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Buying guide for best electric patio heaters

Your patio, deck, or backyard can be a lovely spot to enjoy a meal or entertain guests — as long as the weather cooperates and it’s not too chilly. With an electric patio heater and a bit of shelter, you can keep your family and friends comfortable and warm so you get the most out of your outdoor living space, no matter the season.

An electric patio heater uses bulbs to generate radiant heat and warm the immediate area. Because it runs on electricity, it must be plugged into an outlet or connected to your home’s existing wiring. Electric heaters often don’t require professional installation, and they’re safe to use in enclosed or covered areas. They’re also more eco-friendly than patio heaters that use fuel because they don’t produce any emissions.

Before you buy an electric patio heater, you need to decide what type of heater you prefer, what the best voltage is, how much heat it should generate, and what other features will allow for the best operation in your yard.

Take a look at our top electric patio heater picks to take all the stress out of shopping. This guide has all the tips and tricks you need to make selecting the ideal electric heater for your patio a breeze.

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Because they don’t give off any greenhouse gases or other emissions, electric patio heaters are usually the most environmentally-friendly — and safest — outdoor heaters.

Electric patio heater considerations


Electric patio heaters are available in several styles or types. While all heater styles can effectively warm your outdoor living area, you may prefer one type over the others.

  • Freestanding electric patio heaters are similar in design to large floor lamps. They’re usually five to eight feet tall and produce heat from a bulb at the top. Freestanding heaters can usually heat an area with a five to ten foot radius, so they work well if you have a decent sized patio or yard.

  • Tabletop electric patio heaters are similar in design to table lamps. They’re meant to sit on your patio table, though some models fit through the hole in a table where an umbrella would sit. Tabletop heaters are more portable than freestanding models, but they usually don’t heat as large an area (often just enough to reach anyone sitting at the table).

  • Mounted electric patio heaters are permanently fixed to your patio wall or ceiling, so they are more difficult to install. They may feature infrared heat and are a good option if you don’t have much floor space available on your patio. Mounted heaters can usually heat a larger area, too.

  • Hanging electric patio heaters are similar to mounted styles, but they hang down from a patio ceiling. They’re an ideal option for smaller spaces, though they also require a more involved installation. Hanging heaters typically aren’t powerful enough to heat a large area, though.


Most electric patio heaters require a 120-volt outlet for power. If you already have an outlet in your patio area, installation is as easy as plugging in the heater and turning it on.

Other electric heaters, particularly mounted and hanging styles, may require a higher voltage setup. In that case, you may need to hire an electrician to wire the heater and install it in your outdoor area.


The heating power of an electric patio heater is usually measured in watts. In general, you can assume that you need at least 10 watts of power for every square foot of patio space you wish to heat. For example, a 1,200-watt electric patio heater can effectively heat an area that’s approximately 120 square feet in size.

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Did you know?
The base of an electric heater doesn’t get hot when the heater is on, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally touching it.

Electric patio heater features


Since electric patio heaters are usually used outdoors, you want to choose a model made of materials that can hold up well to the elements. High-grade stainless steel is typically the best material for patio heaters because it’s corrosion- and rust-resistant, making it an extremely durable option even in an outdoor setting.

Cord length

Because an electric patio heater usually must be plugged into an outlet, it helps to choose a model with a generous cord length. The longer the cord is, the more versatility you’ll have regarding where you place the heater. Most models have cords that range from 5 to 15 feet, so consider the size of your patio area and where your outlet is located to determine the best length.

If you plan to store your heater in a garage, shed, or another spot for times it won’t be used, you may prefer a model with a retractable cord. It’s often easier to stash your heater away in storage if there isn’t a long cord getting in the way.

Temperature controls

Many electric patio heaters simply have an on/off switch, so you don’t have any control over the heat that it generates. However, some models offer variable temperature controls that allow you to choose a low, medium, or high setting and generate the ideal amount of heat for any situation.

Indoor/outdoor use

While electric patio heaters are usually used outdoors, some models are suitable for indoor use as well. That allows you to use your heater in your sunroom, screened-in porch, or even the basement in addition to your outdoor living area.

Auto shutoff

Safety is obviously a concern with any heater, so you should opt for a model with an auto shutoff feature. If the heater ever gets too hot, it automatically turns off before it becomes a fire hazard.

Tip-over switch

If an electric patio heater is accidentally knocked over, it can become a fire hazard. Some heaters are equipped with a tip-over switch, which automatically turns the heater off if it’s titled to a certain angle.

Safety certifications

Even with appropriate safety features, you want to be sure that an electric patio heater meets key safety standards. Make sure that any model you consider is approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent safety testing company, to verify that the heater is safe.

Electric patio heater prices

Electric patio heaters vary in price based on their wattage and other features. Most models range from $60 to $700.

The most affordable electric patio heaters are models that can warm smaller areas with 500 to 1,000 watts. They usually cost between $60 and $100 and work best if you want to heat a small outdoor sitting or dining area.

Mid-size electric patio heaters with 1,000 to 1,500 watts are slightly more expensive, but you’ll be able to heat a larger area than with a lower-priced model. These heaters usually range from $100 to $300 and can heat an outdoor area that’s between 100 and 150 square feet.

Large electric patio heaters are the most expensive models and usually offer 1,500 to 5,000 watts. They typically cost between $300 and $700 and can heat a patio that’s between 150 and 500 square feet.


  • Be sure to keep children and pets away from your electric patio heater. While most models are designed for safety, they can get hot, and it’s easy for accidents to happen.

  • Placing your patio heater beneath a patio umbrella or awning can help trap the heat it generates, so your patio or other outdoor area is even more comfortable. Of course, make sure anything it’s near doesn’t get too hot so that there is no danger of it being a fire hazard.

  • Avoid placing free-standing electric patio heaters on grass or other uneven surfaces. Your heater may tip over, particularly if you live in a windy location.

  • Always turn your electric heater off and unplug it before moving it or performing any maintenance on it.

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Electric patio heaters are easier to install, use, and maintain than gas models, which is why many homeowners prefer electric heaters.


Q. How much does it cost to run an electric patio heater?

A. It depends on where you live, the electricity rates in your area, and the wattage of your heater. In general, it usually costs between 40 and 60 cents per hour.

Q. How do I clean an electric patio heater?

A. Cleaning an electric patio heater is usually pretty easy, though you should always consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning instructions. For most models, you can simply unplug it and wipe down the exterior surfaces with a cloth dampened with a mixture of water and dish soap.

Q. Do electric patio heaters include a warranty?

A. Most patio heaters do offer warranty protection. Some models are covered for just a year, but others provide up to five years of warranty protection. The warranty typically only covers issues that arise due to manufacturing defects. If you misuse your heater or it’s damaged during an accident, the warranty usually won’t cover the issue.

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