Last updated: August 9, 2021

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Do you love to sit on your terrace or in the garden until late in the evening? However, you are often cold? Have you ever thought about getting a patio heater? With a patio heater, you are warm all around and nothing stands in your way of spending your evenings in the garden until late at night. There are also compact versions of patio heaters that are also suitable for camping trips and festival visits.

If you are also looking for a patio radiant heater, you should read our patio radiant heater test 2021. Here we present different models and help you to make a purchase decision.




Summary

  • Patio radiant heaters provide a cosy and above all warm ambience even on cool evenings outdoors - whether in the garden, at the campsite or at the festival.
  • Basically, a distinction is made between gas radiant heaters and infrared radiant heaters, which are distinguished from each other in particular by the way they transfer heat.
  • Gas radiant heaters are particularly flexible because, unlike their infrared competitors, they are not tied to a power grid. For direct body-related heat transfer, however, the electricity-powered devices are more suitable.

The Best Patio Heater: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a patio heater

Can I also rent patio heaters?

If you only need your patio heater for a limited time, you can also rent a heater as an alternative to buying one.

In large German cities, you will find a few dealers who offer the rental of patio heaters directly on site. You can find out on the internet whether this option is also available in your city. Otherwise, you can also look for dealers on the internet who rent out heaters online.

When renting a radiant heater, you can pay per hour, per day or even per month, depending on how long you want to use the product. When using multiple items, negotiating the price is permitted and recommended.

Furthermore, the rental of a radiant heater always includes insurance and usually also delivery. This saves time, money and nerves.

How much electricity/gas does a patio heater consume?

Consumption of a gas radiant heater

According to the rule of thumb, a gas heater consumes on average about 0.334kg of gas per hour. With larger heaters, the consumption increases to approx. 0.6kg/h.

Besides the size, however, other factors are relevant for the gas consumption.

For example:

  • a defective gas supply
  • outside temperatures that are too low
  • a defective radiant heater or
  • poorly filled bottles

significantly influence or increase gas consumption.

The gas cylinders, which are usually filled with propane gas, are usually used in "domestic" use in the 5kg or 11kg version and can therefore, depending on the heat output and model of the heater, provide heat from just under 10 hours up to 20 or in some cases even up to 60 hours.

Consumption of an electric heater

Just as with gas-powered models, the consumption of an electric infrared radiant heater depends on certain external influences:

  • the installation height
  • the orientation of the heater
  • given protection from wind and weather conditions
  • Size of the area to be heated

For a surface area of 10sqm, an average energy consumption of approx. 1.8kW can be assumed.

For a smaller area, a power of 2,000 watts is sufficient in any case, whereas for larger areas up to 30 square metres, a power of 8,000 watts is recommended. In the end, the decisive factor is again the area of use of your radiant heater.

What do I have to consider regarding the safety of patio heaters?

The safety precautions of patio radiant heaters should be observed with care without exception in order to exclude a possible fire hazard.

When buying a gas radiant heater, you should first of all - regardless of the gas or infrared heating system - always make sure that the device is CE-certified and TÜV-tested and, especially after prolonged use, carry out regular maintenance. Ideally, this should be done by a specialist every two years at the latest.

The following applies to every type of patio heater:

  • Keep children and pets away from patio heaters
  • Carefully assemble the radiant heater according to the instructions for use and check the pipes to ensure that there are no sealing defects
  • Always keep a safe distance from flammable objects
  • Mount on/on level, stable ground and protected from possible impact so that the heater cannot tip over or fall down
  • The heater is still hot after it has been switched off!

Safety, especially with gas radiant heaters

For increased safety, your radiant heater should be equipped with an ignition safety device to prevent the unwanted escape of gas. The lowest power should always be set when using the heater. If necessary, you can always obtain spare parts from a specialist shop.

Use in closed rooms is not permitted. This also applies to tents, unless(!) they are very spacious, sufficiently ventilated catering tents. In this case, however, a safety distance of at least two metres above and one metre next to the radiant heater must be ensured.

In addition, a gas radiant heater may only be set up in such a way that any escaping gas cannot get into air or light shafts. Since liquid gas is heavier than air, it can become an explosive mixture in these areas. Because of the high temperatures above the patio heater, it should also be avoided at all costs to set it up under low-hanging awnings.

Many gas heaters are now equipped with an automatic shut-off function to prevent an explosion in the event of the heater tipping over. When buying your heater, it is therefore advisable to make sure that this is available.

