The crisp air, changing leaves, and earlier sunsets can only mean one thing – autumn has arrived. But just because sweater weather is here doesn’t mean outdoor living has to end. With the right gear, you can stretch your patio season well into the cooler months. One of the best investments you can make is a quality patio heater. These outdoor heaters pump out serious BTUs to keep your space warm and inviting, turning fall afternoons or evenings into your new favorite time to entertain outdoors!
When it comes to materials, stainless steel patio heaters are incredibly durable, wind-resistant, and rust-proof. Their heating elements provide ample warmth while the stainless construction withstands the elements. Stainless models also have a clean, sleek look that complements any style patio.
But investing in a patio heater is a big decision. With so many models and features to evaluate, it can be tricky to choose. The ideal heater has the right output for your space, excellent durability, key safety features, and an attractive design. This buying guide will walk you through what to look for when shopping for the best stainless steel patio heater. I’ll also share my top recommendations to take the guesswork out of your purchase.
So cozy up by the (virtual) fire and let’s review the factors that impact which stainless steel heater is the best fit for your backyard gatherings!
Key Features to Consider in a Stainless Steel Patio Heater
When evaluating patio heaters, there are a few key features to focus on:
One of the most important factors is the power output, measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. The higher the BTU rating, the more heat the unit produces. For a small to mid-size patio of 100-150 square feet, look for a heater with around 46,000 BTUs. Bigger outdoor living areas of 300+ square feet will need 60,000 BTUs or more to get toasty. Remember – it’s better to overestimate than underestimate how many BTUs you need. A more powerful heater can always be turned down.
Patio heaters come in freestanding models that sit on the ground or tabletop versions meant to go on an outdoor dining table. Freestanding heaters are larger and more powerful. Their reflector design throws heat in a wider radius. Tabletop models work well for smaller spaces like balconies.
Residential heaters are made for home use while commercial models meet codes and requirements for restaurants and hotels. Commercial heaters are more heavy-duty.
The shape of the reflector – or heating element cover – also varies. Mushroom or umbrella styles concentrate heat directly below. Column or tower styles have a more vertical design built to withstand wind.
Look for heaters made of 304 or 316 marine grade stainless steel. Both are highly durable and rust-resistant, even in coastal climates. 316 offers maximum corrosion resistance.
Single wall models have an exterior shell to protect the inner heating column. Double wall heaters sandwich the heating element between stainless exteriors for superior durability and wind resistance.
Since patio heaters use gas or electricity to operate, safety is paramount. Models with tip-over auto shut-off will immediately cut power if the unit falls or tilts. This prevents fires or explosions.
Stay-cool handles let you adjust or move the heater safely during or right after use. Some models have a protective grill to keep little fingers away from hot surfaces.
Extras & Customization
Mobility is key for many homeowners. Look for heaters with built-in wheels to easily move them around your patio.
A table or bottom shelf offers convenient storage space for fuel tanks or other items.
Adjustable heat settings allow you to customize the temperature output. This helps conserve fuel. A compatible remote control makes it easy to turn the heater on and off without getting up.
Consider the available finish options like brushed, polished, or hammered stainless. Some models allow you to choose complementary powder coated colors for the column pole and grills.
Integrated lighting kits or light strips add ambiance and visibility to your patio during those autumn nights.
Now that you know what features to evaluate, let’s look at the top stainless steel patio heater recommendations in each category.
My Top 5 Picks for Stainless Steel Patio Heaters
Best Overall: Hiland Pyramid Patio Heater
The Hiland Pyramid Patio Heater tops my list for its excellent quality, durability, and 50,000 BTU output. This freestanding stainless steel model has a unique pyramid-shaped heating element that’s both decorative and functional. It concentrates heat directionally while resisting wind.
I like the sturdy wheeled base and easy push-button ignition. The auto shut-off gives me peace of mind. While pricey, it’s worth it for the 5 year warranty and versatile heating. Use it to create a comfy outdoor living room or heat a dining space for 6+.
Best Tabletop: Pleasant Hearth Martin Patio Heater
For tables and balconies, choose the Pleasant Hearth Martin. At 35,000 BTUs, it packs power in a smaller tabletop footprint. The circular reflector surrounded by a safety grid evenly radiates warmth below.
Design-wise, the tempered glass top allows you to see the flame. No need for matches – the piezo ignition starts with the push of a button. Given its portable size, I recommend the 20lb propane tank option. While not as robust as freestanding units, this versatile heater expands your seating options with targeted heat.
Most Wind Resistant: TR Industries Tall Premium Patio Heater
Windy locations call for the TR Industries Tall Premium patio heater. The column style with elongated heating element and dome top is built for stability. At 48,000 BTUs, it provides ambient warmth up to a 12 foot diameter.
This commercial-grade unit has versatile heat settings and directional control to target where warmth is needed most. I like the anti-tilt safety feature and durable 316 stainless construction. While pricier, the excellent output makes it perfect for large, exposed patios.
