Plus, many shared buildings don’t allow propane heaters, which is where electric patio heaters can especially prove useful. “If you live in a condo or co-op building, you will want to check your building rules ahead of time to make sure patio heaters are allowed,” says Amber Scott Freda, interior designer and owner of Amber Freda Home & Garden Design.
To find the best electric patio heaters, we tested popular models in our lab in Des Moines, Iowa. After setting up the heaters, we took them outside and measured how far the heat radiated and recorded our change in body temperature. We also tested the units in our own backyards to see how they held up over time. Each patio heater was evaluated based on its heating performance, safety features, ease of use, setup, and overall value.
EnerG+ Electric Patio Heater
Why You Should Get It: It’s easy to use and offers extra safety protections.
Keep in Mind: We wish it heated larger patios effectively.
This straightforward model from EnerG+ was the best electric patio heater we tested. With a heat range of 10 feet, this won’t provide heat to a large patio, but we found it warm enough for two to four people. It offers three heat settings: low, medium, and max. While testing at home in 50 to 65 degree weather, we typically used the medium heat setting and sat 2 to 3 feet away from the heater.
It was fairly easy to assemble with two people, though the pictures in the instructions could have been a bit more clear. We like that it comes with a remote, which only has two buttons, making it intuitive to operate. It was also quiet during operation.
When it comes to safety, this model is was incredibly stable and never felt too hot to the touch, even on the highest setting. It’s also ETL-certified, which means it’s been third-party tested and complies with North American safety standards. After turning the unit off, it cooled quickly. And while we never needed it, we liked that it offers auto-off protection for extra peace of mind in case the unit falls over or overheats.
After testing this patio heater on our own patio for two months, there’s not much we’d change. For the price, we wish it had a larger range to heat a bigger patio, and we would appreciate a spot on the heater to store the remote while it wasn’t being used. Overall, we think this unit is well worth the price, especially if you’ll use it often.
Price at time of publish: $262
Product Details: Dimensions: 11 x 51.2 x 11 inches | Certifications: ETL | IP Rating: IP44 | Heat Range: 10 feet
Why You Should Get It: The round design provides heat to every side of the unit.
Keep in Mind: It was difficult to assemble and was missing parts.
We were very impressed by this electric patio heater from SereneLife. With a round, 360° design, we liked that it can heat a group of people without them having to crowd to one side of the unit. It also offered a wider heat range—up to 15 feet—than other models we tested. It took about a minute to feel any heat after turning it on, but once we did, it was noticeably warm. There are only two heat settings, and we felt a significant difference between the two.
When we tested the patio heater at home in our backyard, we noted its quiet operation and simple controls. We liked that even on chilly and windy November nights, it provided us with strong heat. However, if you live in a warmer climate, you may not need this strong of a patio heater as the heat was almost too strong for us at one point.
This unit is 57 inches tall, and we appreciated that the height allowed us to both stand up and sit down without feeling like any part of our bodies were cold. However, the height did add some concern when we tested the heater’s stability. The base was wide, and we weren’t able to knock it over easily by bumping into it—but it did wobble more than others we tested. Thankfully, this patio heater does boast tip over shut-off protection, so if a fall does occur, it should turn off.
The biggest downside to this patio heater was the assembly. The instructions were not easy to understand, especially for beginners. We also had to provide our own batteries and screwdriver, and the unit was missing two screws. Overall, especially for the price point, we think the assembly should have gone smoother.
Price at time of publish: $292
Product Details: Dimensions: 12.5 x 57 x 9 inches | Certifications: ETL | IP Rating: IP24 | Heat Range: 15 feet
Star Patio Electric Tabletop Patio Heater
Why You Should Get It: With a straightforward design, it’s extremely easy to operate.
Keep in Mind: It wasn’t the strongest model we tested and works best in enclosed areas.
