Written by Terry Smith

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UK’s Best freestanding electric patio heaters reviewed

One of the worst things about owning a lovely patio is not being able to use it all year round. Well, at least that used to be the case for most of us, but these days there are a ton of options available that’ll help us keep snug and warm on our patio or decking, even on the coldest UK nights that those brass monkeys are so fearful of. Among all these heating options, freestanding electric heaters are some of the most popular, offering you a good balance between heat output and ease of setup and use. There is also a good selection of designs, sizes, and prices to suit most folks’ tastes, needs, and budgets.

Heat lab 2kw free standing heate

This article has been put together to provide you with all the information you need to know about electric standing heaters. We’ll compare them to their gas counterparts, let you know the pros and cons, teach you the difference between fan assisted heaters and infra-red, and how to set up an account in a tax haven. Ok, so the last one isn’t true, but you’ll get a lot of good info on heaters, which isn’t a bad tradeoff for your time.

We’ve also put together a short list of the best freestanding electric patio heaters for you that you can see below, and if you’d like to know more about a specific heater, just click on the name and you’ll be taken to an in-depth review on it. What more could you want?

Best electric freestanding heater: HeatLab 2kw free standing heater – offering value for money and reliability

Most powerful electric freestanding patio heater: Roronova 2-in-1 heater – versatile as it can be used as a wall mounted heater too

Budget pick: Oypla 2kw quartz heater

Best small electric freestanding heater: Firefly revolving heater – some great features

What to consider when picking a freestanding electric heater?

If you’re new to all this, and buying your first patio heater, then you might not have realised that just in the electric-powered category of patio heaters there are multiple sub-types. For example, you will find hanging patio heaters, parasol heaters which are similar but not the same as hanging heaters, wall mounted heaters, and tabletop heaters, and that short list just names the most popular.

Freestanding heaters and tabletop heaters are basically the same thing, only that freestanding models are generally much larger, sometimes have more features, and are more expensive to buy. You could try putting a full-size freestanding heater on your bistro table, but if you like your eyebrows, I wouldn’t recommend it.

This kind of heater is very commonly used on patios in the UK, with many people liking the ‘plug and play’ nature of them. You see, there’s virtually no assembly and installation required with free-standing electric heaters, and no maintenance either, so your toolbox can stay in the shed for a while longer, which in many people’s cases is a very good thing.

HeatLab 2KW IPX4 Free Standing Heater

As they are not set in a fixed position, like with hanging heaters or wall-mounted heaters, you can pretty much move and place them where you like, as long as you have an extension lead, that is, as they still need to be connected to the mains electricity supply.

This easy setup, plus the fact that these heaters tend to be very weatherproof and relatively inexpensive, has made them some of the best-selling patio heaters out there.

Electric freestanding heaters vs gas freestanding heaters

Probably the hardest choice you’re going to have when shopping for a freestanding patio heater is whether to go for a gas model or an electric model. In an ideal world there’d also be the choice of a supermodel, but with an ugly mug like mine, that’s not going to happen in this lifetime, so I’ll just stick to gas or electricity.

Below you’ll see my comparisons that should help you make your own mind up about which kind of heater is the better choice. If you decide you want gas instead of electric, please use the search function or click on the links provided to visit our pages on those products.

Which has the better heating performance – gas or electric?

Overall, I have to say that gas heaters produce more heat than their electric counterparts, but things aren’t quite as black and white as you might think as electric infra-red heaters actually use a different method of keeping you warm, so it’s quite difficult to accurately compare them.

You see, most gas heaters will warm an area by heating the air, and they do this very quickly and effectively. Not only that, but the rise in temperature is usually higher than with electric heaters. The problem is, that warm air, or any air for that matter doesn’t just hang around to warm you because it likes you, and can be blown away and dissipated by the wind; something we see quite a lot of on our not so sunny isle, I’m sure you’ve noticed.

With electric heaters, it really depends on what type we are talking about, the area being heated, and a few other factors. Electric fan heaters, such as convection heaters and space heaters, are not ideal for most patios, but infra-red heaters can be ideal. However, we will go into this in more detail a little further down the page.

For good heating performance from a freestanding electric patio heater, you should look for something that is at least 1200W, but that will only warm a small to medium sized area. Ideally, you want a heater that is 2000W or more, but with multiple power modes, so you can turn it down a bit when the weather hopefully warms up in spring.

Which are the most mobile and portable? Gas or electric heaters?

Gas heaters are the clear winners here. Most freestanding gas patio heaters are fueled by propane, and will have a compartment somewhere in their structure where the gas tank will sit. What this means, is that you can place the heater wherever you like.

