Outdoor Heaters Buying Guide

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 fire. 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

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 freestanding: 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 freestanding heaters is gas.
  • Tabletop: Can be used as a centerpiece 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 fire heaters

Read on to find out more about what to expect with each fuel type, as well as common brands and models.

What is an outdoor gas heater?

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 $3,000.

Gas heaters are claimed to be almost odourless and clean-burning, according to some 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 list the dimensions of products, allowing you to plan ahead when it comes to finding a space for your new heater.

Jumbuck Charcoal Gas Patio Outdoor Heater

Jumbuck Charcoal Gas Patio Outdoor Heater

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 (JDS06-PCC). With a 38.5 MJ/h heat output, it’s claimed to heat an area up to 13m². The Jumbuck outdoor heater also has a push-button ignition system, with an adjustable temperature setting to ensure you get the right amount of toastiness, plus a safety valve that shuts off the unit if it were to fall over. It additionally comes with wheels for easy mobility and a powder-coated finish to fit in with the house aesthetic.

  • Dimensions (WxHxL): 700 x 2020 x 700mm
  • RRP: $159*

Gasmate Meridian Area Heater

Gasmate Area Heater

If a low ceiling is preventing you from having a patio heater, Gasmate suggests area heaters like its Meridian Area Heater (AH2063ODS) could be a suitable alternative. The model is claimed to last up to nine hours with a 9kg propane cylinder and has a 30 MJ/h gas usage, similar to many patio heaters. It also includes a rotary direct ignition and adjustable heat settings.

For safety, the Gasmate outdoor heater contains a standard tip-over switch as well as an oxygen depletion system, which turns the heater off once it senses the unit has low oxygen levels. This area heater additionally features a hammertone finish.

  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 400 x 1350 x 400mm
  • RRP: $399*

What is an outdoor electric heater?

Outdoor Electric Heaters

Electric heaters provide radiant heat for targeted warmth and usually feature a heat strip design that requires it to be mounted to the ceiling. Different brands describe this type of heater as a stylish and energy-efficient heating solution for outdoor areas, typically costing between $600 and $4,000.

There is a variety of electric heaters on the market, so make sure to do a deep search to find what best fits your home. For smaller areas, you might only need to install one heater, but for larger spaces, you may prefer to buy several units to keep your dinner guests cosy. Electric outdoor heaters are also said to be easy to use and don’t require much maintenance, with running costs typically low ─ but you may also want to consider installing a timer controller to help save on energy.

Heatstrip Intense Portable Infrared Radiant Electric Heater

Heatstrip radiant outdoor heater

Heatstrip usually stocks a variety of outdoor gas and electric heaters for commercial use, although you can also snag yourself something designed for residential alfresco areas. Its Intense series includes multiple varieties of the Heatstrip Intense Portable Infrared Radiant Electric Heater, starting from the 2,200W unit. This particular model can be mounted onto the wall or ceiling, between 2.1m to 2.8m high.

Featuring a hexagonal-shaped grille on a sleek stand, this electric heater offers 2,200W of heating power with a carbon filament electric infrared element. This is said to provide spot heating for 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.

  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 1068 x 90 x 120mm
  • RRP: $699*

Bromic 2kW Electric Heater

Bromic outdoor radiant heater

Bromic Heating produces a variety of gas, electric and portable outdoor products like the Bromic 2kW Electric Heater (2620262-1). It’s one of the most affordable options in its Tungsten Smart-Heat Electric series, which is mainly created for outdoor use as well as semi-enclosed spaces. Similar to other models in the range, this unit features a honeycomb mesh screen that’s claimed to distribute heat evenly and improve performance. It also contains a Parabolic Specular Reflector (PSR) which supposedly boosts performance and efficiency by channeling any potentially lost infrared energy back to target via a mirror-finish anodised rear reflector.

The Bromic electric heater additionally comes with a remote heater control for wireless control. This particular Bromic 2000 Series electric heater is stated to heat areas up to 6m², although you can opt for any of the other models in the series if you need more coverage.

  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 1,117 x 86 x 214mm
  • RRP: $950*

What is an outdoor wood fire heater?

Outdoor Wood fire Heaters

If you’re after that cosy feeling of a fireplace, or you’re keen to break out the marshmallows, perhaps a wood fire 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 centerpiece. 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 fire heaters can range anywhere from $50 to more than $500.

Northcote Pottery Glow Acheron Fire Pit

Northcote Pottery Glow Acheron Fire Pit

Northcote Pottery offers its ‘Glow’ outdoor heating range with a collection of fire pits and chimineas available. The Acheron Fire Pit (NPACHRN) 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 GRC Stone Firepit

Fiammetta GRC Round Stone Firepit 

Fiammetta offers gas, wood fire and electric heaters within its extensive lineup. This stone fire pit (LG909) features a black steel fire bowl with a mesh spark screen and a stone look GRC base. It also contains an 82.5cm diameter steel fire pit and 360° fire view. 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): 900 x 530 x 900mm
  • RRP: $239*

What is the best outdoor heater

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.

Location

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 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.

Portability

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 may cost around $3.33 per hour to operate, based on a 9kg propane cylinder which can cost around $30 to buy (i.e. the heater burns through 1kg per hour). However, costs differ depending on 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?

A standard 9kg liquid propane cylinder typically lasts for between eight to nine 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?

Are electric heaters expensive 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 2,200W electric heater would cost about $0.60 per hour to run, based on a hypothetical usage rate of 27.6246c/kWh. Keep in mind that usage rates vary depending on location.

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 within no time.

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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

*Prices are taken from retailers, Bunnings, Stax Appliances and The BBQ Store, correct as of May 2021.

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