Everyone loves long evenings in the garden but sadly, the British weather doesn’t always play ball. While we’re more than willing to tough it out for a glass of al fresco rosé, even we have to admit defeat and head indoors once our teeth start chattering.
A patio heater is a great way to ensure your garden or outdoor space can be used all year long, whatever the weather. Though these now come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, heaters are powered by either electric or gas. Electric models heat up quickly so you’ll feel warmth immediately, but they will have a wire and need to be plugged in. Gas heaters can be more powerful and often warm a larger area, but the slightest wind will whip away the warmth and you’ll have to deal with expensive gas canisters. Their hefty carbon footprint must also be taken into account.
It’s important to consider how solid the heater is to ensure it will stand firmly and not be blown over. Those concerned about having a heater in reach of children may want to choose a hanging or mounted heater attached to a wall or even a parasol instead. Check every heater’s IP weatherproof rating too (for instance IP24). The second digit must be above 3 to ensure it’s suitable for use outdoors. If it’s 4, the heater is still only splashproof so should be stored under cover, while a 5 will mean it’s entirely waterproof.
We tested all these heaters to make sure they kept us cosy on cool spring days when the temperature plummeted after the sun went down, rating each one for how quickly and evenly it heated an area and how stable it was. These were the ones that truly warmed our heart.
BEST GAS PATIO HEATERS
Swan Column Patio Heater
While electric heaters beat the gas equivalent hands-down when it comes to their environmental impact, it’s difficult to deny gas heaters get all the good looks. Yet this Swan column heater is one of the most attractive electric heaters we tested without the giant accompanying carbon footprint. Result.
This free-standing heater has an anodized aluminium frame and a sturdy stainless-steel base that felt really secure even on our far-from-level patio. It has a 360-degree tip-over safety switch and is IP24 approved, so it can survive the odd shower but shouldn’t stay outside all year whatever the weather.
There are two power settings of 1000W and 2000W and we felt warm within seconds of switching it on, even several metres away. We particularly liked the fact that at 140cm, it’s not quite as enormous as similar gas models so we could feel its warmth better when sitting down – and it didn’t dominate our garden but could still fit in our shed for storage. It worked noticeably well in windy conditions too, making this a great buy for any British garden.
Buy now £159.00, Currys
Kettler Stone Fire Pit Coffee Table 132 x 85cm
If you want your patio heater to truly make a statement, this is the one for you. This gorgeous stone coffee table looks stunning next to a garden corner sofa with enough room to be used as a functioning coffee table even when the fire’s not lit. It’s made of hard-wearing magnesium oxide concrete which is weatherproof and mould resistant and can be left outside all year round.
With a BTU rating of 55,000 equivalent to 1.6KW output, it means there’ll always be somewhere snug to sit for a glass of wine at the end of a long day, The square pan and ring burner in the centre of the table are stainless steel so won’t rust and the table comes with a glass wind guard, pumice stones and a rubber gas pipe cover.
Unlike the more functional electric heaters, this one is truly mesmerising to watch once it’s lit and we could happily spend hours gazing into the flames on a summer’s evening. As it’s gas, there are no untidy wires but bear in mind it will need a 5kg propane gas bottle which is not included and there’ll be an ongoing cost to replace this.
Buy now £1089.99, Wayfair
Amazon Basics Havana Bronze Commercial Patio Heater
Gas heaters are not the most environmentally friendly option, but if you’ve set your heart on one regardless, this is a great budget option. Available in various finishes to suit your garden décor including a sleek stainless steel and an unusual wicker effect, the bronze model we tested is a go-with-everything classic.
It has a durable, powder-coat finish, a one-step Piezo ignition system and an easily controlled dial to switch between low and high heat settings. Most importantly, it has a shut-off tilt valve that will turn the heater off automatically if it tips over.
However, at 226cm and just under 20kg, it’s extremely tall and heavy so you may need help even getting it into your garden in the first place. Once it’s in position, there are wheels to make moving it easier and of course, you won’t need to worry about staying close to a power source like with an electric heater.
Its height also means it warms a surprisingly large area really well, with a heat output of 46,000 BTUs. Gas will need to be bought separately and we’d recommend investing in a cover to keep it pristine year-round.