There are natural gas heaters that are attached to your mains gas supply, but these are usually wall-mounted heaters and are fixed in position, or sometimes gas fire pits which, again, don’t move.

Electric patio heaters always need to be connected to your home’s electricity supply via their power cable, and this limits where you can install or place them. In fact, if you’re planning on buying a freestanding electric patio heater, look for one with a good length of cable, or be prepared with a waterproof extension lead.

On the plus side, electric standing heaters are relatively lightweight compared to gas ones, and you don’t have to look like Arnie and the Rock’s love child to move them around. Even the heavier models will have a set of wheels on the bottom, and this also applies to gas heaters, so I guess the main difference between them is the reliance, or not, on a power cable.

Are electric patio heaters safer than gas heaters?

If I was forced to give a straight and simple answer to this question, then I’d have to say yes, overall, I consider electric patio heaters to be safer than gas models. Again though, there are factors to consider.

Thanks to modern innovations when it comes to safety features, both electric and gas freestanding heaters have things like anti-tip cut-off, and overheat protection, which reduces the possibility of the most common types of safety issues arising.

Freestanding electric patio heaters are designed to survive outdoors and all of them should be waterproof and dustproof. Not all of them are made equal though, so check out the Ip rating on a product before buying:

Heatlab 2kW patio heaters – ideal for outdoor use

The main problem I see with gas heaters of any kind, is that they give off toxic fumes. So, unless you have a very open patio, there’s a risk of accidentally asphyxiating the in-laws. Yes, I know I’m talking about the best… sorry, I mean the worst-case scenario here, but there’s still a risk and that’s why I think electric freestanding heaters are safer, but here’s a video on the subject for you to watch anyway:

How much maintenance is required with an electric freestanding patio heater compared to a gas one?

I’m just going to sum this up very quickly by listing the type of things you can expect to keep an eye on with each type of heater, as I think it will be blindingly obvious which is the easier option.

To maintain a gas patio heater, you’ll obviously have to buy propane tanks to run it on, but in addition to that there’s cleaning out the important parts like the igniter and pilot, as well as periodically swapping out the furnace filter and clearing out the burners with a vacuum. There are actually one or two other things that you might want to maintain in order to keep your gas heater working its best, but I think we’ve listed enough already for you to get the idea.

As for electric freestanding patio heaters, in particular infra-red ones, the maintenance is as follows – wipe it with a soft cloth.

I’ll leave you to work out which is less maintenance.

Are freestanding electric patio heaters more or less efficient than gas heaters?

It only takes a quick google search about freestanding electric patio heaters to see that they are overwhelmingly infra-red models. This is because, for warming you up out on the patio, there isn’t anything that can beat them for energy efficiency.

Let me put on my best scientist’s coat and explain a little- Even though on paper, the BTU cost of a gas heater is less than a unit of electricity, when outdoors, most of that heat is going to drift or be blown away. So, what will be the reaction of most people to that? Well, crank up the power settings on the heater of course, but this only uses more fuel and therefore more cost.

Infrared heaters don’t heat the air, and so there is no energy wasted in doing so. Instead, they warm you, your chair, etc. directly, and so, even though on paper they are more costly to run, in my real-life experience they are actually more efficient for outdoor heating.

What’s the difference between fan assisted heaters and infra-red heaters?

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about gas or electric fan assisted heaters, they both make you feel warm in the same way- by heating up the air that surrounds you. In my opinion, this makes them a better choice than infra-red models inside the house, well, unless you have more draughts than a Weatherspoon’s that is!

As we already mentioned, infrared heaters, also known as halogen or quartz heaters, don’t work in the same way. Instead of using convection to heat the air, they use radiation to heat you directly. This allows you to feel the warmth instantly, as you don’t have to wait for the air to heat up, and it means that the heat won’t be blown away in the wind.

The only real downside to infra-red heaters, is that you have to be fairly close to them in order to really feel the benefit. However, a lot depends on the power output of a particular heater and where it is positioned.

Features to look out for when buying an electric freestanding patio heater

We’ve already mentioned most of this stuff in the previous sections, but I’ll just go over the most sought-after features when buying an electric freestanding patio heater, once again, here for the sake of clarity.

  • A high IP rating to show that it has been tested and can handle the type of weather we get on any given day here in good old Blighty. Look for things like IP64 to IP66, or even IPX4 which states that it can handle a splash of water, but doesn’t specify how resilient it is to dust particles.
  • In terms of safety features for freestanding patio heaters, you need two things. The first is an anti-tilt cut off, which will turn off the power if the heater is tipped past a certain angle. It is sometimes called something else, but the function is the same, and is very useful for people who have pets and small kids running around.

The second one is an overheat switch off function, which I don’t think I have to explain the function of. Anything in addition to this is always a bonus, but these two will be enough for any decent outdoor standing heater.

