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Published Mar. 24, 2022

The best outdoor heaters let you enjoy a little dose of community even in the most frigid conditions. Outdoor heaters have become an increasingly common accoutrement to a deck, patio, or meeting place in the woods. But variants of these devices have long been common with people in the outdoors, mechanics, construction workers, and the clerks at Christmas tree stands. 

Whether powered by propane, kerosene, or electricity, these heaters create warmth without the need for a laborious and smoky campfire. Here are our picks of the top outdoor heaters. Read on for tips on buying the right one to keep you warm.

How We Picked The Best Outdoor Heaters of 2022

To select the best outdoor heaters, we researched a wide assortment of different heater models, selecting options from numerous manufacturers and stacking their specs against each other, comparing the pros and cons of each. As tech reviewers and outdoor enthusiasts, we used our personal experience with outdoor gear to make our final selections. 

Outdoor heaters come in many shapes and sizes, but a few build types are most common. The heat output of these devices is usually measured in British Thermal Units (BTU). Recently, tall propane fueled devices with thin necks and top mounted radiators have become common. Pyramid-style heaters with central flames double as aesthetic conversation pieces. Grilled infrared strips are often seen installed on fence posts at outdoor establishments. Traditional, “job-site” style outdoor heaters are also available, often screwing onto the top of a propane tank, featuring portable propane builds, or blasting compressed hot air out of a long mounted pipe. We considered:

BTU Output and Overall Heat was an all-important feature for evaluating outdoor heaters. We didn’t always prioritize the hottest heater as the best. But we always used heat output as a metric when comparing similar heater builds.

Installation and Portability were also important factors in our selections. We prioritized stationary heaters that include easy installation, as well as portable heaters that factored their portability into the root of the design.

Build Quality is always important, but becomes especially important when you’re dealing with flammable and potentially explosive materials such as propane or kerosene, or dangerous amounts of electricity.

Best Outdoor Heaters: Reviews And Recommendations

Best Overall: Amazon Basics 46,000 BTU Outdoor Propane Patio Heater

Amazon Basics

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Why it Made the Cut: The Amazon Basics outdoor propane heater has all the structural wants down, and is a well-built, quality propane heater for most users.

Specs:

  • BTU or wattage: 46,000 BTU
  • Heating method: Propane
  • Dimensions: 33 inches W x 18 inches L x 89 inches H
  • Weight: 37.9 pounds 

Pros:

  • Not too hard for most people to assemble at home without help
  • Decent build quality
  • Turns on easily even in very cold temperatures

Cons:

  • Not all materials are premium quality
  • Can be dangerous if not assembled incorrectly

This outdoor gas heater from Amazon Basics outstrips the competition. Since the beginning of the pandemic, these heaters with their long pipes and tented grills have become ubiquitous in the winter time. They feature a propane tank at their root, feeding gas up a pipe which burns at the top under the grill.

Many home goods sellers offer proprietary versions of this same basic heater design. The Amazon Basics version is quite good. The heater usually arrives promptly. Installation could be easier, but it’s quite doable for most people without a technician, especially if you have help from a friend or family member. Installed correctly, the device is sturdy and safe. However, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully, as putting the heater together incorrectly can result in melting components or even fires.

At 46,000 BTU, this heater doesn’t get quite as hot as the 48,000 BTU Hiland. Indeed, 48,000 BTU or even 50,000 BTU is common. However, this 2,000 BTU discrepancy doesn’t yield much of a difference that can be felt. This model makes up for its slightly lower heat output with better build, delivery, and customer service.

The Amazon Basics outdoor heater is a great tented pole heater. But before you buy, consider whether a tented pole heater is what you need. Many users find that this style of heater with its heat source so high off the ground it tends to lose more heat than other heater designs.

Best Budget: Mr. Heater F242540

Mr. Heater

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Why It Made The Cut: With great value, this powerful and rugged tank top heater provides up to 45,000 BTU from the ground, and can be angled and aimed for directed heat.

