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Outdoor Living & Recreation

How to Choose an Outdoor Heating Option for Your Patio

How to Choose an Outdoor Heating Option for Your Patio

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to use your outdoor space all year long? If you’ve been dreaming about enjoying a hot cup of coffee while relaxing on your patio after a brisk winter walk, then maybe it’s time to get an outdoor patio heater.

You can add warmth and ambience to your patio this winter with so many choices of heater styles and sizes that it’s hard to know where to start!

Our team at Pat Noble Lumber has gathered some ideas to help you find the perfect outdoor heater for your patio.

There are three main factors that will affect your choice:

  1. The square footage of space to be heated
  2. The model type to suit your needs and preferences
  3. The source of fuel or access to electrical power

Square Footage and BTUs

You will notice that some heaters include information about BTUs (British Thermal Units). What you need to know is that the higher the BTU rating on a heater, the higher the heat output.

How to calculate BTUs

As an example, a patio of about 500 square feet will need a heater that provides 10,000 BTUs. To get a more accurate estimate of how many BTUs will keep your patio warm on a cold winter night, you can use the following formula:

  • Length x Width = Area
  • 20 BTU x Area
  • Multiply square footage by 20 BTUs per square foot.


  • Length 25 feet x width 20 feet = 500 square feet
  • 20 BTU x Area
  • 20 BTU x 500 = 10,000 BTUs

Factors that will affect how many BTUs your heater needs to heat your patio:

  • Is your patio, deck or porch covered or sheltered?
  • Is your patio warmed by the sun during the day?
  • Is your patio sheltered by your house?
  • How cold does it get in winter in your region?

You can enjoy your outdoor space all year long and not add much to your heating bill. There are many environmentally friendly heaters designed to warm your space without using a lot of fuel or power.

So Many Patio Heaters to Choose From!

A few of the more popular models of patio heater are free-standing, hanging, table-top, and wall or ceiling-mounted.

There are also many styles of fire bowls, fire tables, table-top fires and fire pits fuelled with gas.

Standing patio heater

Portable standing patio heaters come in a variety of attractive styles to complement your home and patio design. Constructed of weather-resistant steel and aluminium, these tall towers are easy to assemble, and have safe ignition systems. The fuel tank is stored out of sight in the bottom, but is handy when you need to replace it. The finish helps prevent fading and corrosion even in the toughest winter weather.

You can also opt for an electric free-standing heater. Some models can be mounted on the wall or ceiling. They have multiple heat settings and can tilt to more efficiently direct the heat. Depending on the model, you may need a 240-volt connection.

Hanging patio heater

Hang a patio lighter above your patio to add warmth without taking up any extra space. A big benefit is the added safety, especially if there are children or pets in your household. The natural gas versions give you good value when comparing the cost with the amount of heat generated. They come in a wide range of styles, and free up your space for seating and leisure activities.

Electrical hanging patio heaters give the same benefits, but are hardwired into your home’s electrical supply.

Table-top patio heater for smaller spaces

Another great option for small spaces is a table-top patio heater. It will add instant ambience to your patio and provide you with a toasty warm time outdoors. Your portable table-top heater can be conveniently stored away when not in use.

Mounted radiant heater

Consider a space-efficient mounted patio heater if you have a smaller patio, porch, balcony or deck. In most cases, radiant heaters can also be used indoors or in an enclosed porch. Designed for maximum comfort, you can control the direction of the heat, and can also choose the wattage you need. Mount the heater with brackets, and make sure you have an outlet nearby for safety. Some models have wireless remote control to make it easier to turn on and off.

Fire bowls and fire tables

There are a multitude of attractive fire bowls, tables and table-top fire bowls to warm up your patio. They come in all types of materials from stainless steel to slate, stone and iron. Most are fuelled by liquid propane.

Gas fire pit

Imagine toasting marshmallows year-round!

Fire pits come in all shapes and sizes in a variety of materials from aluminium to stone. If you hook up your fire pit to a natural gas line, you won’t be able to move it but you will have less smoke.

You can also use a propane tank to provide fuel for your fire pit.

Wood fire pit

A wood fire pit gives you the rustic ambience of a campfire. They come with grills and mesh covers for outdoor cooking. You can also find portable fire pits that wheel away easily when not needed, or if you want to move it to another spot in your yard or patio.

Consider the Source of Fuel: Natural Gas vs Propane vs Electricity

Natural gas heaters


  • Unlimited supply of gas
  • Simple if you already have a BBQ or grill hooked up to your natural gas line
  • No need to replace fuel tanks on a regular basis as they are attached to your home’s gas line
  • Environmentally sustainable
  • Lower cost to operate

Important to know

  • Can’t be portable and will be a permanent fixture
  • Requires professional installation
  • Will need a gas line hookup in a convenient location if possible
  • You’ll need to hire a professional to install it
  • Gas can be easily extinguised in high winds
  • Gas heaters have a safety shut off

Propane gas heaters


  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • No professional installation needed
  • Can be purchased and used on the same day

Important to know

  • Propane tanks need to be replaced regularly, which could increase cost
  • Keep an extra tank of propane on hand

Electric heater


  • Warms up quickly
  • Convenient
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Produces zero emissions
  • More flexibility in power due to hardwiring into electrical system
  • Can be controlled remotely
  • Can be connected to smart home system

Important to know

  • Some models may need to be professionally installed
  • You will need an accessible outlet to plug in your electric heater
  • Need proper voltage, usually 120 volts or 240 volts depending on the unit

Electric infrared heaters


  • More efficient heating process than gas or conventional electric heaters

Important to know

  • Care is needed to set them up properly
  • Controls will make them more efficient

Safety Tips for Using Your Heater

  • Keep your heater clear of any flammable materials including plants, trees, upholstery, sun umbrellas, etc.
  • Be aware of your local municipality’s fire regulations and keep your fire pit or bowl the distance required from neighbour’s fences or other structures
  • Check that you have turned off all the gas valves before cleaning
  • Most heaters have an automatic shut-off safety feature in case your heater tips over
  • Fuel automatically switches off to prevent fire in cases of emergencies

If you’ve been thinking about enjoying your patio this winter, our team at Pat Noble Lumber will be happy to help you learn more about patio heaters.

Disclaimer: The information and resources in these articles and on this website are available for informational and educational purposes only. The articles provided on this website are created with every reasonable effort to ensure completeness and accuracy. In doing so, the article writers, publishers, and the business that this website represents assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or opposed interpretation of the articles and under no circumstance will these parties be held liable for any direct, indirect and/or consequential damages of any kind incurred from undertaking tasks outlined in the articles or on this website. In addition, it is suggested that readers check by-laws, zoning laws and building codes of your local area and country.

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