Of all the options we tested, this model from Star Patio is the best electric patio heater for small spaces. It’s a tabletop model that resembles a table lamp, but at 27 inches tall, we think it’s a bit large to sit on a dining table. When testing it over a period of two months, we preferred setting it on a side table close to where we sat. We tested it both outside and inside, and we think it works best for a smaller enclosed patio or three-season porch. It didn’t heat us well outdoors, especially in windy conditions.
The design is very straightforward; just pull the string to turn it on. Assembly was just as simple and took us less than three minutes. However, the simple design does have some drawbacks: It didn’t come with a remote, and there’s only one heat setting, which was only strong enough for one or two people sitting closeby.
When it comes to safety, we were glad that it never felt too hot to the touch. The heater felt sturdy overall, but since it could be knocked down by a big bump to the table, we do wish it had an auto-off protection for added safety. Overall, however, we think this is still a solid choice for a small, enclosed area.
Price at time of publish: $170
Product Details: Dimensions: 16.9 x 26.5 x 16.9 inches | Certifications: UL SGS | IP Rating: IP44 Heat Range: 12 square feet
West Elm Standing Heater Lamp
Why You Should Get It: Its sleek design is less industrial than any other option we tested.
Keep in Mind: We didn’t feel heat very far from the unit, and it doesn’t come with a remote.
If you’re looking for the best electric patio heater to seamlessly blend into your patio design, this model from West Elm is it. Designed to look like a tall floor lamp, it doesn’t even look like a patio heater at first glance. And while it has a tall height and slim build, it felt sturdy and didn’t wobble during our testing.
After a fairly quick assembly, we plugged it in, and it was ready to go. There are three heat settings—low, medium, and high—which can be changed directly on the unit. While the heater is almost 7 feet tall, the buttons weren’t out of reach, even for our shorter testers. We were disappointed there wasn’t a remote, though, especially for the price.
While we liked the design, we were underwhelmed with the power this patio heater provided. The heat comes down from the lamp shade area, and we had to sit fairly close to the unit to feel any significant heat, even on the high setting. Overall, it’s the most stylish choice, but this option is best for mild climates and smaller patios.
Price at time of publish: $499
Product Details: Dimensions: 23.6 x 83.9 inches | Certifications: UL SGS | IP Rating: Not listed | Heat Range: 86 square feet
EnerG+ Electric Tabletop Patio Heater
Why You Should Get It: It serves as a spot to rest your drinks and warm your legs.
Keep in Mind: There’s only one heat setting, which is strong when seated at the table
If you have a small patio, a multifunctional patio heater like this model from EnerG+ is the perfect solution. Doubling as an electric patio heater and a bistro table, we often found ourselves hanging around the heater with friends throughout the testing period. In both our lab test and at-home testing, the tabletop itself stayed cool and we could keep cold drinks on it without melting the ice.
When sitting at the table, the heating component (which doubles as the table’s leg) was strong. In fact, the single heat setting was almost too strong for us and it wasn’t comfortable to sit directly at the table. Instead, we found ourselves setting our drinks down and backing up a bit. The tabletop also blocked the heat from reaching our upper bodies, so we still needed to wear coats. And once we were about three feet away from the unit, we couldn’t feel any heat. Because of this, we think this would be best on a small, apartment patio rather than a larger patio on a single-family home.
Assembly was easy, as long as you have a second person to help. When we first set it up, did note a faint smell like burning plastic, but that went away after a couple of hours. Operating the unit is easy—just turn the switch and you’re ready to go. Overall, we wish we could adjust the heat output, but if you’re tight on space, this is a great option.
Price at time of publish: $95
Product Details: Dimensions: 23.7 x 29.5 x 23.7 inches | Certifications: ETL | IP Rating: IP24 | Heat Range: 10 feet
The Bottom Line
The EnerG+ Electric Patio Heater was the best electric patio heater we tested. At a mid-range price, we appreciated the easy-to-use remote control and consistent heating. We found it’s best for keeping a group of four toasty without taking up too much space.