Safety, especially with electric infrared heaters

At the beginning, you should pay attention to the area you want to heat. Too high or too low a heat output in a given room can lead to heat accumulation or insufficient heating effect.

In the case of a wall or ceiling-mounted radiant heater, proper installation must be observed. Power cables should always be placed at a safe distance from the heat source and away from any risk of tripping; ideally, you should fix them away from passages or directly to the wall.

Basically, if used correctly and all safety instructions are followed, patio heaters are a safe, harmless way to spend cosy days and evenings outdoors even at low temperatures.

What do I have to consider when maintaining my patio heater?

Maintenance of a patio radiant heater is strongly recommended at regular intervals, but at least every two years. Ideally, checks take place at the beginning of each season.

If the heater shows unusual behaviour or has tipped over, it should be taken out of service immediately and checked by a professional. This can be, for example, a person from the gas or water sector, or in the best case, the dealer of your product.

Only after the all-clear has been given or, if necessary, a repair has been carried out by a specialist may the radiant heater be used again.

It is important to carefully keep the inspection certificate and inspection records after each maintenance so that you can provide evidence of proper maintenance in the event of a defect.

It is best to service a patio heater at the beginning of each season, but at least every two years. After maintenance, you should always keep the inspection certificate to have proof in case the radiant heater suddenly has a defect. (Photo: Harald_Landsrath / pixabay.com)

What does a patio heater cost?

The costs of a patio heating system are very difficult to generalise. The decisive factors are the model and equipment of the device.

Both gas and infrared heaters vary in terms of size, performance, design, material and workmanship and can therefore be found in the lower price segment at under 100 euros, but also in the much higher three- or even four-digit range.

Depending on the individual requirements, additional elements such as light, remote control or other articles around the heater may be added.

Of course, you mustn't forget that in addition to the purchase costs, the energy costs also determine the final price. These, in turn, depend on the frequency of use, performance level and service life of the device.

Did you know that the energy consumed by a gas heater in one hour can heat an interior of the same size 6 times longer?

The Federal Environment Agency has calculated this and would like to draw attention to the conscious use of radiant heaters.

Since there is always a certain risk with radiant heaters despite compliance with the regulations, it is advisable not to save at the wrong end - at the expense of quality!

What temperatures does a patio radiant heater reach?

Depending on the type of patio heater, different surface temperatures can be reached. They are high in any case, which is why special caution is required when using them.

Conventional infrared radiant heaters, for example, can reach an average surface temperature of 300-650°C, whereas this settles much lower, at 70-280°C, due to the additional blinds on dark radiant heaters. But even at a distance of one metre from the heat source, the heating is about body temperature and thus harmless at such a distance.

Decision: What types of patio heaters are there and which is the right one for you?

Basically, you can distinguish between two types of patio radiant heaters:

  • Patio heaters with gas
  • Patio heaters with infrared energy

The basic distinction between these two categories of heaters lies in the way they transfer heat.

Depending on the areas you want to use your radiant heater for and how much importance you place on energy efficiency, mobility and visual appearance, a different type of patio heater is best suited for you. In the following section, we would like to help you decide which type of heater best suits your individual needs.

For this purpose, we will introduce you to the two types of heating systems mentioned above and clearly present the advantages and disadvantages of each.

How does a gas radiant heater work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Gas-powered patio heaters are among the classic heating devices, can be used flexibly and, in addition to providing heat, can also be visually impressive, for example when a flame is visible.

Gas heaters, like a wood fire in a fireplace, work with convection heat (heating of the ambient air). To generate this heat, a gas is first ignited - regardless of whether it is a mushroom heater or a gas flare.

The resulting gas flame heats a radiating element, whereupon the resulting heat is directed into the environment by a reflector installed behind it. Here, the gas combustion heats the ambient air above the solid body and thus provides an overall soothing, domestic atmosphere.

Advantages
  • Independent of external power supply
  • Very good range
  • Automatic switch-off function
  • Cosy ambience due to visible flames
Disadvantages
  • Energy guzzler despite power regulation
  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Cannot be used indoors
  • Not noiseless and odourless

Thanks to energy operation by means of a gas cylinder, this type of radiant heater is not dependent on a nearby power supply, but is mobile and can be conveniently positioned at any desired location outdoors. This makes models of this type particularly suitable for outdoor events and terraces in catering establishments.