Specs:

  • BTU or wattage: 30,000 – 45,000 BTU
  • Heating method: Propane
  • Dimensions: 10.4 inches W x 10.4 inches L x 17.5 inches H
  • Weight: 5.5 pounds 

Pros:

  • Rugged build quality
  • 40,000+ BTU
  • Low profile that will create rising heat
  • 360 degree heat
  • Attaches directly to tank

Cons:

  • Aesthetically simple
  • Could prove dangerous to children or pets

If you’re looking for a budget outdoor heater that’s ready for deep cold and rugged lifestyles and can still deliver over 40,000 BTU, then look no further than the Mr. Heater F24240. A tank-top heater, it screws directly onto the top of a 20-pound propane canister. It radiates heat 360 degrees, and can be angled to direct heat right at you or your party. With three levels of heat from 30,000 BTU to 45,000 BTU, this is a truly versatile heater that can adapt to whatever you need.

Unlike the common gas heaters with long pipes that link to seven-foot-high tented grills, this heater warms from below. That means the heat will rise to you, not away from you. And since the heater screws directly onto a 20-pound tank, it’s easy to bring it along in the back of a truck. The heater also features a safety switch that shuts the heater off if it tips over. 

It’s important to note that this heater is not kid or animal proof. Sitting low to the ground, the heater is protected with a sparse wire cage that doesn’t do a great job of keeping hands or paws out. Outdoor heaters almost always present some dangers to children and pets, but this option may present greater risks than most.

Still, it’s a great rugged 40,000+ BTU class heater with some of the best value out there. For a cheaper version (with less heating potential) check out the Mr. Heater F242300, which delivers 15,000 BTU.

Best Mounted: Dr Infrared Heater DR-238

Dr Infrared Heater

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Why It Made The Cut: This mounted infrared heater is easy enough to install without a professional and offers solid enough heating power for a patio, garage, or restaurant.

Specs:

  • BTU or wattage: 900W, 1,200W, 1,500W up to 5,200 BTU
  • Heating method: Radiant electric
  • Dimensions: 35 inches W x 8 inches L x 4 inches H  
  • Weight: 8 pounds

Pros:

  • Weather-resistant IP55 for indoor or outdoor
  • Electric heat is somewhat more sustainable than propane or kerosene
  • Remote controlled

Cons:

  •  Uses lots of electricity and can be expensive to run

The Dr. Infrared radiant electric heater is sure to warm some frosty cheeks. This indoor/outdoor heater is perfect for home patios, cold garages, or cafe courtyards. The heater mounts easily with included installation brackets. Plugged in, it operates via  remote control. That means you can easily flick it on when your guests get cold, without having to climb over their table.

As a radiant electric heater, the Dr Infrared uses quite a lot of electricity on its high settings. This can translate to high electric bills, but won’t require frequent trips to refill the gas canister. Electric heat is also somewhat better for the environment, as there’s no combustion happening on site (thus the amount of carbon created will depend on your electric company’s power plant). Infrared heat also works by warming the surface of the skin rather than heating the air around you. This means that less heat is lost between you and the heater than would be with a gas heater.

Best Portable: Mr. Heater MH18B Propane Heater

Mr. Heater

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Why It Made The Cut: With portability at its core, the Mr. Heater MH18B is a briefcase- sized gas heater that you can take anywhere.

Specs:

  • BTU or wattage: 4,000 – 18,000 BTU
  • Heating method: Propane
  • Dimensions: 12 inches W x 11.2 inches L x 16.7 inches H 
  • Weight: 1 pound

Pros: 

  • Highly portable
  • Can heat up to 450 square feet
  • Automatic low oxygen and tip over safety shut off

Cons:

  • Not as hot as some
  • Could be dangerous to children or pets

Sometimes we all need a personal slice of the campfire. If you’re looking for a heater that you can carry on the go, the Mr. Heater MH18B is one of the most mobile outdoor heaters out there. Ready for ice-fishing excursions, outdoor maintenance jobs in the snow, or a nice reprieve from a snowball fight, the MH18B is a propane heater you can take with you like a suitcase.

This heater connects to two, one-pound camping propane cylinders, which tuck into its frame. With a separate purchase of a hose and adapter, it can also be attached to a 20- pound propane canister. Offering three heat settings, it produces 4000, 9000, or 18,000 BTU, and heats up to 450 square feet.

