How big of an area will a patio heater heat?

Patio heaters are a great way to extend the use of an outdoor living space into the cooler evening hours. As the sun sets and the temperature drops, patio heaters allow you to comfortably continue enjoying time outside on your patio, deck, or yard. But how much area can a single patio heater actually heat? That depends on several factors.

Quick Answers

– On average, a standard patio heater can effectively heat a 12-15 foot diameter area.
– Taller or more powerful patio heaters may be able to heat a larger area of 15-18 feet in diameter.
– The size of the area heated depends on the BTU output, height, and type of patio heater used.
– Other factors like wind conditions also impact the heated area size.
– Strategic heater placement is key for heating a specific patio seating area most efficiently.

Patio Heater Types and Sizes

There are a few different types and sizes of patio heaters to choose from that produce varying amounts of heat:

Standard Patio Heater

– Typically around 89 inches (7.4 feet) tall with a heat output of around 40,000 BTUs.
– Can effectively heat a circle with a diameter of 12-15 feet when properly positioned.

Tall Patio Heater

– Extra tall designs are usually over 7 feet, often 96 inches (8 feet) tall.
– The increased height allows more coverage, typically heating a 15-18 foot diameter.

Commercial/Powerful Patio Heater

– Commercial or more powerful patio heaters may emit 60,000 BTUs or more.
– With more BTUs, these can heat larger areas of up to 18 feet in diameter.

Tabletop Patio Heaters

– Compact heaters meant for tabletop use with lower height and output than standard models.
– May only heat a 4-6 foot diameter area, ideal for individual use.

Patio Heater Coverage Area

The way a patio heater’s warmth radiates out in a circular pattern around the fixture determines the approximate span of the heated zone. Here are some general patios heater coverage guidelines:

– 12-15 feet diameter coverage for a standard 7-8 foot tall 40,000 BTU patio heater.
– 15-18 feet diameter coverage for a taller or higher BTU commercial style patio heater.
– 4-6 feet diameter coverage for a smaller tabletop patio heater.

Where you place the patio heater is also very important for heating a specific area most efficiently. Position it centrally in relation to the seating/dining layout to get the most coverage.

The heated span also assumes open exposure without interference. Placement under roof overhangs or against walls will decrease the circular warming pattern.

Factors Affecting Heated Area Size

While patio heaters are designed to heat approximately 12-18 foot diameter areas, several factors can impact their effectiveness:

Wind Conditions

Windy conditions can significantly reduce a patio heater’s coverage area. The warmth from the heat column rising up can easily be dispersed by moderate winds before reaching furniture arranged at the outer edges of its ideal span.

Shielding your patio with side screens, plants, or structures can help block chilling winds that interfere with a heater’s circular warming pattern.

Ceiling Height

Patios covered by roofs or pergolas with low ceiling heights prevent the heat from adequately radiating out from taller heaters. The ideal unobstructed ceiling height is 10 feet or more.

Number of Heaters

For larger patios, multiple patio heaters may be needed to warm the full seating area. Overlapping the heating spans from strategically placed heaters can allow full coverage.

Output Level

Higher BTU output equals more heating power. Opt for a more powerful heater if trying to heat a larger space.

Distance from Heater

The further away furniture is placed from the patio heater, the less warmth will be felt. For consistent coverage, keep seating within the ideal heated diameter range.


Well-insulated outdoor spaces retain heat much better. Good insulation means a heater can more easily maintain the temperature of the enclosed patio area.

Reflective Surfaces

Reflective surfaces like tile floors, walls, ceilings, and metal patio furniture help bounce and spread a heater’s warmth around an area for better coverage.

Patio Heater Height

A patio heater’s height determines how far the heat column can spread out and warm a space:

– Standard 89 inch heaters are suited for small to medium patios.

– Tall 96 inch commercial style heaters are better for heating bigger areas.

– Going bigger than 8 feet tall generally doesn’t increase effectiveness much since the heat gets dispersed.

– For high ceilings, opt for a heater with a higher heat output rather than just a taller height.

– Low tabletop models only heat very contained small spaces due to the lower height and BTU level.

Patio Heater BTUs

The BTU rating indicates the heat energy output. More BTUs equals more heating power:

– Most standard patio heaters have around 40,000 BTUs.

– More powerful commercial heaters may emit 60,000-80,000+ BTUs.

– BTUs of 100,000 or more are overkill for home use.

– Low BTUs under 25,000 will only provide very limited warmth.

Match the BTU level with the amount of area you hope to heat for the climate and conditions. More power is needed for larger patios exposed to cold winds.

Operating Costs

Patio heaters running for several hours per night over months of use adds up on your energy bills. Operating costs break down by heater fuel type:

Propane Patio Heaters

– Propane heaters are less expensive to buy but have higher ongoing fuel costs.
– Expect to pay $15-25 per 20 lb propane tank, which may last 10-15 hours on average.
– At $2/hour estimated, propane operating costs are higher over a season of use.

Electric Patio Heaters

– Electric heaters usually cost more upfront but are cheaper to run long-term.
– Running costs are based on local electricity rates (10-15 cents per kWh).
– May cost around $1 per operating hour; savings add up over a season.

Natural Gas Patio Heaters

– Hooking up to your existing natural gas line eliminates fuel refill costs.
– Pay just for the gas used based on metered utility rates.
– No tank hauling, storage, or propane expenses to deal with.

Example Area Calculation

Here is an example patio layout with dimensions to visualize just how much area a standard 89 inch tall, 40,000 BTU patio heater can effectively heat:

Patio Dimensions

– 15 foot x 18 foot rectangle
– 270 square feet total area

Round Patio Table

– 6 feet diameter
– Centered in patio, seats 4
– 28 square foot table space

Patio Heater Coverage

– Heater placed next to table
– Heats a 15 foot diameter circle around itself
– 177 square feet within heated zone

This shows that a properly positioned standard patio heater can effectively heat about 65% of this 270 square foot patio. The outer edges will be outside the ideal 12-15 foot heating diameter, so may feel somewhat cooler.

Strategic furniture layout within the heated circle and added insulation can help maximize warmth in the prime seating/dining areas.

Getting the Most Coverage From Your Patio Heater

Here are some tips to heat your patio most efficiently:

– Position the heater centrally to seating areas for concentrated warmth where needed.

– Locate the heater at least 18 inches from walls or ceilings for proper airflow.

– Keep the surrounding area free of plants, furniture or other obstructions.

– Angle the heat column toward gathering areas and away from empty zones.

– Add sidescreens to help block chilling wind currents across your patio.

– Use reflective surfaces to maximize warmth.

– Add insulation underneath and around the patio perimeter.

– Size the heater appropriately for the space; allow for some buffer at edges.

– For large areas, use multiple heaters to overlap full coverage.


Patio heaters are an excellent way to utilize your outdoor living space more with cozy heat and ambiance even as the temperatures cool in the evenings. On average, a standard 89 inch tall patio heater can throw warmth in a diameter spanning 12-15 feet when positioned correctly. But the exact area warmed depends on several factors like wind conditions, layout, and heater choice. With smart placement and design considerations that contain and reflect heat, you can maximize the efficiency of your patio heater. Then just sit back and enjoy the warmth!

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