The piezo ignition usually used nowadays (especially in classic mushroom heaters) also facilitates the start-up of the heaters. Since it replaces manual ignition with a match or lighter, nothing stands in the way of a safe start even in windy conditions.

If energy efficiency is your main concern, however, gas-powered radiant heaters are not recommended. Since gas combustion "only" heats the ambient air, the heat quickly dissipates upwards and thus consumes the energy in heating less efficiently than an electric patio heater.

If you still don't want to do without the comfort of mobility, it is a good idea to buy a device with a built-in adjustable thermostat. This allows you to adjust the heat output continuously to the external influences and thus save energy.

Because the combustion of gas also produces toxic, odourless carbon monoxide, gas radiant heaters may only be used outdoors, as otherwise this cannot escape unhindered.

How do patio heaters with infrared energy work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Electric infrared radiant heaters have the advantage that there is no need to handle gas cylinders and they only develop their heat when they hit solid bodies and not in the ambient air. This makes them far more energy-efficient than gas models, with almost 90% heat conversion.

In patio heaters that generate heat through infrared waves, the heating element is usually oriented towards the front and designed to deliver the greatest possible radiation to surrounding objects.

A heat-insulating layer at the back additionally intensifies the radiant heat. By means of electrical energy, which is converted into IR energy, heat is finally generated.

Since there is no unnecessary heating of the ambient air and the heat radiation reaches the surface of the skin directly, infrared radiators heat almost independently of the ambient temperature, so that a cosy sitting together in the fresh air does not give you cold feet even at a few degrees above zero.

The avoidance of unpleasant air turbulence also makes infrared radiant heaters particularly suitable for allergy sufferers.

Advantages
  • Direct heating of surfaces
  • Energy-saving and environmentally friendly
  • Can also be used at very low temperatures
  • Noise and odourless
  • Suitable for open and closed rooms
Disadvantages
  • Dependent on nearby power source
  • Can develop enormous surface temperatures (risk of burns!)

This type of radiant heater is available in different versions. Depending on requirements, models can be purchased with a stand, for wall mounting or for the ceiling.

Modern infrared radiant heaters are also often equipped with a quartz heating rod. This allows a high radiation emission, which increases the performance significantly.

A special form of infrared radiant heaters are the so-called dark radiators. In contrast to the conventional light radiators, these have an additional metal or ceramic cover over the otherwise visible heating elements.

In terms of heat output, dark and light radiators are on the same level. However, the cover reduces the red light, which some people find disturbing, and lowers the surface temperature of the radiator. This significantly reduces the risk of burns.

Incidentally, infrared radiation is an invisible electromagnetic radiation that is basically harmless to humans and can therefore be used without hesitation in the immediate vicinity or indoors, e.g. in conservatories.

Compared to gas-fired patio heaters, infrared radiant heaters are less mobile. Since it is dependent on electricity, an energy source must always be within immediate reach.

Purchase criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate patio heaters

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate patio heaters. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular device is suitable for you or not.

In summary, these are:

  • Type of drive
  • Size and weight
  • Heat output
  • Existing power regulation
  • Design/type of installation
  • Design
  • Safety devices

In the following section you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Type of drive

The type of drive, i.e. electricity or gas, has already been discussed in detail above. Nevertheless, we would like to point out again that the energy source is one of the most important criteria for the purchase decision, as most other criteria depend on it.

Considerations that are important for deciding on the type of drive include whether the radiant heater is to be used exclusively outdoors or occasionally indoors (e.g. in a conservatory).

Which design is preferred? How long and how often do I want to use the radiant heater? And of course: Which heat transfer is the most suitable for me - large-scale or selective?

For a holistic, cosy warmth on the patio with a flickering flame, the gas heater is the top purchase recommendation. Direct, object-directed and, with a continuous power supply, long-term heat is better generated with an infrared heater.

Both types have their advantages and disadvantages and should be weighed up according to individual preferences.

A radiant heater can be used whenever there is not enough heat in the house or heating is not available for a short time. An infrared radiator is becoming more and more trendy.

Dimensions and weight

Depending on the type of drive, the dimensions and weight are extremely different and can be more or less relevant for the purchase decision.

Since a gas-powered radiant heater (almost) always implies a gas bottle, the device also brings this weight with it when in use. However, those who choose a gas heater often do so because of its flexibility.