If carrying a mini propane heater by your side sounds risky to you, you’ll be pleased with the MH18B’s safety features, which include a tip-over automatic shut off and a low oxygen shut off system, which will ensure your Mr. Heater neither falls over and starts a fire nor silently fills your garage with gas.

Best Pyramid: Hiland HLDSO1-WGTHG Pyramid Glass Tube

Hiland

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Why It Made The Cut: If you’re looking for an outdoor heater that’s great at warming hands, but also serves as a nice centerpiece for entertaining, this fire pyramid from Hiland is a natural pick.

Specs:

  • BTU or wattage: 40,000 BTU
  • Heating method: Propane
  • Dimensions: 21.5 inches W x 21 inches L x 91 inches H 
  • Weight: 65 pounds

Pros:

  • Looks beautiful
  • Heats a large space
  • Seven and a half feet high

Cons:

  • Could be dangerous under an overhang
  • Doesn’t provide as much heat that can be felt as some

If you’re looking for a patio heater that can replace a bonfire when you’re entertaining outside, the Hiland Pyramid Glass Tube is an outdoor heater that puts its emphasis on beauty. With a central glass tube inside a barred pyramid that rises to a tented roof, the Hiland Pyramid makes sure that the fire is front and center.

This fire pyramid puts out 40,000 BTU of propane heat. Because of its vertical design, though, much of this heat radiates upwards. This means that though this model has one of the higher BTU counts on this list, it won’t produce as much felt heat as something like a forced air heater, which directs concentrated heat right where you want it. 

The Hiland Pyramid Glass Tube puts its emphasis on mesmerizing flames that make a warm centerpiece to a cozy outdoor winter gathering. At seven and a half feet tall, it’s a real statement piece for a garden.

Things To Consider When Buying The Best Outdoor Heater

The Amount of Heat

When you’re looking to purchase an outdoor heater it’s important to think about how much heat you really need. Most propane heaters measure their heat output in BTU, while electric heaters often give their wattage. High BTU translates to higher heat. An efficient wood stove can put out over 100,000 BTU. For a small party outdoors in very cold temperatures, we recommend a minimum of 40,000 BTU. An output of 1500 watts may only raise the temperature by about 10 degrees and deliver some 5,200 BTU, however, it may focus this energy on you far better than a gas heater. When purchasing your outdoor heater it’s critical to decide how much heat delivery you need.

Aesthetics

Are you looking for a heater that can double as a conversation piece for your backyard patio? Many heaters these days are designed to be attractive patio furniture that can bring the party together. Others are built to simply get the job done. Consider whether a heater built for a job site or outdoor work is better for you, or whether something with more style is what you need.

FAQs

Q: Which is better: infrared or gas?

Gas heaters convert all of their energy into heat, but this heat translates to warm air. In an open space, this hot air quickly rises and passes away. Radiant heaters, on the other hand, convert nearly all of their heat into infrared heat, which warms whatever surface it comes into contact with. Thus a radiant heater with lower BTU will often still warm you as much or more than an outdoor gas heater which produces higher heat. The heating efficiency of infrared heaters also translates to energy cost. While infrared heaters do use a lot of electricity, their overall energy consumption is lower. Generally they’re considered to be more sustainable than propane heaters.

Q: Are outdoor heaters a waste?

Outdoor heaters use a lot of energy. Propane heaters heat air, which often rises and leaves your outdoor space, whereas radiant electric heaters directly warm your skin and largely use less energy. So radiant electric heaters are usually the better choice for anyone worried about sustainability or wasting resources.

Q: Can you leave outdoor heaters in the rain?

Many patio heaters are designed to be able to withstand rain, however protecting your heater from the rain will always expand its life span. Check to see if your outdoor heater has an IP rating for weather-resistance. Higher IP ratings equal better performance in the elements.

Final Thoughts

Since 2020, the outdoor heater and patio heater market has exploded with options. This wide assortment of heaters means you’ll need to decide just what you want before you pull the trigger on a new heater. The Amazon Basics 46,000-BTU Outdoor Propane Patio Heater is a great patio heater that will do the trick for most families. If you’re looking for something rugged and effective that won’t cost as much and still delivers 40,000+ BTU, the Mr. Heater F242540 is a powerful tank top heater.

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