  • As your patio heater will be spending a lot of time outside, look for products that are built from weatherproof materials such as aluminium or stainless steel. These materials are better at fighting off corrosion, and will stop your heater turning into a rust bucket after a single winter.
  • A long power lead is always handy with outdoor electrical products, so that’s another thing to keep in mind. It’s not a deal breaker though, as waterproof extension leads and cable reels are not that expensive these days.
  • For heating a larger area, you should get a heater that is at least 2000W, but one with multiple power modes. If you only have a small area, or you want to have multiple heaters spaced around, then I suppose 1200W or even a bit lower should be ok.

Best freestanding electric patio heater reviews

Now we’ve come to the part of the show you’ve all been waiting for- our reviews of the best freestanding electric patio heaters in the UK. We think we’ve got a nice selection here for you, and we haven’t been shy about pointing out any flaws or faults with these items either. So, sit back and relax while we tell you about our top picks, starting with this excellent twin pack from Heatlab…

What’s better for heating your patio than a freestanding electric quartz heater? Well, two of them of course! And that’s what you get with this fantastic and affordable twin pack from Heatlab.

These modern infra-red heaters might look a little like the Martian machines from HG Wells’ war of the worlds, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. Just kidding, I actually think they look quite stylish, and the combination of black shaft and metallic grey head is just enough to give a hint of colour contrast.

If saving money is your thing, and let’s be honest- who doesn’t like to cut costs? You’ll be happy to know that you can run these heaters for as little as 10p per hour. Of course, that’s on the low power mode, and if you choose one of the other 2 settings, that will increase by about another 10p per hour.

The quartz heating elements kick out a decent amount of heat and as long as you’re sitting within a couple of metres of them, you’ll definitely be feeling quite snug, no matter how cold the ambient temperature is.

To really make sure that you’re getting a direct line from the heater to your chillier body parts, you can play around with the height of the shaft and the angle of the heater head. The adjustments of both are a little limited, but I found it more than sufficient.

Heatlab’s standing heaters are nice and stable, thanks to a pretty solid and heavy base, but there isn’t an anti-tilt cut off feature, which is a bit of a shame. On the other hand, they are pretty well protected against the rain, and have some protection against dust particles, as is evident from their IPX4 rating.

Pros

  • Twin pack offers the buyer very good value for money
  • Durable and long-lasting heating elements
  • Energy efficient and cheap to run
  • Good amount of heat, especially on full power

Cons

  • No anti-tilt feature

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a freestanding heater that has the power and range of a wall-mounted heater? And wouldn’t it be even better if we could actually choose whether we wanted to mount that heater on the wall if we really wanted to?

Well, it looks like Roronova have heard us and delivered us exactly that, with a 2500W infra-red heater that is as powerful as it is versatile – 500 Watts more than the HeatLab top pick

There are only two settings to choose from- 1250W and 2500W, and they might be a bit much for a sticky summer’s night, but for the majority of the year when it is colder than a polar bear’s wotsits, you’ll be glad both modes are higher powered.

When used in the 2500W mode, this heater produces a very good level of heat. Not only that, but its spread and range is hard to beat, reaching well over 3 metres in multiple directions and warming you up almost instantly thanks to carbon fibre heating elements.

Featuring both anti-tilt and overheat protection, and being certified to IP55, and CE FCC standards, you know this is a well-built standing heater that you’re going to get your money’s worth out of. On top of that, it’s made from aluminium alloy, so you won’t have to worry about rusting either.

It’s real drawing point though, apart from the power and the safety features, is that you can choose to have it wall-mounted, or just pop it on top of the provided stand. The stand is height adjustable up to just under 70 inches and has wide spread legs (stop those smutty double entendres), making it quite stable.

Pros

  • Two-in-one wall heater and standing heater
  • Very powerful and emits a lot of heat
  • Made from anti-rust aluminium alloy
  • Good safety features and certified by governing bodies

Cons

  • Would have liked a low power setting to save money on warmer nights

Energy efficiency is always right at the top of the list for me when looking at electric heaters, and this following clip explains which ones are the best in that department:

3. Oypla Electrical 2KW Quartz Free Standing Outdoor Electric Garden Patio Heater

If you stood the Oypla and HeatLab standing heaters side by side, you’d probably find it hard to tell the difference between them, apart from one having a grey head and the other being black.

To be honest, it’s not just the looks department where they are identical either. Both have 2kw maximum power, and both have three power settings to choose from. They’re even the same settings at 650W, 1350W, and 2000W!