Buy now £91.18, Amazon
Outsunny 10.5KW Pyramid Patio Gas Heater
Tall gas heaters are ten-a-penny in post-pandemic pub gardens now, but we much prefer this pyramid option if you’re going for gas. This one has a heat output of 42,000 BTUs to warm an area of around 10m³, a quick start electronic igniter and control knob and two wheels on the base so you can move it around the garden as needed.
It is still a hefty 22kg and 227cm tall though so caution is always needed, but it has an anti-tilt switch and flame protection net for safety when in use. It runs on propane, butane or LPG gas and will – quite literally - burn through it fairly rapidly, so you’ll need to factor this ongoing cost into your decision to buy.
However, it’s still by far one of the most attractive patio heaters we tested, with its silver pyramid shape and large window to watch the dancing flames making it a real garden talking point.
Buy now £234.99, Robert Dyas
Chantico Stainless Steel Flame Table Top Patio Heater
We’ve all been stuck far from the heater on a night out and spent the evening shivering while everyone else bakes. It’s difficult to place a tall heater somewhere that suits everyone, so a more compact tabletop heater should ensure all your guests feel snug.
A striking stainless-steel pyramid of 89cm, this propane-fuelled heater is small but mighty, kicking out a decent 10,236 BTUs to keep even those sat farthest away toasty. We found it still wasn’t too intense for those nearest the heater however, and its dancing flame inside the quartz glass tube worked well as a striking centrepiece on the table.
It has an anti-tilt safety device, a snap on connector for quick and easy release and powder-coated protector gills. It’s also very easy to move around as needed but be aware that its size means it only uses a smaller gas bottle, which will need replacing after around 60 hours burn time.
Buy now £209.99, Wayfair
Sherpa 13kW Stainless Steel Gas Patio Heater
This classic design produces an impressive radius of heat and has an attractive stainless steel construction. If you want to host a late autumn get together with the family or a couple of friends, then this patio heater will provide a really warm glow to the evening. According to the manufacturers website, this gas patio heater is the model of choice for the Ministry of Sound’s London courtyard. If you don’t have a garage to store the heater, it can be covered when not in use.
Buy now £229.99, Robert Dyas
Santini Eco Flame Gas Patio
The Santini gas patio heater houses a beautiful and unique spiral flame flickering inside a slender glass tube. This classy looking unit re-imagines the fire-pit. With a lower kilowatt output than competing gas heaters, it still delivers generous heat, while burning less gas. The wide glass and flame output actually radiates more than traditional models. The unit comes with wheels so it’s easy to move around the patio and it couldn’t be easier to operate with an easy push button electronic ignition. Safety features include a tilt and switch auto cut out and a protective mesh screen. A really good investment if you enjoy gazing at a real flame.
Buy now £386.99, Robert Dyas
BEST ELECTRIC PATIO HEATERS
Heatsure 2KW Freestanding Outdoor Patio Heater
If price is paramount, this bargain freestanding heater can’t be beaten. Made of steel with a heavy base to prevent it tipping, the heater is astonishingly good for the price. There are three heat settings of 650W, 1350W or 2000W and we loved the fact the height could be adjusted between 130 and 210cm to suit our needs. The lowest wattage means this heater would even be suitable for use indoors for maximum versatility.
The lamp has a 5000-hour lifespan which is less than the average of a more expensive model, but should still give thousands of hours of heat before it needs replacing. The head can also be adjusted by 45 degrees up and down to direct heat where you need it and it glows brightly enough when lit to mean you won’t need an extra garden light too. We could see well enough to read a book by it with no other light source. While it certainly doesn’t have the romance of flames, it’s a no-brainer for this price.
Buy now £35.90, OnBuy
La Hacienda Heatmaster Popular 1800W Patio Heater
If you have to battle past a barbeque, kids bikes and the odd stray football just to sit in your garden, it’s likely you can do without a tall heater taking up even more space.
This small but powerful heater is a genius alternative and fits inside most parasols to heat everyone round the table. It heats up instantly, giving a maximum of 1800W of heat from four quartz bulbs to direct warmth evenly and these should provide 5000 hours of heating before they need replacing.
The bulbs use economical short wave infrared halogen technology so they heat up people and objects around them rather than the air, meaning you’ll still stay warm if the wind picks up. Better still, these provide light, making the heater ideal for long alfresco dinners over summer once the sun has faded but you still want to linger with a drink.
