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What to consider when buying a heater for a covered patio

Which heater is best for a covered patio?

It's frustrating when you want to enjoy your patio but the weather won't allow it. A patio heater lets you comfortably use your outdoor space after dark and in cooler months, but not all are ideal for covered patios.

It's important to know what to consider when buying a heater for a covered patio. Not all are safe in covered areas, and some need ample room around them so they don't pose a fire risk. Armed with all the information, you can choose a safe and effective heater.

Electric vs. propane

You can find two main varieties of patio heaters: those that run off electricity and those that run off a propane tank. But are both equally suited to covered patios? 

  • Electric: Electric heaters are perfect for covered patios because they don't emit any potentially harmful fumes, so ventilation isn't an issue. They plug into a power outlet and, with a covered patio, it doesn't even need to be a specialized outdoor outlet, so there are no installation requirements.
  • Propane: Propane heaters run off bottled propane. While they're safe for some covered patios, there must be ample ventilation, so if your patio has enclosed sides, stay away from propane heaters. You also need to leave enough space between the heater and the roof or there's a risk of fire.

Types of patio heaters

Once you know whether you want an electric or a propane heater, you should pay attention to the types available. The most common options are free-standing, tabletop, hanging and mounted.

  • Free-standing: These stand independently so you can move them around as needed. They're usually tall enough to warm a decent amount of vertical space.
  • Tabletop: Tabletop heaters are compact enough to sit on a tabletop. They emit enough heat to warm people around a table but won't heat a larger space or a full patio.
  • Hanging: Hanging heaters hang from the ceiling warming the area below them. They're great if your covered patio has an obvious place to hang things from the ceiling, such as beams to which you can attach your heater.
  • Wall-mounted: If you have a wall in your patio area, a wall-mounted heater is an option. The trouble is that they're tricky to move once you've set them up.


When buying a heater for your covered patio, you need to pay attention to clearance requirements. These dictate the amount of space you need to leave between the top of the heater and the roof and the sides of the heater and anything flammable. It's generally only propane heaters that have clearance requirements. The amount of clearance you need varies between models, so you should check before buying, but it's usually at least 2 to 3 feet.

What to look for in a patio heater

These are some of the other factors you should consider when picking a heater for your covered patio.

Power requirements

Consider what power requirements your heater has. Propane heaters run off tanks of propane, so you'll need to know where to source them or get them refilled. Free-standing propane heaters use full-size propane tanks, while tabletop propane heaters use mini 1-pound propane bottles.

Electric heaters need to be plugged into a power outlet. If you don't have a suitable outdoor outlet, you can run the cord indoors to plug it into a regular outlet. It's fine to use an extension cord if you need to.


The heat output of propane heaters is measured in British thermal units, while you'll need to look at the wattage of an electric heater to tell how powerful it is.

  • Propane heaters: Expect a decent tabletop propane heater to have an output of around 10,000 Btu. A decent free-standing model should have a 40,000 to 48,000 Btu output.
  • Electric heaters: Look for a maximum output of around 1,500 watts, though most also have lower settings of 600 to 1,200 watts for when you don't need full power.


Some heaters are easier to move around than others. Free-standing and tabletop models are great for moving from place to place to get heat where you need it. Wall-mounted and hanging heaters are technically possible to move once you've set them up, but it requires a lot more effort. Propane heaters are easier than electric ones to move from spot to spot, as they aren't reliant on outlets.

Best heaters for covered patios

Dr. Infrared Heater DR-238 Carbon Infrared Outdoor Heater

You can choose to either wall-mount this electric heater or mount it on a compatible tripod to turn it into a free-standing model. It has three heat settings offering outputs of 900, 1,200 or 1,500 watts.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Heat Storm HS-1500-TT Infrared Heater and Tripod

This electric infrared heater comes with a tripod, but you can also choose to mount it on a wall. It has a long 7-foot cord, which is ideal if you need to plug it into an indoor outlet and run the cord out to your patio.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

SereneLife Infrared Indoor/Outdoor Electric Space Heater

Thanks to its oscillating design, this heater is great for warming a large patio. It measures 57 inches tall and has a 1,500-watt output to keep you toasty even on cold days.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Colliford Hanging Patio Heater

If your covered patio has a convenient spot to hang a heater from, this unit is ideal. It's easy to turn on, off and adjust the heat levels with the pull cord, and it offers three output options of 600, 900 or 1,500 watts.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Bali Outdoors Portable Tabletop Patio Heater

With a compact design, this heater is ideal for placing on a tabletop to warm the people around it in a well-ventilated covered patio. It takes a 1-pound propane tank and has an output of 10,000 Btu.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Hiland HLDS01-CGT Patio Heater

As long as you have a well-ventilated covered patio with enough ceiling clearance to accommodate it, this heater does a great job of warming large spaces. It has an impressive 48,000 Btu output.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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