By Scott Nyerges for Cheapism©
© Home Depot
Keep the Party Going
As the weather cools and the days grow short, it’s time to squeeze every last minute of fun out of your backyard patio or deck with a patio heater or a fire pit. What kind you buy depends largely on how large a space you have and how you use it. Freestanding propane patio heaters are best for open spaces where people are circulating, such as a pool area, or large deck or patio. They’re designed to be portable, providing warmth where it’s needed, though some are easier to maneuver than others. The chief drawback is that the propane tank will have to be replaced periodically, same as you would with a gas grill. Some freestanding patio heaters can be converted to natural gas, a nice option if you already have an existing gas outlet on your patio.
Electric patio heaters, which use quartz or infrared elements to radiate heat, are better for small, defined spaces where people stay put and need concentrated warmth, such as an outdoor dining area. Most of these are designed to be affixed to a wall or ceiling, though there are some freestanding and tabletop models available. If all you want to do is sit around a roaring fire outside and chill in the backyard, skip the patio heaters and invest in a fire pit instead. Bear in mind that patio heaters are (pardon the pun) a hot item with consumers, particularly in autumn. If you see a model you like on sale, buy right away — it may be sold out later.
Garden Treasures Wood-Burning Fire Pit
This 21-pound steel fire pit measures just under 30 inches in diameter, small enough to fit on a patio but large enough to swallow an armload of firewood for an all-night campfire. More than 600 people give it an average score of 4.5 stars out of 5, though it’s worth pointing out that some otherwise-satisfied owners say assembly can be tricky and the lid may not fit snugly.
AmazonBasics Commercial Outdoor Patio Heater
Good luck finding this one it stock; it’s consistently sold out. No wonder, given that it’s cheaper than most other commercial patio heaters of similar size and power. It’s rated at 46,000 BTUs, enough to heat a space of about 18 feet in diameter. Top Ten Reviews recommends this propane patio heater, naming it a value buy, and more than 2,000 Amazon customers give it an average score of 4.3 out of 5. Most buyers are satisfied, though several note that assembly was more challenging than expected.
Well Traveled Living Electric Patio Heater
This wall-mounted, indoor-outdoor electric patio heater is powerful enough to heat a gazebo, small deck, or garage workspace, according to owners. The majority of buyers say they’re very happy with their purchase (and provide photos to prove it), but some grouse that the 6-foot power cord isn’t long enough, and a few complain that the instructions are unclear. If this model is sold out, Home Depot sells a nearly identical model for the same price that also gets good marks from owners.
Fire Sense Propane Patio Heater
Fire Sense is one of the few patio heater brands that earns the attention of professional reviewers like Best Reviews and Top Ten Reviews, and Walmart shoppers give this 46,000-BTU model an exceptionally high average score of 4.8 stars out of 5. This eye-popping turquoise-colored heater is also the only heater we found that comes finished in something other than stainless steel or rubbed bronze, which may explain why it’s frequently sold out.
Hampton Bay Patio Heater
From Home Depot
This 42,000 BTU glass tube patio heater can warm an area of about 115 square feet. Some owners say the heat output is weaker than they would like, but they rave nevertheless about this propane-powered radiant heater’s sleek, modern design. The biggest sticking point, as is the case with many patio heaters, is assembly, which some buyers say can be time-consuming.
Fire Sense Electric Infrared Patio Heater
From BBQ Guys
A telescoping, freestanding patio heater like this one gives you the portability of an umbrella-style propane heater with the focused intensity of an electric model. Rated at 1,500 watts, this heater can warm a space of about 150 square feet, according to the manufacturer, and the height-adjustable stand has wheels on the base for portability. Unlike propane-powered models, this one can be used indoors or out. Assembly is relatively straightforward, buyers say, but the cord is only 6 feet long.
Bromic Smart-Heat Infrared Electric Patio Heater
At about $600, the Bromic isn’t cheap, but it is powerful: designed to heat up to 160 square feet, which is far more than the other infrared heaters in this roundup. Owners like the included remote, which allows you to adjust the level of heat output, although some say it’s too fussy to use. One potential drawback: This electric patio heater also requires a 240-volt electrical outlet, which not all homes have.
And then there’s this:
Radiate Portable Campfire
Take the glow wherever you go with this portable, single-use campfire. The tin weighs just 4 pounds and the soy wax and paper briquette filling will burn for up to 3 hours, according to the manufacturer (some buyers report up to 6 hours of use). Most consumers say it’s money well spent; the fire gets toasty warm as it burns and doesn’t give off too much smoke or unpleasant odors.