Best Portable: Lifesmart Deck Box Infrared Patio Heater
For a versatile heater ready to move wherever needed, choose the Lifesmart Deck Box Infrared model. Despite its portable size, it churns out 45,000 BTUs to heat patios up to 15 feet in diameter!
The freestanding unit uses infrared heat, which directly warms people and objects. This makes it more efficient than models emitting ambient heat. When not in use, store it in the matching deck box with locking wheels. The powder coated bronze finish looks great. No need for heavy propane tanks – just plug into a standard outlet.
Best Stylish: Fire Sense Hammer Tone Patio Heater
Add a stylish flair to your patio with the Fire Sense Hammer Tone deluxe heater. The hammered bronze finish gives it a classy, contemporary look. Decorative lattice accents and an elegant profile complement outdoor decor.
The 46,000 BTU output feels hotter thanks to the efficient double mantle heating grid. I like the easy electric ignition and wheel assembly for moving it around the patio. At 1000 square inches of heating area, it’s ideal for dining areas or seating up to 4 people. The bronze color casts a beautiful glow as the sun sets!
Frequently Asked Questions About Stainless Steel Patio Heaters
How many BTUs will I need for my patio?
Choosing the right BTU output depends on the physical size of your patio as well as seating capacity. As a general guideline:
- Small patios less than 100 square feet need at least 40,000 BTUs
- Medium patios 100-200 square feet should have 46,000-60,000 BTUs
- Large patios over 300 square feet will require 60,000+ BTUs
Also factor in the number of people. Allow 10,000-15,000 BTUs per person. A 150 square foot patio seating 6 people needs at least a 60,000 BTU heater.
It’s better to have a more powerful heater and use a lower setting than max out a model too small for the space.
How durable is stainless steel?
Stainless steel is extremely durable, corrosion and rust resistant, and built to last. Quality grades like 304 and 316 stainless hold up year after year outdoors. They won’t easily dent, warp, or discolor.
316 marine grade stainless offers maximum rust protection if you live near saltwater. Double wall heaters sandwich the heating element between stainless exteriors for superior durability.
With proper maintenance, a residential stainless heater lasts 5-10 years on average. Commercial models may last over a decade.
What kind of regular maintenance is required?
Fortunately, stainless steel patio heaters require very little regular maintenance compared to wood-burning fire pits or chimineas. Here are a few tips to follow:
- Wipe down the exterior 2-3 times a year with warm soapy water to remove dirt and debris.
- Always store the heater indoor when not in use for winter or bad weather.
- Remove any collected dirt/debris from interior heating elements before use each season.
- Check the heating elements and hose for damage before restarting each year. Have any damaged parts replaced.
- If using portable propane tanks, always turn the tank valve off after each use and detach the tank for storage.
With basic maintenance, your stainless steel heater can provide cozy warmth for years!
Are patio heaters safe to use?
When used properly, reputable patio heaters are safe heating options for outdoor spaces. Safety features to look for include:
- Tip-over auto shut-off – Immediately cuts power if the unit tilts or falls over
- Stay-cool handle – Allows you to adjust the heater mid-use
- Protective grills or screens – Prevent contact with hot surfaces
- Auto shut-off timer – Turns the unit off after a designated time period
- Maximum temperature shutoff – Prevents overheating
Choosing a UL certified heater ensures it meets stringent safety standards. Always place the unit at least 3-6 feet away from walls, ceilings, furniture or pessoas flow areas. Maintain proper clearance to all combustible materials.
What are some important safety tips for operating my patio heater?
Here are crucial safety precautions to follow:
- Never leave a running patio heater unattended
- For propane models, always keep the propane tank at least 3 feet away from the heater
- Check that all fittings and fuel lines are snug and undamaged before use
- Do not use indoors or in enclosed, unventilated areas
- Turn off the fuel/electricity supply when not in use
- For propane heaters, refill the tank before it drops below 20% full
- Position the heater on a flat, stable, non-combustible surface
- Keep the area surrounding the heater clear of furniture and debris
- Keep children and pets away from the unit
With some common sense precautions, patio heaters are very safe to operate and provide warmth in your outdoor living area.
Get Ready to Lounge Outside Longer
Don’t let dropping temperatures dampen your outdoor entertaining – simply add a well-made stainless steel patio heater to your deck or patio! By providing plenty of comforting infrared warmth, these heaters extend the usable season of your outdoor living space.
Focus your search on heaters with ample BTUs for the square footage, durable and wind-resistant designs, plus key safety features. My top stainless steel patio heater picks check all those boxes to create a warm, welcoming ambiance right outside your door.
Now that you know what to look for when shopping, you can find the perfect patio heater to become your helpful, glowing companion through many cool weather seasons to come. Here’s to keeping the outdoor fun going in autumn – cocktails, s’mores and all!