How to heat an outdoor patio

There’s no need to let colder weather put ice on your outdoor celebrations. With a little research and planning, you can find the solution on how to heat an outdoor patio and keep your guests comfortable any time of the year. Thanks to a wide variety of propane patio heating options on the market - from hanging heaters for large areas, free-standing heaters, firepits, and tabletop units - there’s a type of heater that will meet your needs.  

5 ways to heat your outdoor space 

It’s important to understand the features of all the different propane-powered heat sources to find the solution that will work best in your outdoor space. Each offers its own advantages and limitations. Armed with this knowledge, combined with your specific needs, you’ll be able to make an informed choice for your family.

Firepits and Firetables 

  • Best UseOpenwell ventilated outdoor spaces 
  • What consumers like: Ease of use. Propane-fueled firepits and firetables are instantly on and off, with no need to constantly feed firewood to keep the fire going. Plus, there’s no annoying cloud of smoke to evade, and no morning-after campfire aroma on your clothing.  
  • Heating capacity: Generally between 30,000 and 100,000 BTUs. The higher the BTU, the more heat the unit can produce.  
  •  Additional benefits: Tables and pits create a natural gathering place for conversations, roasting marshmallows, staging food and drinks, and playing card or board games. They also create a centerpiece around which patio furniture can be arranged. Propane firepits and firetables are a low cost way to gather people together in winter months, providing enough warmth to keep people comfortable.  

Fireplaces

  • Best Use: Outdoors, in well ventilated areas 
  • What consumers like: Exceptional warmth and ambiance, delivered in a more permanent manner that is sleek and clean.  
  • Heating capacity: Anywhere from 8,000 to 60,000 BTUs, which is on the upper end better than traditional wood burning fireplaces.  
  • Additional benefits: Very little maintenance required, and there’s no mess from storing and transporting firewood. Over the life of the fireplace, it’s a low-cost alternative to other outdoor heating options, such as electric, with much less upkeep than a wood-burning fireplace. There are no rogue sparks or embers to worry about, and once you’re ready to call it a night - the fire goes out with the flip of a switch.  

Free standing patio heaters 

  • Best Use: Patios and decks, large open spaces, and outdoor restaurant dining areas.  
  • What consumers like: Versatility and portability. Though sometimes large, they can be moved to an area where heat is most needed. They are also applicable to a number of outdoor uses and scenarios.  
  • Heating capacity: Most free standing patio heaters produce up to 40,000 BTUs and distribute even heat up to 20 to 25 foot diameter - which covers the typical patio or deck.  
  • Additional benefits: This style of heater is easy to set up and require little maintenance. They come in a variety of sizes to meet different needs, and heating levels are adjustable. The propane tank is contained within the heater, making relocating them easy and simple.  

Tabletop heaters 

  • Best Use: Perfect for small areas, when heat is needed for a limited space or group of people.  
  • What consumers like: Highly portable - and can be moved from one location to another. They also are relatively low cost, meaning several can be used in one area. They’re versatile, and can be deployed in different manners to deliver heat directly where it’s needed.  
  • Heating capacity: Typically 9,000 to 12,000 BTUs 
  • Additional benefits: Their small size makes these heaters incredibly functional and versatile. They can be moved apart to cover an entire area, or closer together to better heat one smaller area. Since they rely on propane, there’s no need for electricity or locating them close to a wall outlet as electric heaters require.  

Infrared heaters and overhead heaters 

  • Best Use: Zone heating in an area that requires direct heat in one place. Overhead heaters are ideal for garages, workshops and large covered patios.  
  • What consumers like: Highly efficient, direct heat. Unlike other types of outdoor heaters, infrared heaters don’t heat the air around them, but rather heat the object directly in its path. This type of heat radiates outward to heat other objects in the area.  
  • Heating capacity: Generally between 22,000 and 60,000 BTUs - but since it’s radiant all the heat produced is used. Larger outputs for overhead heaters used to heat large spaces.  
  • Additional benefits: Very low maintenance. Safety features protect against accidental burns from the exterior surface. Infrared heaters operate silently, quickly, and provide comfortable and gentle heat directly where it’s needed. They are highly energy efficient, and use much less fuel than traditional heaters. Infrared heat also doesn’t dry out the air like other style heaters.  

What they all have in common

Though there is a wide selection of propane heaters, they all have some elements in common. They rely on clean burning propane for a fuel source. They produce heat instantly, unlike their electric counterparts, and don’t require access to electricity. Propane heaters of any type also require less maintenance and produce less mess than wood-burning fireplaces.

Another advantage of propane patio heaters is the variability and portability. As your outdoor entertaining moves from season to season, you can move the heaters and adjust the settings to match the outside conditions.

How much heat do you need to heat your space?

You’ll need to know the size of the area you plan to heat, a basic understanding of BTUs, and some thought about your local weather trends to determine the size, or how many heaters you’ll need.  

For example, a heater with 5,000 BTUs can generally heat an area up to 150 square feet while a 2,000 square foot area requires 34,000 BTUs. However, many users will opt for multiple heaters to cover a larger area instead of relying on a large heater to cover the entire area. This creates multiple points of heat, and allows for the ability to relocate the heaters to meet specific demands of different events and gatherings.

Use the table below to get an idea of how many BTUs you will need based on the size of your space.

Contact Ferrellgas for outdoor living assistance

Always remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions, and to follow standard safety practices when using your patio heater needs for outdoor living. Place it on a sturdy, level, non-flammable surface, and use it in an open, well ventilated and uncovered space. If you have any questions or need assistance picking the right propane heater for your patio, reach out to your local Ferrellgas dealer to visit with a qualified technician.

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