When the days get shorter and the weather starts getting crisp, an outdoor heater can be your perfect companion for a night under the stars. There are plenty of options to prevent you and your guests from catching a chill while enjoying some outdoor dining, ranging from gas, electric and even wood-fired. To avoid feeling a bit nippy the next time you go outdoors, read on for the specs and details on what types of patio heaters are available, and which might be the best fit for you.
Types of Outdoor Heaters
Patio heaters come in a range of sizes and fuel types to suit a variety of outdoor areas. Depending on what you’re after, you can choose from:
- Floor or free standing: Typically found in bars and restaurants (pictured, right), these are designed with a base to prevent the heater from falling, as well as being easily portable. The most common fuel type for free standing heaters is gas.
- Table top: Can be used as a centrepiece for your outdoor dining area. These typically have a design similar to free-standing heaters, but with a smaller heating range. Their most common fuel type is electric.
- Wall-mounted: Ideal for when you have limited space, or don’t want a large unit to worry about. These are typically electric.
In addition to outdoor heater sizes, there are also three different fuel types:
- Gas heaters
- Electric heaters
- Wood-fired heaters
Read on to find out more about what to expect with each fuel type, as well as common brands and models.
Outdoor Gas Heaters
Gas heaters are portable and are commonly used for patios, decks and pool areas, as well as bars and restaurants. They use radiant heat to provide a steady stream of warmth that’s easy to control, working more effectively when positioned in the centre of your entertaining space. The price you can expect to pay for a gas heater typically ranges between $100 and $1,000.
Gas heaters are claimed to be almost odourless and offer clean burning, according to manufacturers. They come in a variety of styles and sizes including table-top for smaller areas and freestanding patio heaters for large spaces. Portable gas heaters will require a propane gas bottle, while some other gas heaters can connect to your natural gas line. Keep in mind, if you live in a region where winters are quite cold, you might need more than one to provide enough warmth.
Look out for easy start or push-button ignitions, as you won’t want to spend a lot of time in the cold trying to get your heater started! You might also like to think about the aesthetics of your heater, and if it will match your outdoor décor. In addition, you’ll have to consider the height of the heater, as you may find it won’t fit under your roof. Most manufacturers will list the dimensions of heaters, allowing you to plan ahead when it comes to finding a space for it.
Jumbuck Charcoal Gas Patio Outdoor Heater (JDS06-PCC)
Jumbuck offers a wide variety of outdoor heating products, plus BBQs and BBQ accessories. Within its heating line-up, it offers this charcoal gas patio heater. With a 38.5MJ/h heat output, it’s stated to heat an area up to 13m². It has a push-button ignition system, with an adjustable temperature setting to ensure you get that toasty feeling, plus a safety valve that shuts off the unit if it were to fall over. It weighs 16kg, but has wheels for easy mobility, plus a powder coated finish to fit in with the house aesthetic.
- Dimensions (WxHxL): 700 x 2020 x 700mm
- RRP: $149
Gasmate Meridian Area Heater – Hammertone (AH2063ODS)
An Aussie-grown brand, Gasmate covers a range of BBQs and outdoor living products. This Meridian Area Heater might be an option if you have a low ceiling, standing just over one-metre tall. It runs for approximately nine hours on a 9kg propane cylinder, with a 30MJ/h maximum heating output, with rotary direct ignition and an adjustable heat setting. It has a safety device which senses oxygen levels and switches off the unit when at a low level, plus a safety tip-over switch that halts the supply of gas to the unit if it’s accidentally knocked over. For aesthetics, it features a stylish hammer tone finish.
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 400 x 1350 x 400mm
- RRP: $329
Outdoor Electric Heaters
Many electric heaters come in a heat strip design and range in price between $80 and $800. These are claimed to be stylish and energy-efficient for undercover outdoor areas, according to different brands. They’re typically ceiling mounted and provide radiant heat for targeted warmth.