A two-metre high stainless steel mushroom heater can weigh between 10 and 30 kilograms. Depending on how you use your patio heater or how often you want to move it from A to B to C, you should make sure that it is not too heavy and bulky.

Size also plays a decisive role here. There is a wide selection, from slim, inconspicuous devices to heaters as tall as a person. The important thing is how much surface area and, above all, how many people you want to keep warm. In most cases, the larger the radiant heater (and especially the radiating surface), the more heat.

Infrared radiant heaters are somewhat more restrained in terms of weight and size. Especially for ceiling and wall mounting, the electrically operated units usually come in the form of narrow tubes or compact bodies weighing no more than 2 to 5 kilograms and can be conveniently and space-savingly mounted above the surface to be heated. Electric space heaters are also far less corpulent than gas units.

Heating power

A lot of heat requires a lot of power. But even the less powerful models provide enough heating power to keep you warm on cold days outdoors. When buying or renting a radiant heater, you can get detailed individual advice from a specialist so that you know what power you need for your purposes.

The average heat output used in the catering sector as well as in private use is about 7 kW to 14 kW for gas-powered models and about 1 kW to 4 kW for infrared heaters. It is generally advisable to use these values as a guide when buying.

Did you know that a radiant heater can increase the feeling of warmth by five to eight degrees?

In winter, however, the patio heater does not manage to provide summer temperatures.

A higher heating capacity undoubtedly requires more electricity or gas. This also increases the costs. Of course, this is not surprising, but it should be mentioned and taken into account when buying a heater. If you want to heat a large area, however, this fact should not prevent you from buying a radiant heater with suitable power. After all, if some guests end up freezing, that doesn't make them happy either.

Available power regulation

In order to adjust the heat output to the given circumstances, almost all modern radiant heaters now have a power control. This can be available in steps or steplessly, so that you can regulate manually as you wish.

On the one hand, the power regulation helps to reduce your energy and heat consumption even for smaller groups and areas or to increase it to a greater extent. In this way, you can save gas or electricity and subsequently money, and also reduce the environmental impact.

On the other hand, the heat output can also be adapted to the weather conditions. While sufficient heating power is necessary and desirable when the temperature is just a few degrees above zero, on warmer days no one wants to break out in a sweat because of the excessive heat, but rather enjoy sitting on the terrace in pleasant temperatures.

Design/type of installation

When buying a patio heater, it is important to consider how and where you want to use your heater. There are two answers to this question in order to make a purchase decision: either at a fixed location, or mobile, depending on your needs.

Radiant heaters for ceiling or wall mounting are in principle quite easy to install and are particularly suitable for private use on patios at home. If you regularly sit together in the same place outdoors, you can't go wrong with a fixed device.

There are both gas and infrared models that can be conveniently attached and thus offer the same heating pleasure at all times. However, to guarantee a longer life, care should be taken to ensure that the unit (if wall-mounted) is covered and relatively weather-protected. The angle and height of the mounting are also decisive for the heat output.

Although you can reposition your radiant heater if it is permanently mounted on a wall or ceiling, this involves a certain amount of effort, which is why you should choose the exact location well in advance.

Free-standing radiant heaters offer more leeway here. Especially in the catering business or for events, they are a suitable purchase to generate heat where it is needed without any problems. Especially mushroom heaters are very popular in these areas because they radiate heat all around and, due to their design - similar to a ceiling-mounted radiant heater - emit it above the heads.

Most floor-standing radiant heaters have castors on the lower side, making it easier to move them from time to time. However, many of them can also be fixed for more safety. Follow the instructions for use carefully when installing them.

So whether you are constantly moving your patio furniture around, need a source of heat here and there on your annual camping trip or want to heat the farthest corner of the garden from time to time at a night-time garden party - a radiant heater leaves you free to choose. The prerequisite is, of course, that an infrared model always has a power supply in the immediate vicinity.

Design

As we all know, design and style are a matter of taste. What is not debatable, however, is whether you want to use your radiant heater for purely practical reasons or whether you are looking for a visual eye-catcher in addition to heat generation.

For practical purposes, a simple radiant heater with few frills and a minimalist design should suffice. However, in order not to break the carefully prepared image of a cosy terrace, there are already various designs among the radiant heaters that can be easily integrated into the stylish surroundings.

The pyramid-shaped models from the category of gas radiant heaters are particularly popular. But also other floor or wall-mounted radiant heaters are nowadays elaborately finished with visually advantageous materials or equipped with features such as LED light and height adjustment.

