Best patio heater 2021: keep the garden cosy all year round

Buy the best patio heater to extend your garden usage well past the summer months, with our top picks of gas and electric patio heaters from Swan and more

Included in this guide:

best patio heater
(Image credit: Swan)

Buying the best patio heater will help you to make the most of your garden all year round, even as we approach the winter months. While many of us were able to make good use of the garden even throughout what was a pretty disappointing summer, opting for a gas or electric patio heater will give you the option of switching on the best BBQ even as the evenings grow colder. 

What's more, patio heaters often emit a cosy glow as well as plenty of heat to keep your hands toasty. That means they can be used all night long, which is perfect for those who want to pop outside during a winter party or sit around the patio furniture for an overdue catchup long after the sun has gone down. 

In our best patio heater guide we've included gas and electric options, and there's also the best fire pits to consider if you want a natural wood-fired option with all the charm of a traditional campfire. 

Some patio heaters can be placed under tables or on top of them to help keep guests warm if you're sitting out with wine on the patio, whereas gas options are winners for those who want a freestanding option for mingling in the garden. Gas patio heaters also have the advantage of not needing to be plugged in, but because they're not infrared, they won't be as effective when it comes to keeping you warm.

 What is the best patio heater type?  

Most patio heaters you can buy are electric. They need to be plugged in, but they heat you with infrared light which is more efficient because it heats objects directly instead of the air in the immediate surrounding area. Gas patio heaters are more portable because they have fuel on-board, but because they’re convective they are less energy efficient. 

They won’t heat you directly but instead heat the air around you. For the best patio heater for you, keep on reading, and when you’re done, take a look at the best chimineas

The best patio heaters 2021

Swan patio heater

(Image credit: Swan)

1. Swan Al Fresco Column Patio Heater

Best patio heater overall: a winner for all events

Specifications
Best for: Versatility
Type: Freestanding
Power: 2000w
Fuel: Electric
Heat type: Cage burner
Reasons to buy
+Two power levels+360 degree caged heating +Works in all weather
Reasons to avoid
-Only heated at the top

Heat everyone who sits around this Column Patio Heater from Swan thanks to its 360-degree caged heating element. It has two power modes, meaning it can work at either 1000 or 2000 watts, and it also has a sturdy base that won't tip easily. 

The carbon heating element is very efficient, and thanks to the aluminium reflector it makes the most of every bit of energy used to direct all heat towards you and your friends or family. 

The frame has a corrosion-resistant finish and can be used in all weathers. This electric heater uses infrared to heat you directly, instead of heating the area around you, which is an energy-efficient feature that will cut down on costs and wasted heat.

GardenCo patio heater

(Image credit: GardenCo)

2. GardenCo Outdoor Gas Patio Heater

Best gas patio heater: place it anywhere in the garden

Specifications
Best for: Gas
Type: Freestanding
Power: 13.5kW
Fuel: Propane
Heat type: Overhead
Reasons to buy
+Weatherproof cover+Table feature+Wheels at the base
Reasons to avoid
-Not the widest base

The GardenCo Outdoor Gas Patio Heater is a smart gas patio heater that runs on propane but can be adapted to run on butane or LPG. It's 228cm tall, making it perfect for standing events and socialising. 

If you want a patio heater that doesn't need to be plugged in, the GardenCo Outdoor Gas Patio Heater is a perfect choice. It has a heat output of 4800 BTUs and the anti-tilt switch means you'll be safe if it does end up tipping.

There is also a table level to this patio heater which is perfect for parties where drinks will be flowing. A real winner for entertaining. 

best patio heater Herschel Havana Portable Electric Patio Heater

(Image credit: Herschel )

3. Herschel Havana Portable Electric Patio Heater

Best patio heater for the price: a sleek model at a good price

Specifications
Best for: Price
Type: Portable
Power: 800w
Fuel: Electric
Heat type: Carbon lamp
Reasons to buy
+Designed to be portable+Compact frame+Three heat settings
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most powerful

While 800w isn't as powerful as some of the best patio heaters in this guide, the Herschel Havana Portable Electric Patio Heater is a perfect choice for seated events, under tables or even on tabletops. 

It's 65cm high and has one heat setting, which is fine because 800 watts is about the right temperature for most events, but not as versatile as some of the more expensive options in our guide. 

Other great features include the column design, which will warm you you from top to bottom. You’ll find that it’s great for evenings where you’re sat outside because it’s perfectly sized to warm up your entire body when you’re seated, including legs. 

best patio heater Dellonda Freestanding Gas Outdoor Garden Pyramid Patio Heater

(Image credit: Dellonda)

4. Dellonda Freestanding Gas Patio Heater

Best pyramid patio heater: a powerful freestanding choice

Specifications
Best for: Gas
Type: Freestanding
Fuel: Gas
Heat type: Direct
Reasons to buy
+Variable controls+Portable+2.27m tall
Reasons to avoid
-Gas is inefficient

Many prefer a gas patio heater to the best electric options. This is largely because they're cordless, meaning you can place the heater right at the foot of the patio without worrying about tripping over cords. 