The whole thing is straightforward to fit even for true DIY-phobics and easily clamps onto a parasol pole. Luckily this also means it’s easy to remove if the weather turns as our only grumble is the heater’s IPX3 rating means it’s sadly not at all waterproof.
Also available at Hayes Garden World
Buy now £129.99, Amazon
Gtech HeatWave Patio Heater
When space is a premium, this neat wall mounted patio heater is perfect for warming things up without resorting to a large standing heater. Completely weather-proof with an IP65 rating, it uses infrared technology to heat nearby bodies rather than the air for maximum efficiency, with a decent heat output of 2KW.
It comes pre-assembled so just need attaching to the wall with the provided fixings and then plugging into to a power source. Heat can be felt from the moment it’s switched on and the bulb doubles as warm garden lighting too. Otherwise, you’ll barely notice it once it’s attached to the wall, yet it’s always within easy reach for those unexpectedly chilly evenings.
The only downside is you will need to be able to sit within around six metres of the wall it’s installed on to feel the benefit, otherwise you’d be better off choosing another heater.
Buy now £149.99, Gtech
KETTLER Kalos Plush Floorstanding Electric Patio Heater
Sleek and stylish, this well-crafted floor standing electric patio heater from Kettler is easy to use - just plug in and away you go. Bringing a sense of indoor style outdoors, it’s a great addition to a courtyard space. It’s easy to move around, so, as long as you have a power point or cable long enough, you can set it up and travel around the garden following the setting sun. You will need to bring it in though, so make sure you have storage space.
Buy now £399.00, John Lewis
Mensa Heating Imus Under Table Infrared Heater
Danish by design, the IMUS is a good option for popping under your garden table to help extend the summer season by a couple of months. Our feet are often the first part of our bodies to feel the cold, so the IMUS has been designed with this in mind and to keep your extremities warm. Small and perfectly formed, the IMUS patio heater provides a soothing heat with good eco credentials costing just 7p an hour to run. The ‘safe touch’ feature means you don’t have to worry about your knees brushing the heater and ensures it is pet-friendly. This lightweight model is perfect for taking the chill off - while remaining portable and easy to store in the cupboard under the stairs. However, if you’re looking for something that kicks out enough heat to warm your whole body throughout the winter, then you’ll need to invest in a larger electric model.
Buy now £199.00, Amazon
Herschel California 2000W with remote control
Designed to keep you comfortably warm outside, and not roast you with glaring light like some heaters on the market, this smart 2kw infrared patio unit delivered impressive heat and is a good option if you have a large wall - or it can be used with a stand. The remote control means that you can stay in your seat as the sun goes down and adjust the heater to meet the perfect temperature for your pre-dinner drinks on the terrace. There are two power levels and the device has been crafted to withstand whatever the British winter has to throw at it.
Buy now £287.99, Nisbets
Herschel Performance Miami Electric Patio Heater Black 2kW
Aluminium, in a white ceramic finish, this oval-shaped patio heater is a great option for a balcony or small enclosed area where gas isn’t recommended. This heater can also be mounted on a parasol, a wall or a ceiling. We mounted it on a stand (available from Herschel separately) and the heat generated was impressive for a petite unit. Rated IP65, the Miami patio heater is designed to resist the British weather and can be mounted outside and left all year. It comes in black, white and silver.
Buy now £168.19, Nisbets
Aero S 2500W Waterproof Wall and Ceiling Mounted Indoor and Outdoor Patio Heater
An efficient and smart solution for heating your conservatory or garden room, this heater looks sleek with its matte black design and single glass tube backed by stainless steel. With an element that will last 10,000 hours, this heater has a lot of life in it. Wall or ceiling mounted, the Veito unit is relatively easy to install on the wall with it’s integrated mounting bracket. The device has a thermostat so you can control the temperature easily as the sun goes down and the chill factor goes up. As with all the plug-in wall-mounted heaters, the length of cable is short and instructions warn against the use of an extension cable, so ensure you have a suitable electricity point to conform to the manufacturers guidelines.
Buy now £320.00, Amazon
The Swan Column Patio Heater gets a big thumbs up for its contemporary look, immediate heat and the fact we didn’t need to faff with gas bottles to use it. If you’ve truly set your heart on gas, the Outsunny 10.5KW Pyramid Patio Gas Heater would be a stylish addition to any garden.