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Electric vs Propane Patio Heater: Which Has More Benefits?

It doesn’t do to shiver while you’re trying to enjoy the beautiful view of your backyard while sitting on your patio with your family. Not when you can solve the problem by getting electric or propane heaters. Which one should you get though? How do you know which one would bring you the most benefits while remaining affordable? 

Let’s find out in Electric vs. Propane patio heaters, which one makes more sense to get. 

What Are Electric Patio Heaters?

Electric patio heaters work by heating a lamp or similar element with electricity, producing infrared heat through the process. This heat travels via electromagnetic waves until it reaches objects in its coverage area. 

Electric patio heater

In the case of electric patio heaters, the air itself isn’t being warmed. Instead, objects close to the heater are directly absorbing the electromagnetic waves. We are among the objects who take in this infrared heat. 

This is pretty much how the heat from the sun warms us. However, due to the lack of intensity, infrared heat doesn’t carry any UV rays that could harm us. 

Since infrared heat is light by all accounts, it travels the same way. It follows a straight line and the further the object is, the lower amount of infrared heat reaches it. 

For electric patio heaters, you might need several of them to warm you up. Alternatively, you could sit particularly close to the heater to warm yourself up. 

What Are Propane Patio Heaters?

In the case of propane heaters, propane fuel is kept inside a tank. You can either burn it manually or have an automatic system. The propane heaters come with a thermostat to regulate the intensity of the heat. 

Propane patio heater

Propane heaters can work without any sort of electric connection. 

Some propane heaters are separate units that can be stashed anywhere. Others have to be mounted to a wall or ceiling. Propane patio heaters are generally freestanding. 

The output is measured in BTU, rather than in watts, which is for electricity. 

Electric vs. Propane Patio Heaters: Comparison

Electric patio heaters and propane patio heaters are both excellent choices for outdoor use. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages for the user. 

Go through our detailed Electric vs. Propane patio heaters comparison to understand which one you would benefit from. 

Heater cost

On a per-unit basis, electric patio heaters cost less than propane ones. It’s not a huge difference in amount. An electric patio heater would be $100 while a propane heater would be $150. 

However, even when it comes to overall energy use, propane heater costs more. Electric heaters run on electricity so you do get an electricity bill. 

How often you are on your patio though? Or how long are you likely to keep your patio heater running? Not too long. So, the ultimate electricity bill isn’t much. 

For propane heaters, you will have to keep on buying propane to power the heater. The current residential propane cost is $2.983 per gallon

So, propane patio heaters are pricey both in unit cost and energy cost. 

Portability of the Heaters

Electric heaters either have to be plugged into a grounded outlet or have to be mounted in place. Actually, the common versions in the market are the ones you have to mount. This means you might have to bring a professional to set it up. 

The propane heater’s reliance on propane allows you to move the unit wherever you please. You could set it up anywhere in any corner of your backyard, on your patio, or depending on the model size, on one of those patio tables. 

Regardless of where you set it up, the propane heater should have proper ventilation. Otherwise, you are inviting in a fire hazard. 

Safety Factor

Unless your electric outlet bursts with no warning, electric patio heaters are safe compared to propane patio heaters. Electric heaters are more environmentally friendly than propane heaters too, as there is no need to burn fuel. 

Safety!

These days, you might even find specifically eco-friendly electric patio heaters. 

Propane heaters can’t produce heat without burning fuel. The heaters have to be well-ventilated. There should also be enough propane in the heater so the unit doesn’t tip over. 

If the propane heater tips over, you can expect the fire to spread quickly. 

Propane heaters are especially dangerous with pets and children in your home. They might accidentally touch the open flames of the heaters while playing around. 

Electric heaters remain cool to touch so even if your children come in contact, there is no need to worry. 

Heat Output

Propane heaters produce a high amount of heat. Over 100 to 200 square feet, the BTU measurement is about 4000 to 8000. 

When covering 2,800 to 3,000 sq. ft, propane heaters can easily produce about 160,000. The most common models people buy produce about 50,000 BTU. 

Comparatively, the coverage area of electric heaters is way lower. It does not go past 3000 watts usually. Yet, electric heaters are energy efficient. The amount of electricity it uses up is the exact amount it takes to produce heat. 

The propane used doesn’t measure up to the heat produced. Still, propane heaters are more powerful when it comes to raw heat production. On particularly chilly nights, it is the heater you want. 

Maintenance and Lifespan

Both types of patio heaters can last several years. Generally, propane patio heaters require a bit more maintenance and vigilance on your part. 

For electric heaters, you have to make sure the metal, wiring, etc inside are in good condition. The lifespan is similar to almost all electrical products. 

For propane patio heaters, it is the gas canister that has to be cleaned at regular intervals. 

If maintained properly, both models should last several years. 

Ease of Use

For propane heaters, first, you have to connect the propane tank and then ignite it either by hitting a switch or manually lighting it. 

If you run out of propane, the heater won’t work. So, you have to keep on checking the levels constantly. 

Electric heaters require you to plug in the cord and hit the switch. So, when it comes to efficiency and how quickly you can get it to work, electric heaters do come out as winners. 