There are plenty of options out there to ensure the unit fits in with your décor. For smaller areas, you might only need to install one heater, but for larger spaces, you may prefer to buy a bunch of them to keep your dinner guests cosy. They’re claimed to be easy to use and don’t require much maintenance, with running costs typically low, but you might also consider installing a timer controller to help save on energy.
Goldair Outdoor Cantilever Radiant Heater (GHOR900)
Goldair offers a range of cookers, heaters and fans. This Cantilever Radiant Heater is boasted to evenly disperse heat throughout your outdoor area, even coming with a remote control for convenient setting adjustments. For added illumination, this unit also has LED lights built-in. Its stated to be IP34 rated with stainless steel protection and powder coated panels, claimed to withstand the changing climate. Its heat settings range from 600W to 1800W.
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 520 x 2020 x 250mm
- RRP: $599
Heatstrip Intense Infrared Heater (THY2200P)
Heatstrip is manufactured by Thermofilm Australia and features both gas and electric radiant heaters. This THY2200P heater is stated to be a classy and redefined solution for those looking for a portable outdoor option with DIY installation, with a sleek stand with hexagonal-shaped grille.
It offers 2200W of heating power with a carbon filament electric infra-red element, designed for spot heating of tables, lounges, entertaining areas and workstations, both indoors and outdoors. Expect a reach of 9m² in an enclosed outdoor area, 5m² in an exposed outdoor space and a larger reach of 14m² for indoor settings. It weighs 20kg and has in-built wheels for easy portability and storage.
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 1068 x 2050 x 500m
- RRP: $699
Outdoor Wood-fired Heaters
If you’re after that cosy feeling of a fire place, or you’re keen to break out the marshmallows, perhaps a wood-fired heater is one to consider. There are a number of options on offer, including:
- Firepit: Designed for an open fire that you can build up with as much wood as the pit allows, with plenty of shapes and sizes available, depending on the manufacturer. With its design, it offers 360° heat that people can gather around, making it a great centrepiece. However, the fire is more vulnerable to the elements, and may leave your clothes smelling a bit smoky.
- Chiminea: A contained fire option, the design ensures that ashes or smoke doesn’t get blown in your face, with the design coming in a range of styles and shapes. It retains heat and the wind doesn’t trouble the flames, making it a handy option if you’re looking for a portable fireplace.
- Wood heater: Designed for contained, undercover outdoor areas as it’s usually inbuilt, a wood heater is stated to be a safe option that retains heat well and can warm up large areas quickly. There are a number of different styles, offering reliable radiant heat with low emissions.
- Brazier: A simple and cheap option, it typically has an upright metal bowl design with high temperature resistant powder coating and fine mesh for resisting sparks.
Depending on the type, wood-fired heaters can range anywhere from $20 to more than $500.
Glow Black Acheron Fire Pit
Northcote Pottery offers its ‘Glow’ outdoor heating range with a collection of fire pits and chimineas available. This Acheron fire pit is designed with high temperature resistant powder coated steel. Like others in the range, it’s boasted to offer a stylish, modern industrial look to help you enjoy the outdoors in style no matter the time of year. It has perforated steel to encourage better heat flow and comes with a fire tool. There are plenty of other options in the Glow range, including modern corten steel fire pits, sleek GRC models and traditional clay chimeneas.
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 520 x 600 x 520mm
- RRP: $159
Fiammetta Cast Stone Firepit (0022509)
Fiammetta offers gas, wood-fire and electric heaters within its extensive line up. This stone firepit features a black steel fire bowl with a mesh spark screen and a stone look GRC base, along with an iconic rough cast stone exterior made from heavy steel and magnesium oxide. Its stated to heat an area of 3m² and comes with a one-year warranty. If you’re looking for a stylish firepit to add character and warmth to your outdoor entertaining area during the cooler months, you might like to consider this option.
- Dimensions (WxHxL): 890 x 180 x 515mm
- RRP: $239
What to consider when buying an outdoor heater
When considering an outdoor heater, it’s important to first take into account the heating reach you’ll need. For example, a tabletop gas heater can typically generate heat for up to 6m² and is a nice feature for dining under the stars, whereas a patio heater with a multi-reflector has the capability of warming an area up to 17m², making it ideal for larger outdoor entertaining areas.
