With the pandemic still raging on in much of the United States, it stands to reason that we’ll continue socializing outdoors for much of the foreseeable future. In fact, the New York City Council has made its outdoor retaurant program permanent and will allow restaurants to use portable heaters during the winter months.
The NYT’s Wirecutter review team put the struggles currently facing reviewers as outdoor patio heater models sell out faster than we can write about them into perspective.
“At this point, if you’re looking to make an immediate purchase for something to use in the coming months, you’re better off buying whatever’s available that fits your circumstances.”
With these considerations in mind, we put together a list of the best outdoor patio heaters complete with essential information for easy reading and shopping alike.
Best for Restaurants: Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater
Here’s a great option for restaurants and other socially-distanced commercial spaces, if you need something sizable and seriously powerful. Frontgate’s commercial patio heater pumps out 46,000 BTUs of heat via a Piezo igniter system and uses stainless steel burners and a double mantle heating grid. It’s pricier than the Member’s Mark model below, but could be better suited for your space and needs.
Best for Restaurants Runner-up: Member’s Mark Patio Heater
This outdoor heater from Member’s Mark is designed for restaurants to be both sturdy and durable.
“It puts off a good amount of heat and warms a good area around the heater. You’ll be perfectly comfortable in your sweater while hanging out by the patio heater,” says one Sam’s Club reviewer.
She continues, “I love the lighted drink table around it! It’s very conducive to conversation during an outdoor party. I would highly recommend this patio heater to anyone who enjoys being outside, even in the winter!”
Another promising reviewer writes, “Love this patio heater! Very heavy duty/sturdy and attractive. Heat output has met our expectations. Not difficult to put together, good instructions.”
Best Portable Heater: Mr. Heater MH18B Propane Heater
The Mr. Heater Big Buddy is a great choice for providing temporary heat for your garage, camper, sporting events, etc.
At a weight of 19 pounds, this compact, portable heater can heat up to 450 square feet for up to 108 hours on a 20-lb propane tank. Not only is this item wildly effective, but it also comes with top-tier, built-in safety features including a tip-over switch and an automatic low-oxygen system. And no matches or electricity required. Just push the igniter button, and you’re ready to go! Plus, you can adjust the heat control knob to your preferred setting, so it never gets too toasty.
Best Tabletop Fireplace: Bond Lara TableFire Firebowl
This handsome tabletop fireplace excels as an aesthetic piece for your patio while also keeping you warm on those nippier nights. It uses a 20lb propane tank and is both smokeless and odorless, working at just the press of a button. One Amazon review said it was “very romantic” and multiple customers cited the intensity of the heat. Here’s one take:
“This is one of our favorite purchases for our outdoor furniture. It actually puts out a scary amount of flames on the ‘high’ setting. While the ‘low’ setting is way too high for most uses, you can ignore it completely and just fine tune the flame between off and high instead.”
Best Ambience: OT Qomotop Propane Fire Pit Table
This romantic backyard patio fire pit is perfect for romantic dates and hot chocolate moments with friends. With a 4.5 amazon rating, reviewers are raving. “It took me approximately 30 minutes to put it together by myself and was pretty easy since the directions were straight forward to follow,” one Amazon review gushes. “I have now used this fire pit table approximately 8-10 times and have been very happy with it.”
Best Pyramid Heater: Oakmont Pyramid Outdoor Heater
Though it’s a bit more on the expensive side, this pyramid outdoor heater is by far my favorite. It’s the preferred choice for restaurants sporting a classy, sophisticated look. It’s also much safer than the mushroom top type of heaters. The heat spreads across the entire length, rather than emitting from the highest point alone. Most sought-after models are sold out, but this Oakmont is still available.
Best Wall-Mounted Heater: PatioBoss Electric Patio Heater
If you want a wall-mounted heater, this PatioBoss heater looks like it will do the trick. Electric with a carbon fiber tube as a heating element it saves energy by being efficient. It works rapidly, boasting a 3 seconds warm-up period. The Patio Boss heater is also more affordable then standing heaters, perfect for small spaces.
This article was originally published by Chaya M. Milchtein on 10/06/and updated by Juliana Clark on 11/18/2020.