Which is Better: Propane or Electric Patio Heater?

Written By Kenneth Wilson  |  0 Comments

With the weather getting cooler, it’s time to find equipment to keep you and your guests warm during the evening. This way, you don’t need to head home early just because the cool air started to creep in.

One piece of furniture you can get is a patio heater. Aside from providing heat, it also adds appeal to your outdoor area and enhances the evening’s atmosphere. There are different styles and kinds of outdoor heaters. You can choose one depending on its shape, size, and fuel source.

If you’re not sure which one to get, here’s a guide comparing a propane patio heater and an electric patio heater. I’ll share with you the functions and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

I hope this will help you determine which one is best for your home so you can enjoy your night longer.

Propane Patio Heater

A propane patio heater is one of the most common types used for residential and commercial purposes. It can provide instant heat using liquid petroleum gas or LPG, so it will need a gas tank. You can choose the size of the tank ─ there’s one pound, 20 pounds, 40 pounds, and 100 pounds.

There is also an option to install a propane gas line that connects to the patio heater that is mounted on the wall or ceiling. If you choose to do this, you will have to sacrifice portability.

Propane patio heaters come in different styles and some models even have mantels where you can place drinks, plates, and more. It can have an umbrella style to prevent heat from rising or glass tubing that turns it into a lamp as well.

This type cannot be used in enclosed areas as there is a risk of carbon monoxide buildup. It will also be more expensive because it has to be quality tested to avoid gas leaks and other fire hazards. But you can find some models that automatically shut-off when it is tilted, making it a safer alternative.


  • Fast heating: Can quickly heat up an area
  • More heat: Offers larger varieties and usually provides 40,000 BTUs or more
  • Wide range: Can provide heat up to 20 feet
  • Portable: Easily relocate to where it is needed
  • Independent: Comes with its own power source
  • Design: Adds to the ambiance and becomes a centerpiece
  • Cost-effective: Uses less energy


  • Propane tank: Requires a tank for the fuel source
  • Operate: Harder to light or turn on
  • Constant refilling: Need to check and refill fuel supply
  • Proximity: Must not be placed near combustibles
  • Requires installation: Set-up the heater and tank
  • Limited: Needs to meet clearance requirements
  • Expensive: More expensive than electric patio heaters

Fire Sense Hammer Patio Heater

46,000 BTUs
Lasts 10 hours for a 20-pound LPG tank
Piezo ignition system
Powder coated bronze finish
Comes with tip over protection system
Has wheels for portability
20-pound gas tank not included

Electric Patio Heater

An electric patio heater is a quick and easy way to heat up your deck or patio. This type uses a heating bulb to provide warmth, specifically infrared short-wave technology. As the name suggests, its fuel source is electricity and it will work with most household outlets. Most models need 230 to 240 volts to work, but at least you don’t need to constantly refill the fuel supply.

Note: You will need to check and occasionally replace the bulbs.

Since it requires electricity, you can only use this heater when there is an electrical outlet or extension cord available. This is a problem since some people prefer not to ruin their yard’s look with cords snaking through the grass. The upside is that you and your family won’t be at risk of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or buildup of other emissions.

There are several varieties of electric patio heater. There are table top models or lamp-shaped heaters, freestanding ones, floor units to heat upwards, wall-mounted types to heat downwards, and units that can be placed above the door frame.


  • Easy to use: Simply plug it in then turn it on
  • Flexible: Great for areas with not enough ventilation
  • Proximity: Can be placed near combustibles
  • Safety: Best for small, partially-covered, and enclosed outdoor areas
  • Variety: Dozens of styles and types
  • Low-maintenance: You just need to take care of the cord
  • Appearance: Smaller and less obtrusive
  • Less expensive: Almost half the price of propane patio heaters
  • No refills: Unlimited fuel source (unless there’s no power or you didn’t pay your electricity bill)


  • Dependent: Needs an electrical outlet or extension cord
  • Slow heating: Takes time to heat up an area
  • Heat level: Doesn’t provide as much heat, around 5,000 BTUs
  • No flames: Doesn’t create the same ambiance as other types
  • Range: Only heats up the area in its direct beam, usually a 12-feet radius
  • Long-term cost: Higher energy cost
  • Not as portable: Can only be placed where there is an outlet or extension cord

Sundate Electric Outdoor Heater

3 power levels
Comes with remote control and LED display
Has a 24-hour timer and tip over switch
Works indoors and outdoors
Can be freestanding or wall-mounted
Water-proof and has an automatic overheat protection

Comparing Patio Heaters: Propane vs. Electric

To make it easier for you, here are some factors and the best option for each one. Determine which factors are important to you and see which is suggested more ─ propane or electric?




Heat Level


Provides Higher Temperature

Heat Speed


Quicker to heat up the area

Heat Range


Heat reaches farther than electric patio heaters



Easier to use and operate



Just plug-in and turn on



Less expensive than propane patio heaters



Less energy costs in the long-run



Easier to maintain than a propane patio heater



Has an independent fuel source



Real flames add more ambiance



Can be replaced near combustibles



Better option when used often

About the Author

I can build it, and I can help you get the patio enclosure you want! I got my start in the Florida patio industry back in the 70s as a young general laborer looking for something to make a few bucks. At the time I never thought it would end up as my career. Over the years I grew beyond the laborer position, becoming a foreman, superintendent, and then into executive management for some of the largest patio contractors, and material vendors. Now into retirement and slightly bored, I offer consulting services to new and existing contractors, and publish this website to help the people who love their patio's and screen enclosures the most - YOU!

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