when it comes to dragging a 50-pound unit across the yard). But one of its best features is its LED-illuminated cocktail table, which ensures that you can both set down and then find your drink. For those seeking to maximize an open outdoor space, this is a great affordable package and will be back in stock on November 30.
For those with a dedicated outdoor area and who love to entertain outdoors, the Sundry Patio Heater is the most powerful on our list, though you'll have to wait a few weeks to get it. Running off a standard 20-pound propane tank, this hefty unit cranks out 50,000 BTUs evenly through a glass tube protected by a steel cage, which will easily warm a 6.5-foot area. The base is equally robust, as it’s comprised of reinforced concrete while expertly hiding a chamber for its tank. Tipping the scales at more than 70 pounds and lacking wheels, it’s a powerful albeit less mobile option for those who have a favorite fresh-air location (and a strong back). It includes a rain cover.
Similar to the Sundry, and similarly delayed in shipping, the Nova is a good option because of its range and fuel efficiency. While running off the same 20-pound propane tank, the Nova is notable for throwing its infrared warmth further — to 9.5 feet — thanks to a ceramic core. It’s also incredibly miserly with fuel, providing up to 12 hours off a full tank. Sure, there’s a slight dip in power — a still-respectable 46,000 BTUs — and its battery-powered ignition will require you to have an extra five AAs around at all time. But we still love this for big groups and doing more with less.
Does the Cyrus Patio Heater look familiar? You may have seen it at your favorite eatery when the temps dropped or at other outdoor venues. Its stainless steel body is easy to clean and damn-near indestructible, while its healthy 46,000 BTUs provide even, small-radius warmth perfect for a patio table or other hub. Another reason it’s a commercial favorite: While its base ensures it’s tip-proof while in use, built-in wheels allow it to be easily moved with the party. Running off the standard 20-pound propane tank, it’s a simple, versatile option for those who want flexibility. It's backordered at the moment, but may still be worth waiting for.
This thing quite literally warms your ass up. The outdoor chair, which is a type of patio heater, if we're honest, uses USB-powered heating technology to warm your seat up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
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