If your house is like more than 90% of American homes, it has an outdoor feature, whether it’s a patio, deck, or both. With 70% of Americans owning a grill, these spaces are transforming into new living rooms that we enthusiastically embrace. When it’s cold outside, you might be wondering about the differences between an outdoor heater and electric vs propane.

Electric heaters

During the fall, electric patio heaters are ideal for keeping your outdoor spaces warm. Electric outdoor heat is an excellent solution for outdoor settings that lack the proper ventilation required for natural gas or propane heaters. These heaters are stylish, colorful, and come in a range of designs, including tabletop, freestanding, and wall-mounted models.

Sip your favorite hot tea next to your outdoor wicker reading chair, watch the kids play a little longer outside, and host your fall dinner on the deck with the comfortable warmth of an electric heater.

Electric heaters: how do they work?

Infrared radiation is used by electric heaters to heat their surroundings. Electric patio heaters use radiation to warm objects directly rather than heating the air around them. These heaters are less expensive and more environmentally beneficial than gas heaters because they emit up to 90% less carbon dioxide.

Some electric patio heaters emit a faint orange glow, while others emit no light. These are also no-fuss and quite easy to use, as they rapidly heat their surroundings. Electric heaters are popular because they are comfortable, portable, safe to use, quieter, and use less energy. Because of the infrared heating, they’re also an excellent solution for winter patio heating.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Before buying an electric patio heater, think about the benefits and drawbacks. Consider the following advantages:

  • Simple plug-and-play operation: Place the electric heater where you need it and plug it into any ordinary household outlet.
  • Smaller outdoor places are safe: Electric outdoor heaters provide warmth for tiny spaces in enclosed patios that are not properly ventilated for gas heaters.
  • Simple to use: Electric heaters may be easily installed wherever they are needed, in addition to just plugging them in. For maximum comfort, choose a corner, sit near your favorite chair, or set up near the party.

Consider the following drawbacks if you’re worried that an electric heater won’t work for you:

  • Electricity requirement: Electricity is required, as opposed to gas heaters, which have a separate gas power supply.
  • Limited placement: Electric heaters can only be used in places where there are electrical outlets.
  • Slow heating: Unlike natural gas or propane, it takes a long time for the surrounding room to warm up.

If an outdoor electric heater is the best option for your next outdoor party, there are various options to consider.

Propane heaters

Outdoor propane heaters are ideal for workshops and construction sites since they are versatile and easy to set up. These outdoor heaters are designed to give direct, quick heating with simple hook-ups to gas tanks. They set up in minutes and start putting out plenty of heat in seconds.

Propane heaters: how do they work?

A simple propane torch that is lit with a match will provide heat, but it is not an efficient heater because that is not its primary purpose. A propane heater has some features that direct the flame into a more efficient heating pattern while also making the heater more convenient to use.

Benefits and drawbacks

Propane heating provides convenience and versatility in terms of location. The following are some of the advantages of propane heating:

  • Versatility: Portable, mobile, and simple to install on job sites for quick set-up.
  • Separate power source: Uses no electricity and is self-contained.

However, there are several disadvantages to propane heating that you should be aware of:

  • Propane tank: A 20-pound propane tank is required.
  • Assembly and set-up: If connected to an existing, direct gas line, some assembly and hook-up is required, as well as expert installation in some circumstances.

Buyer’s guide

It’s likely that you initially noticed an outdoor heater as a courtesy for smokers at your favorite restaurant or drinking establishment. As many states ban smoking inside public facilities, business owners frequently position them outside to keep their customers comfortable. When buying one for your home, there are a few things to think about:

Outdoor heater types

The type of unit is also an important consideration. We are, after all, hard-wired to appreciate a fire and the warmth it brings. In many respects, an outside heat source is taking the place of our televisions. As a result, your outdoor heater can serve as a focal point for your landscape as well. There are many things that are not only functional but also attractive to the eye.

You have the following options:

  • Tabletop
  • Wall-mounted
  • Stand-alone outdoor heaters

The type you choose is frequently influenced by the following factors to consider.

Size of the outdoor area

When it comes to heating a small space, deciding between an outdoor heater and electric vs propane is frequently a no-brainer. A tabletop unit or a compact, free-standing unit will provide plenty of heat for small gatherings on a patio. From classic models to little fireplaces, there’s something for everyone.

