Electric patio heaters produce heat very fast, are nearly 100 percent efficient, don't emit any fumes or pollutants, and focus heat well. A few are freestanding, but most are wall- or ceiling-mounted and either corded or hard-wired. Most owners say electric patio heaters are the easiest type to use, and wind doesn't affect their heat output (though wind chill can still affect the people sitting under one.) Wall-hung electric patio heaters usually need much less clearance overhead than gas-fueled patio heaters, an advantage for any patio with a roof.
We found very few reviews of electric patio heaters. Recent informal comparison tests by The Shopping Bags, however, compare two with three propane patio heaters. One electric model, the Solaira Cosy (*Est. $350), turns out to be the favorite. It's lightweight (3.6 pounds) and comes with a 15-foot cord that plugs into an ordinary outlet. You can also install it permanently in order to control it with a wall switch. It's rated to provide heat to a square area sized about 9.5 feet by 9.5 feet.
We also found a few reviews of the slightly less expensive residential version, the Solaira All-Season Quartz Patio Heater (*Est. $280). At 10 pounds it weighs more than the commercial version, but comes with a hanging bracket and 15-food cord. Owners confirm that it's convenient to install and use, and puts out plenty of warmth. The main drawback is that it casts an orange glow over everyone and everything in its path. One owner says it "makes one feel like an item at the buffet."
Other electric patio heaters listed at Amazon.com draw similar complaints, but some of the others get more criticism for poor heat as well. For example, the free-standing Soleus Air HP1-15-50 Reflective Indoor/Outdoor Patio Heater (*Est. $175), shaped more like a floor lamp with a mushroom dome, doesn't focus the heat in one direction. Two of the three owners reviewing it at the time of our report say it just doesn't put out enough heat.
The Mojave Sun Electric Infrared Patio Heater with Telescopic Pole (*Est. $400) is more directional, with a rectangular heater that can be aimed in one direction. However, it still gets mixed reviews from the two owners reviewing it at Amazon.com. One owner who's used a propane patio heater in the past says the Mojave electric model is far more convenient, but the other reviewer complains that it just doesn't put out enough heat.
We found two owner-written reviews of the less expensive Fire Sense Infrared Wall Mounted Patio Heater (*Est. $200) at HomeDepot.com. One reviewer is very enthusiastic, giving this radiant electric heater the highest possible rating. However, the owner notes that it takes two to provide enough warmth for the whole patio.
The electric patio heaters discussed above are weatherproofed for outdoor use.