Our Testing Process
To come up with our list of the best electric patio heaters, we put top models to the test in our Des Moines, Iowa testing lab. After our initial insights, we took the best-performing patio heaters and tested them in our own backyards over the course of six months to evaluate how they held up in the real world. We rated each patio heater for setup, heating performance, ease of use, safety, and value.
After the electric patio heaters arrived, we timed ourselves unboxing and assembling each unit, noting how difficult it was to put together, how clear the instructions were, and if we needed to provide any tools.
Once the patio heater was ready for use, we evaluated the heating performance by taking our surface body temperature before and after five minutes of sitting 3 feet away from the unit. For patio heaters with multiple heat settings, we cycled through each setting and recorded the results. Next, we left the heaters on their highest setting and measured the maximum distance we could feel warmth from the heater.
To test the safety, we took the temperature of the heater itself at three different areas of the unit both while operating and five minutes after turning it off, noting how hot the surface was if accidentally touched. We also purposely bumped into the heater to determine if it knocked over easily.
Lastly, we set up the patio heaters in our own backyards to use them in our everyday lives to test long-term durability, noting any signs of wear or change in quality.
What to Know About Electric Patio Heaters Before Shopping
Heat Range and Output
The heat output of a patio heater is often measured in BTUs, short for British Thermal Units. This refers to the strength of heat output over a period of time, typically an hour. Most electric patio heaters range around 5,000 BTUs, which should be suitable for a small patio. If you want a stronger heat output, you’ll need to pick a gas-powered model.
Heat range refers to how far you can feel the heat from the unit. Most electric patio heaters we tested listed their heat range from 5 to 15 feet. We felt heat the furthest from our splurge pick, the SereneLife Infrared Outdoor Electric Space Heater.
It’s important to note that the heat you feel from an electric patio heater largely depends on the weather conditions and placement of the heater. If you place the unit under a covered patio or in an area with high walls, the heat is easier to trap, and you will feel warmer.
“In your best scenario, you might change the feeling of the outside temperature five to 10 degrees,” says Eric Kahn, founder of Alfresco Heating. Because of this, you won’t find any patio heater effective in very cold conditions. We found the electric patio heaters best to use in 50°F to 60°F weather.
When shopping for patio heaters, you’ll notice that the devices typically include third-party safety certifications. It’s rare to find a patio heater without a safety certification, and we recommend making sure the model you purchase has one before use. Each of our top picks was either ETL- or UL-certified.
It’s also important to look for a device’s IP rating, which refers to the level of protection against foreign objects. IP ratings include two numbers. The first digit refers to the level of protection against solids like dust, dirt, or tools. The second digit refers to protection against moisture. The ratings range from 0 (no protection) to 6 (total protection for solids) or 9 (total protection for liquids) and if a value is X, it means that it was either not rated or the protection is 0.
An IP rating ending in 4 is the minimum recommended protection for keeping a patio heater outdoors. Each of our top picks were certified and provided IP ratings, except the West Elm Standing Heater, which we could not find an IP rating clearly labeled.
Safety should be top of mind when operating a patio heater, and many models offer additional features for safer operations, including auto shut-off. The type of auto shut-off the device offers is important to note, as there are two different types.
If a patio heater has tip-over auto shut-off, that means the device will shut off if it falls. This works by detecting when the unit tilts or is no longer on a flat surface, turning the unit off. While this adds extra protection, you should still stay nearby during operation in case of a fall. Electric patio heaters do not cool off immediately and can be a fire hazard if they fall.
Many electric patio heaters also offer overheating protection and turn off when the unit gets too hot. Even if your patio heater has this feature, you should always be cautious as a few of the units we tested were still very hot to the touch during operation.
Some patio heaters, like the Star Patio Electric Tabletop Patio Heater, only offer one heat output. With these units, once you turn the heater on and it warms up, it will push out the same amount of heat at all times. With that in mind, you may want to consider choosing a unit with adjustable heat settings, especially if you’ll be at varying distances from the heater. Our best overall pick from EnerG+ has three heat settings (low, medium, and max), and we found medium the most comfortable to sit 2 to 3 feet away from.
