The first thing to consider when getting an outdoor heater: What kind of fuel does it use? Generally, you have three options:
Electric patio heaters plug into standard electrical outlets, and use a heating bulb to warm up your outdoor area. They are low-maintenance and convenient, says Lowe’s Home Improvement store manager, Janeen DeVillava, and good for smaller, enclosed spaces. The downside, according to Parker: They require close proximity to an electric outlet, and can be affected by power outages.
Propane-powered outdoor heaters use propane from tanks like those attached to your standard gas-powered grill, and heat up relatively quickly compared to electric heaters. They’re also a little more portable and flexible, as they don’t need to plug into anything. They do, however, sometimes require some assembly, and, as DeVillava says, are best suited for “well-ventilated outdoor decks and patios.”
Natural gas heaters are connected to natural gas lines, and generally are more stationary than the other two options because their fuel source is usually fixed. (So if you go with this option, make sure you like where you’re putting it.) They provide “exceptional heat,” Parker says, and, according to the Home Depot, are best for larger, more open outdoor settings.
Aside from fuel options, another thing to look for is the style of patio heater, which generally breaks down into mounted or hanging, tabletop, and standalone heaters (plus fire pits, but that’s another article).