3 Best Electric Patio Heaters 

#1 Dr Infrared Heater DR-238 Carbon Infrared Outdoor Heater

From Dr. Infrared heater, we are looking at a  carbon infrared, extremely tiny electric patio heater. 

The heater can be installed on the wall, on the ceiling, or even on a tripod. 

Dr Infrared patio heater

Running on a 120-volt outlet, there are three heat modes. You can lower it to 900 watts, keep it at the moderate 1200 watts level or get the highest output of 1500 watts. There is also another version of the same model in the market with 3000 watts output. 

The heating efficiency is strong due to the carbon lamp, in addition to the aluminum reflector with a 90% reflectivity level. You can control the electric heater via the remote provided with the package. 

The timer option allows you to configure the heater to shut off after running for a specific time. You don’t have to worry about raking up the electricity bill because you forgot about turning it off. 

Best features:

  • IP55-approved for outdoor and indoor use. 
  • Weatherproof aluminum construction. 
  • 3 power settings. 
  • Timer option. 

#2- Paraheeter Hanging Patio Heater, 1500W Outdoor/Indoor Electric Patio Heater

The design itself is extremely attractive for this one. This is a patio heater you can hand from the ceiling. The overall design allows the patio heater to blend in with your patio decor. 

Paraheeter Hanging Patio Heater

There is a rope switch hanging from the heater which you can use to power it on. Since this is a ceiling-mounted heater, you should set it up over the seating area. 

There are three heating modes, ranging from 600 watts to 900 watts and 1500 watts. 

Due to the halogen tube used, the heater has an efficiency lifespan of 5000 hours. IP55 waterproof rating also makes it perfect for your patio. 

Best features:

  • Automatic shut-off on overheating. 
  • Waterproof heater for outdoor use. 
  • 3 heating modes. 
  • Rope switch for easy on and off. 

#3-TRUSTECH Patio Heater – Outdoor Heater 

This Trustech electric patio heater is a standing one. There is no need to mount it on a ceiling or a wall. You can set it up anywhere you want in your patio, as long as an electric outlet is close by to plug in the cord. 

Trustech stand patio heater

The heater comes with a pole with a height adjustment option from 5”9” to 6”6” feet. The main heating element can also be angled 45 degrees so you can adjust the area it is providing heat to. 

The heater passes all kinds of safety ratings and remains cool to touch. Additionally, there is a rapid heating system. The heater will heat up in 3 seconds after you turn it on. 

Best features:

  • Rapid heat production in 3 seconds. 
  • Height adjustable. 
  • Rotating heating element. 
  • Easy assembly. 

3 Best Propane Patio Heaters 

#1-Patio Heater, EAST OAK 50,000 BTU Outdoor Patio Heater 

This 18-foot propane patio heater has a BTU measurement of 50,000. 

The construction is of high-quality stainless steel, with a double cover grill. The heater is also made with anti-tilt and flame protection, which is the main gripe people have for buying propane heaters. 

East Oak propane patio heater

The heater is mostly pre-assembled. You can set it all up in about 40 minutes. 

The ignition mechanism is a switch so no need to manually light it up. There is also a knob for you to adjust the degree of the heat. 

All this and the propane patio heater is mostly inexpensive. 

Best features:

  • Pre-assembled parts. 
  • 3-year customer support. 
  • Anti-tilt protection. 
  • Flame safety protection. 

#2-Amazon Basics 46,000 BTU Outdoor Propane Patio Heater 

The 46000 BTU output with a 9-foot radius is pretty good for this price range. 

Additionally, the heater also comes with a chain for you to secure the tank. When the heater is not in use, you can secure it to avoid any damage. 

Amazon Basics propane patio heater

If the heater tilts over, it will shut off automatically, thus preventing the chance of a fire erupting. 

The heater comes with a wheel kit and water box so you can weigh the levels of the propane. The propane gas tank isn’t a part of the package, so you will have to buy it separately. 

The construction is plastic, aluminum, and steel, so it might not be the sturdiest propane heater out there. However, aluminum and steel are used for the right areas. 

To ignite it, there is an easy button. 

Best features:

  • Chain for securing the tank. 
  • Auto-shutoff on tilting. 
  • Easy assembly. 

#3-Hiland HLDSO1-WGTHG Pyramid Glass Tube Propane Patio Heater

The best part of this propane patio heater from Hiland would easily be the design. 

The pyramid structure would look extremely good on your patio, especially if you have a slightly offbeat decor. 

Hiland propane patio heater

The coverage area of the patio heater is 10 feet while the BTU is 40,000. It is safe to say the heater is a powerful one. 

It comes with a good ignitor, a safety-shut-off option, and a moderator for low and high heat. 

The heater works with a 20 lb propane tank. If you use up all the propane, the heater will last for 8 to 10 hours. 

The glass-encased flames are also visually appealing. It will look perfect on a pool-side patio. 

Best features:

  • Auto-shutoff on tilting. 
  • Innovative design. 
  • 10 square feet coverage. 
  • 20 lb propane tank for 8-10 hour use. 

Final Thoughts

Electric patio heaters do appear to be the better option in comparison to propane heaters. If you don’t need a portable heater, electric heaters are the inexpensive and safer choice. A propane heater makes sense when you need a heater that works without electricity. If a power outage occurs for some long periods (like in 2020), propane heater would prove a blessing.