Remote controls aren’t a necessary feature in a patio heater, but they’re useful nonetheless. Most remote controls allow you to turn the unit on and off as well as change the temperature without going near the unit. Our best overall pick, the EnerG+ Electric Patio Heater, offers a remote, which we found useful during testing.
While electric patio heaters are more convenient to use than propane or natural gas heaters, there are still safety precautions to take while operating. Always make sure to stay near the patio heater while it’s turned on. While a standalone unit may be sturdy, there’s always a risk of it tipping over and creating a fire hazard. Be mindful of cords when choosing where to place your electric patio heater and prioritize spots where the cord is out of walkways.
If there are pets or children in your home, be sure to monitor them around any patio heater. While many units have protective cages to prevent you from touching a hot grill, the body of the units can still get hot to the touch. When we took the temperatures of the grills, the hottest we found topped over 600°F—definitely hot enough to cause a burn. And make sure the unit is completely cooled before moving it; We found multiple patio heaters were still warm to the touch five minutes after turning them off.
Other Electric Patio Heaters We Tested
Heat Storm Tripod Infrared 1500 Watt Electric Patio Heater at Wayfair
When testing the Heat Strom Tripod Electric Patio Heater, we were impressed with the heat output overall; we could feel the heat from 6 feet away. We also liked that you can change the height to fit your needs, though it can only be adjusted with a wrench, not during operation. The biggest flaw we found was the three-legged stand, which we found could be knocked over fairly easily. While the heater offers tip-over protection, it doesn’t have a guard to protect the heater grill from touching any fire hazards when tipped over.
Westinghouse WES31-15110BLK Infrared Electric Outdoor Heater at Amazon
The Westinghouse Infrared Electric Outdoor Heater doesn’t have many bells and whistles, especially for its price point. Similarly priced models offered multiple heat settings and a remote, unlike this option. Plus, we found the single heat setting to be inconsistent during testing. And at only waist-high, it didn’t provide warmth to anyone in a standing position.
AZ Patio Heaters Ground Electric Patio Heater
At first, we were excited at how small and portable this option from AZ Patio Heaters was. However, we had issues during assembly as there were no instructions and some pieces weren’t drilled correctly. And once we turned it on, the metal housing on this unit became extremely hot. It doesn’t have any warning labels either, and since it sits on the ground, we think it poses a safety risk for children and pets.
Your Questions, Answered
How many BTUs should a patio heater have?
The recommended BTUs for a patio heater largely depends on the size of your patio and the weather you’ll be using it in. A patio that’s only 100 square feet won’t need a super powerful heater and may only need an output of 5,000 BTUs. However, the best electric patio heaters for large patios (up to 1,000 square feet) will range up to 20,000 BTUs. Our best overall pick, the EnerG+ Electric Patio Heater, provides 5,100 BTUs, which is ideal for smaller patios.
Electric patio heaters are less powerful than propane or natural gas models, so if you need to heat a larger area, you may consider choosing a gas-powered heater instead.
What size patio heater is best?
Typically, smaller patio heaters will not be as powerful as larger patio heaters, so the size you choose comes down to the space you have and the amount of heat you need. You may also consider the portability and storage of the patio heater, especially if you will need to store it indoors over the winter.
While we didn’t test any wall-mounted units, if you have a small patio, they might be something to consider to save floor space. “Wall-mounted heaters can be attached to a masonry wall or a structure such as a pergola, gazebo, or fence,” says Amber Scott Freda, interior designer and owner of Amber Freda Home & Garden Design.
Are patio heaters safe to use in an enclosed area?
Propane and natural gas patio heaters require ventilation and should not be used in covered patios or garages. On the other hand, electric patio heaters are safe to use in an enclosed area. Always make sure to check the product’s instruction manual to ensure it’s approved for covered use. We tested many of the smaller units in our garages and enclosed patios and thought the Star Patio Electric Tabletop Patio Heater was one of the best electric patio heaters for an enclosed space.