But wait, the heating elements inside are different right? Nope, they’re the same quartz elements as the Heatlab too, and under our tests they performed just as well, with around the same heat output and range. This can be wall mounted as well:

Oypla Electrical 2KW Quartz Free Standing Outdoor can also be wall mounted

The Oypla even shares the same downsides as its clone, namely that there is the complete absence of an anti-tilt cut off feature. There is an overheat safety function just like the Heatlab product though, surprise surprise (not).

So, you may be asking- if this product is virtually identical, why have we featured it here? And also, why is the Heatlab heater preferred by us over it?

Well, the answer to the first question is that we are featuring it just in case the Heat lab goes out of stock. If that’s the case, then this product would make a perfect substitute, right? It’s priced around the same, which makes it a fantastic budget option too.

The answer to the second question is that we have spent a lot more time with the Heatlab product as we first tested it ages ago, and the neighbour I gave it to as a gift after our testing was done is still happily using it. So, it’s just a case of it being tried and tested for durability. I’m sure the Oypla will be just as good, but we can’t say for sure yet.

Pros

  • Three power modes to choose from
  • Well-built and durable heater
  • Good value for money
  • Overheat cut off safety feature

Cons

  • No anti-tilt feature

4. Mensa Heating Imus Under Table Infrared Heater – Black 550w

Not all freestanding patio heaters need to be tall and thousands of watts. Yes, I know I’m sort of contradicting myself as I said earlier to look for 1200W or more, but I was generalising and this product is one of the exceptions.

The reason this is an exception to my general rule, is that it is an under the table heater that, yes, you’ve guessed it, goes under the table to heat your legs. As this is its only job, it can get away with being compact and not being super powerful.

Made by Mensa (I don’t think it’s the society for clever people), the Imus under table heater uses a high-quality quartz heating element that they say will last up to 7000 hours. I can’t say that we had enough time to test that out, but if the overall build quality of the rest of the heater is anything to go by, it might just be true.

Although only 550W, the Imus does a fantastic job of warming up your legs and feet, and as an added bonus it won’t cost you very much to run at all. I also really like that the design emits heat from the front and back. It would have been amazing if it could have heated 360 degrees, but you could always buy a second one for that.

The option to only have one side working at a time would also have been a good feature, but one that is sadly missing. It’s not a big deal really, I just think that if you’re sitting on your own, you would feel like heat and energy is being wasted being sent out the other way at the same time.

Even though the heat emitted is impressive for its size, what is even more impressive is that the front grill remains completely safe to the touch. Not only does this stop you accidentally scorching your toes off while trying to play footsie with your beloved, it makes it a great option for people with pets and small children.

The IP44 rating isn’t the highest out there, and I wouldn’t leave it exposed to the rain, but as it should be under the table, I don’t think that it really matters that much. It will be fine from rain being blown in from the side and splashing it though.

Pros

  • Great mini heater for warming the legs under a table
  • Produces a surprising amount of heat for its size
  • Heats in two directions at once
  • IP44 rating means you don’t have to panic when it starts raining

Cons

  • No option to use only one side at a time, which can waste energy if you’re alone.

Here’s this lovely product in all its glory, courtesy of the brand who make it:

5. Firefly 1.2kW Streamline Rotating Electric Patio Heater with 2 Power Settings and Remote

I’m going to address the elephant in the room here, by saying that most freestanding electric heaters look very similar. So, the Firefly streamline rotating heater comes as a breath of fresh air, looks-wise anyway.

It actually resembles a pyramid patio heater a little bit, albeit a more modern one, and instead of being gas powered and having a naked flame, the heat is produced by the fume-free quartz elements. It’s also not nearly as tall as your typical pyramid heater, standing at only 82cm.

This is another good choice for heating up your legs and lower body, and can be either tucked under the patio table, or simply left to the side of your sofa set or whatever you have out there on your patio.

At 1.2kw, it’s not the most powerful heater out there, but still produces enough heat to keep your feet feeling toasty in winter. There’s also a lower power mode for warmer nights, and as it’s only 600W, the running costs should be very low.

What I really like about this Firefly freestanding heater is that it has an oscillating feature which helps to spread the heat over a wider area and not just directly in front. We made good use of this and placed it in front of our patio sofa, and everyone who was sitting down there got their fair share of warmth.

Build quality and materials is about what you’d expect for the price, and as long as you’re not planning to bash someone with it, it should tick along just fine. The heater sports both of the main safety features that you need with these products- the anti-tilt and over heat, and the combination of the solid base and 7kg weight stops it from being blown over by the wind.

Pros

  • Very stylish freestanding heater that stands out from the crowd
  • Rotates to spread the heat out over a wider area
  • Two power modes to choose from
  • Low running costs and energy efficient

Cons

  • Not powerful enough for warming up large areas


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message: info@gardentoolbox.co.uk

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