The Dellonda Propane Gas Pyramid Patio Heater is a freestanding and generously sized option. Storage when not in use could be tricky as it's over two metres tall, but if you have the space it's a top choice. 

Safety features include a variable heat outlet and a tip-over switch that automatically turns off the heater if it tilts. The metal reflector directs the heat downwards and towards you. 

Swan Al Fresco SH16330N

(Image credit: Swan)

5. Swan Al Fresco SH16330N

Best standalone patio heater: a portable patio heater

Specifications
Best for: Standalone
Type: Portable
Power: 1200w
Fuel: Electric
Heat type: Cage burner
Reasons to buy
+Heats from angles+In-built handle+Can be placed under tables
Reasons to avoid
-Needs to be plugged in

The Swan Al Fresco SH16330N does need to be plugged in, but it has a generous 1.8m power lead for extending out into the garden. 

This patio heater heats 360-degrees around its mesh-boated central column. Its carbon heating element is designed to cut down on energy use and there's an aluminium reflector to heat in all directions. 

Safety features include a 360-degree tip-over safety switch and it's strong enough to work through all weather types.

patio heater

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Heatlab 2kW Outdoor Freestanding Electric Quartz Bulb Garden Patio Heaters

Best overhead patio heater: a great pick for large groups

Specifications
Best for: Overhead
Type: Freestanding
Power: 2000W
Fuel: Electricity
Heat type: Infared
Reasons to buy
+Discreet design+Adjustable head and height+Three heat settings
Reasons to avoid
-Corded

The Heatlab 2kW Outdoor Freestanding Electric Quartz Bulb Garden Patio Heaters is a great choice for most gardens. It can be adjusted to run at 650W, 1350W, or 2000W, meaning you can leave it running in the background for some added warmth without overheating if you wish. 

This patio heater is freestanding, and it comes with a sturdy base that’s designed to protect you from accidents such as tipping. The head can also be adjusted by 45 degrees and the height can be adjusted from 5ft 8 to 6 ft 10. 

It’s not the most versatile in terms of all-around coverage, and if you’re entertaining a large group then some may feel the warmth of this patio heater more than others because it doesn’t offer a 360-heat or any rotating features. 

Swan Al Fresco SH16340N Wall Mounted Patio Heater

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. Swan Al Fresco SH16340N Wall Mounted Patio Heater

Best wall mounted patio heater: free up more floor or surface space with this ceiling-hanging heater

Specifications
Best for: Covered patios
Type: Wall mounted
Power: 1800W
Fuel: Electricity
Heat type: Direct
Reasons to buy
+Remote control+HIgh quality and durable+Waterproof
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most powerful

Unique among our picks is this wall mounted patio heater, a clever space-saving solution for small patios, decks or balconies. That it’s electric also means you don’t run the risk of ending the party early by running out of power, as can happen with gas patio heaters – unless there’s a power cut, of course! The remote control function is very useful here – no need to try and reach the switch if you've mounted it higher up. We do wish there was an instruction manual included, although installation is fairly straightforward even without one. 

Best patio heaters in the US

In the US and looking for the best patio heater? Check out our handy price comparison tool below that will give you quite a few patio heater to consider, always at the best prices. 

How to buy the best patio heater

Our recommended retailers for the best patio heaters

When it comes to choosing the best patio heater to suit your outdoor space – as well as your requirements – there are a few factors worth bearing in mind. These include:

Size

If you only have a small area to heat, such as a petite patio or small balcony, then you don’t have to go for a large freestanding model. Try, instead, a tabletop patio heater, which looks a little like a bedside lamp and doesn’t give out as much heat so you won’t cook in close quarters. 

Owners of small gardens will also be cheered, no doubt, to hear that wall-mounted patio heaters are another viable and surprisingly adaptable option, letting you direct the heat upwards or downwards by adjusting the vent.

The flipside of this, of course, is the aforementioned freestanding patio heater. It will take up more space, but if you have a large patio or deck that offers enough space for it, chances are there’s a lot more area to heat, so you’ll need the extra power they can dish out. 

Fuel type

The main difference between gas and electric patio heaters is how clean they run. Electric heaters pack less of a punch than their gas alternatives, but they do so with a far more modest carbon footprint thanks to their infrared technology. Electric patio heaters aren’t an option for everyone though, because many of them need to be plugged in.

The final consideration you need to make is the type of fuel your patio heater will use. While the easiest way to fuel a patio heater is with electricity, you may not have an external outlet at your disposal, or be nervous about the plug being exposed to the elements. The other options are natural gas and propane, the latter being the most common. 

Millie Fender
Millie Fender

Millie joined the Real Homes team in 2021 after working at TopTenReviews as a Staff Writer. She is constantly on the hunt for the latest (and best) kitchen appliances, and reviewing these products hands-on. As a baking enthusiast, Millie’s job at Real Homes is the perfect excuse to cook up an endless supply of snacks. When she’s not in the kitchen though, she loves knitting and exploring London's top food markets. 

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