The variety of different looks is limited to the extent that even with an attractive design, the necessary safety must be ensured at all times. However, with a little research and depending on your budget, you should certainly find a radiant heater that not only warms but also visually enhances your patio.

Safety features

As already described in more detail in the guide section, the safety of a radiant heater is the be-all and end-all of any purchase. Quality, equipment and test certificates are the features you should always pay attention to.

In modern development, more and more emphasis is placed on safety, which means that many additional features are now available that may be of great importance to you.

These include, for example, the presence of a piezo ignition, a shut-off timer, automatic shut-off in case of tipping over, a thermostat and heat output control, but also safety devices for installation.

Basically, it can be said here: The more of these safety features there are, the better!

Facts worth knowing about patio heaters

A brief history of the patio radiant heater

For heating purposes, the first gas heaters were developed in the middle of the 19th century on the basis of the Bunsen burner used in other areas.

The radiant heater as we know it today probably originated, thanks to the Scandinavian cold, in Sweden and, according to legend, was discovered by a Berlin taxi driver on holiday who subsequently established it in Germany.

After the introduction of the smoking ban in most German restaurants, the classic mushroom heater experienced a boom in 2008 and made it possible for smokers, too, to enjoy cosy warmth outdoors during the evening pub crawl in the colder months of the year.

Since gas heaters proved to be strong energy guzzlers, they were banned in the gastronomic sector in large parts of Germany. For private and commercial use, on the other hand, they are still permitted and, thanks to further development of technology, are progressively more energy-efficient.

In the meantime, radiant heaters for outdoor use no longer have purely practical uses. Due to the fact that they are available in a variety of designs, the heaters are also a real eye-catcher on patios at home.

How environmentally friendly are patio heaters?

When it comes to "environmental protection", infrared radiant heaters are far ahead of gas-powered devices, despite their heat output control, because they do not emit any harmful gases. If you want to do something good for the environment, you should ideally go for the electric models.

Solar-powered heaters are another modern alternative. However, they are still more expensive than average to buy. The costs of using them, on the other hand, are far below those of their two competitors because they do not use gas or electricity. However, anyone who does not want to be dependent on weather conditions and hours of sunshine for their evening outdoor enjoyment should not prefer these devices.

What are the different forms of infrared radiation?

Since patio heaters with infrared energy can be used both indoors and outdoors, attention should be paid to the type of radiation depending on the use.

In this respect, a distinction is made between short-wave, medium-wave and long-wave radiation. For outdoor use, you should choose a radiant heater with short-wave radiation, unless you prefer a gas heater. They heat objects more deeply and directly than medium- or long-wave radiation. The latter are therefore preferred in closed rooms.

Which gas is the right one for my gas radiant heater?

For use in heaters, a distinction is usually made between two liquid gases: propane and butane.

Generally, gas cylinders are mainly filled with propane gas, as this can also be used at temperatures far below zero and is therefore most suitable for cold winter evenings.

Butane gas, on the other hand, can no longer be used at temperatures above freezing point and is therefore preferred for summer and warmer days. Its advantage lies in its higher calorific value compared to propane.

To achieve the greatest possible benefit, a mixture of both gases is often used.

Where can I buy gas cylinders for my gas heater?

When purchasing a gas cylinder, you have two options:

Buying a proprietary cylinder

You buy a cylinder of ownership or a cylinder of use once. It belongs to you and can therefore only be resold privately, i.e. the seller will not reimburse you for it. Ownership bottles are usually marked by the grey colour and the embossing "use" or "camping".

The advantage is that you are not tied to a particular brand and, if the bottle is empty, you are free to decide where to have it refilled, depending on what is most convenient for you. You can buy gas cylinders in the shops for between 20 and 40 euros.

Renting a gas cylinder

Rental bottles or "deposit bottles" are characterised by their striking colour (red, green or blue), usually bear the brand name of the supplier and have a deposit logo.

As with drinks bottles, a deposit is left behind when you buy them, which you get back when you return the bottle. Rental cylinders can only be refilled at the respective provider and are therefore tied to the gas brand.

IMPORTANT: For the purchase, you should only contact a specialist dealer in order to ensure sufficient safety of the gas bottle.

Petrol stations, DIY stores, local fuel retailers or the convenient option of gas delivery services are safe places to go and are recommended for additional advice on the subject of gas cylinders and radiant heaters.

Picture credits: Pixabay.com / Brett Sayles

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