Standalone heaters are a fantastic alternative if your outdoor space is larger and taller, as they give ambient heat in all directions. Compare your options by looking at the BTU or coverage spec. A unit generating 5,000 BTUs, for example, can heat a 150 square foot space.

Safety features

Safety features Before settling on an outdoor heater and electric versus propane, we strongly advise you to research what each product has to offer. A kill button if the unit tips over and an automated shut-off if it gets too hot are two features we believe are essential.

Children and pets add to the list of desirable characteristics. A weighted base is a must-have if you choose a standing model. Similarly, the cool-to-the-touch glass will keep small fingers safe from burns.

Other considerations

When deciding between an electric and a propane outdoor heater, consider additional factors that may affect your enjoyment, such as the heater’s location and weather conditions. You could even want to consider acquiring two units or adding a chimera to ensure that everyone is happy.

Electric patio heater types

There are a few other models to pick based on your outside space in addition to the two types of electric patio heaters. Because both types of electric heaters require electricity to operate, they must be plugged in. This can restrict where you can put your electric patio heater and is a crucial factor to consider when deciding between electric and gas patio heaters.

There are a variety of electric patio heater models to choose from, including:

  • Hanging 
  • Umbrella-mounted
  • Wall-mounted
  • Stand-alone

Propane patio heaters types

Only two types of propane patio heaters exist. When selecting a gas heater, keep in mind that the larger the propane tank, the longer you will be able to use it. In addition, a higher BTU indicates that the heater will heat at a higher temperature. You can usually alter the heat output by adjusting the flow of propane gas.

The following are the two types of propane patio heaters:

  • Stand-alone
  • Tabletop

Using outdoor heaters safely

Outside versus indoor use

While certain electric patio heaters are allowed for indoor use, most electric and gas types should only be used in open, well-ventilated locations with few combustible surfaces nearby. Make sure to check your local building and fire rules to see if there are any restrictions on using outside heaters in your area.

Clearance from flammable substances

While you want to make sure your patio heater produces adequate heat and is placed close enough to the area you want to keep warm, you need also bear in mind that the patio heater will heat up. It’s unsafe to put a patio heater too close to flammable objects like wood, cloth, or paper.

Additionally, be sure that no furniture or other items come into touch with the heater to protect your belongings and the heater itself. The installation of most outdoor heaters in close proximity to combustible surfaces has certain regulations.

Consult the specification sheet and manual for the heater you choose if you need to hang it from a wooden patio overhang, mount it to a sided external wall, or place it near non-metal patio furniture. Check that the clearances advised by the manufacturer can be accommodated in your area. An extra shield or heat deflector may be necessary in some instances. For proper installation and maintenance of your new outdoor heating system, additional commercial patio heater parts and accessories are also available.

FAQs

Is it better to use electricity or propane?

It depends on your heating requirements and available space. For a small space with access to an outlet, an electric heater is appropriate. If you have a larger venue, the convenience of a propane model is hard to beat.

Can an electric heater be used outside?

Yes, as long as it’s marked for usage outside. Because most items aren’t waterproof, you’ll need to make sure they’re protected from the weather.

Which outdoor heater is the safest?

When used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, both propane and electric heaters are safe. Combustible materials should be maintained away from both types of heaters. Drying clothes or towels on or near a patio heater is never a good idea. They are not suited for use in the kitchen.

Active safety measures for propane heaters include monitoring the state of your tank, ensuring proper ventilation, and keeping the unit upright. Electric heaters don’t necessitate this additional work. All they need is to be connected into an appropriate outlet. Electric heaters are also safer for families with pets and children because they do not have an open flame. Because halogen heaters are cool to the touch, they are ideal for tiny rooms.

Are outdoor heaters worth the investment?

Adjust your expectations if you’re picturing short sleeves in a snowfall. Patio heaters raise the temperature from “uncomfortably cool” to “nice when dressed appropriately.” On windy days, you may not get the most out of your patio heater because a single gust of wind might spread the heat. An outdoor heater, on the other hand, may be a good choice if you want to enjoy your outdoor patio for longer periods of time throughout the year or even at night.

Last words

The good news about outdoor heaters and electric versus propane is that you have a lot of options that will complement your landscaping nicely. You may now enjoy your patio or deck all year long without being forced within by the cold. We say that either is worth the investment!