Most patio heaters run on propane, which comes in a large refillable tank you must connect to the heater. Propane heaters come in both free-standing and tabletop versions, but we did not find any tabletop models with strong reviews from users worth recommending. Among free-standing propane heaters, our top pick is the Fire Sense 60485 Hammer Tone Bronze Commercial Patio Heater (Est. $155) . Once you decipher the confusing instructions, the heater is easy to assemble, and the finished product is sturdy and stylish. Owners find the Fire Sense 60485 delivers fast, powerful heat, although a few complain it's not actually capable of warming the full nine-foot radius claimed by the manufacturer.
Interestingly, the higher-priced Fire Sense 55006 Copper Finish Deluxe Patio Heater (Est. $250) does not perform quite as well. Although most owners find the 55006 and an equivalent model, the Fire Sense 11201 Stainless Steel Deluxe Patio Heater (Est. $295) , well-made and reasonably powerful, they describe the Deluxe model's heating range as more limited -- no more than two to four feet, according to some users. Like the 60485, both Fire Sense Deluxe models receive many complaints about how confusing the instructions are, and several reviews offer their own corrections to the misleading manual.
Infrared electric patio heaters are much less common than propane models. We found only one with reasonably good overall ratings: the Fire Sense 02110 Stainless Steel Wall Mounted Infrared Patio Heater (Est. $130) . This heater gets an overall rating of 3.9 stars from about 25 owners at HomeDepot.com. Users appreciate that it's inexpensive to run, produces no fumes and does not involve burning or storing flammable materials. However, they are divided over how effectively it actually heats. Those who have used the heater in an enclosed or covered space generally find it effective, but some users who installed it on an open patio complain they must stand right in front of it to feel any warmth. Another quirk of this heater (and others of the same type) is its vivid orange glow, which some users compare to the heat lamps at a fast-food restaurant. Most users find the Fire Sense 02110 easy to install.