Another consideration is the size and function of your outdoor area. Is your patio undercover or an open area? Do you use it to entertain or relax? How many can you fit in the space? All of these questions will impact on which heater you should be looking at, as well as saving you from burning through your bank balance on the wrong type of heater.
For large patios, you might like to consider a radiant style heater to help keep everyone warm at the same time. For small gatherings, portable heaters may help create some more ambiance while firepits are ideal for people to congregate around, so you’ll need a spot that’s accessible to all.
If you’re after an outdoor fireplace, be sure to check the size is appropriate for the location. It needs to be positioned on a flat, level surface that’s non-combustible such as concrete pavers, and placed away from the house or other fixtures that might burn. If you’re not sure about an open-flame option, your local fire department or council will generally have guidelines of what you can and can’t have.
Most gas and electric heaters are designed with portability in mind. Large freestanding models typically have wheels in-built to make them mobile for simple positioning, meaning you won’t have to break your back to keep everyone warm.
How much does a gas heater cost to use?
Fuel is a major consideration when it comes to outdoor heaters as running costs can quickly add up. An outdoor freestanding 40,000 BTU gas heater that operates on liquid propane will cost around $3.33 per hour to operate, based on a 9kg propane cylinder which costs around $30 to buy (i.e. the heater burns through 1kg per hour). However, costs differ depending on the heater size and usage settings. It’s also common to refill gas tanks rather than replacing them, so costs could be lower in the long-run.
Natural gas heaters are generally cheaper to operate than propane gas heaters as there are no upfront fuel costs involved. But while natural gas typically costs less per megajoule than LPG, customers must pay an additional ‘supply charge’ for having mains gas connected to their property, which will depend on the energy retailer and location.
How long do gas cylinders last for?
A standard 9kg liquid propane cylinder typically lasts for around 8-9 hours on a high setting for a freestanding outdoor gas heater, with a 30MJ/h maximum heating output.
How much does an electric heater cost to use?
Electricity may be more expensive than gas, but you might still find an energy-efficient electric outdoor heater. However, this will depend on how much energy the heater uses. For example, a 2200W electric heater would cost about $0.60 per hour to run, based on a typical usage rate in QLD of 27.6246c/kWh.
How much does a wood-fire heater cost to use?
If you decide on a wood-fire heater, keep in mind that you’ll also need plenty of fuel – a steady supply of firewood in this case. Plus, think about a place where you can store all the wood as it’s recommended to keep wood out of the weather so it’s dry and burns well.
Which outdoor heater should I buy?
No crisp weather can stop a backyard BBQ, but constantly shivering through the cold is no way to enjoy a classic snag or burger. To help you enjoy your time outside without rugging up, an outdoor heater is certainly something to consider if you’re looking to entertain during the cooler months.
- For those who have a large entertaining space, freestanding gas heaters could be the way to go. You can also connect some gas heaters to a natural gas line, so you won’t have to worry about buying propane gas bottles.
- For small decks, a table-top gas heater might suffice if placed on your outdoor table.
- If you want the heater to be out of the way but still cover a large area, you might like to consider a mountable radiant style heater for targeted warmth. You can buy as many as required for your patio – the larger the area, the more you’ll need – with running costs typically low.
- If you have a flat, open area, a firepit is another option you might like to keep in mind. There are different sizes available and plenty of designs to help fit in with your outdoor aesthetic.
Once you’ve decided what size you need, and where you’re putting it, which outdoor heater you decide to take home with you will ultimately come down to your budget and preference. With plenty of brands and models available, you’ll find something to warm up with in no time.
Picture credits: Monkey Business Images/shutterstock.com, By Ints Vikmanis/shutterstock.com, N. Mitchell/shutterstock.com, MPH Photos/shutterstock.com, Logra/shutterstock.com, Sunshine Studio/shutterstock.com, Ints Vikmanis/shutterstock.com