Electric vs propane patio heaters. Both are wonderful, but which one is better? Here they are, compared in 6 ways.

If you live in a cold area, or simply enjoy late-night get togethers with friends, you know how a cozy warmth source can make all the difference in the world. Being outside just wouldn’t be the same with frozen hands, and shivering arms.

This is why patio heaters are so great.

Not only are they very easy to use, and relatively inexpensive, but also provide you with a steady heat source to enjoy your soirées without having to worry about anything else.

Now, while all patio heaters do the same thing, they’re not created equal. I want us to look at propane vs electric models, and how they stack up against each other.

Below, you will find a list with the most important differences between each variant, and what key aspects you should look out for.

Are you ready? Let’s compare!

Electric vs Propane Patio Heaters Pros & Cons

Before analyzing these appliances under different categories, it’s important to look at what each model does right, and where there’s room for improvement.

Let’s start off with electric patio heaters:

Electric Patio Heaters

Pros:

  • Plug and play, no complicated set up
  • They’re safer to use than propane heaters, as there’s no fire involved
  • Much more efficient than propane heaters

Cons:

  • Higher electricity bills
  • Highly-dependent on electrical outlets
  • Vulnerable to blackouts

As you can see, there are certainly some advantages and disadvantages to choosing an electric patio heater over a propane one. However, the latter also has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Propane Patio Heaters

Propane heaters are very portable

Pros:

  • Not electricity-dependent
  • Portable
  • Immune to blackouts

Cons:

Now that we’ve established how both versions stack up against each other in general aspects, we can focus on the specifics.

Comparing Propane vs Electric Patio Heaters:

#1 Heating Power

Electric heaters harness almost all the energy they consume

This, along with the price, is probably one of the things most people tend to look at first.

And why wouldn’t they? After all, while safety and durability are important, if you’re buying a heating appliance, making sure that it heats well, should always be your top priority.

Now, let me tell you straight away that both models will heat up your living spaces just fine, the main difference will lie in heat efficiency.

If you’re not sure what this means, let me briefly explain.

Heat efficiency can be understood as how well the amount of heat the appliance generates actually gets to the air it’s trying to warm up. Think of it as pouring a glass of water from a jar.

You’d have 100% pouring efficiency if all the water that left the jar, ended up filling the glass. However, this efficiency percentage would decrease with every droplet that ended on your kitchen countertop, instead of inside the glass.

This same principle applies to patio heaters. And electric models take the cake. Nearly 100% of the heat generated by them ends up in the air and warms it up.

If you want to get the most heating from the energy consumed, your best bet is to go electric.

That being said – propane tends to give a much more powerful amount of heat. So even though it’s not the most efficient, it’s often better for those colder nights.

Electric Patio Heater Working At Full Capacity
A very strong difference between electric and propane patio heaters is the heat they can generate.

#2 Durability

Moving on to lifespan and component durability, you have to understand that we’re sort of comparing apples and oranges here.

Yes, both models are patio heaters, but the components inside them are very different. For example, while propane heaters rely on gas and fire to warm up the air, electric models utilize electricity, and a part called a heating element to get the job done.

Normally, propane patio heaters are much harder to maintain than their electric counterparts, as there are gas valves and pilots involved. Moreover, with electric heaters, you only have to worry about the unit itself, whereas with propane models, you also have to look after the gas canister.

The bottom line is that, when properly maintained, both models should last about the same. However, propane heaters are much more likely to demand your attention frequently. 

If you hate having to constantly maintain an appliance, and know you’re likely to neglect it, an electric patio heater should be your go to.

#3 Safety

Both models are safe, but only one uses a live flame

At this point, electric patio heaters are starting to look like the clear winners of this comparison. And this key aspect might place them further ahead.

I’m going to tell you a harsh truth. Every appliance is somewhat dangerous if improperly maintained or operated. Having said that, the consequences of irresponsibility and neglect are much more dire with certain machines.

When used according to your user manual and by following your manufacturer’s recommendations, both electric and propane models should provide you with years of faithful service.

That being said, fire is no joke.

While both models get incredibly hot in order to warm up the air in your living spaces, only one of them relies on fire to do so. Unfortunately, propane models put you at risk of gas leaks, fires, and even canister explosions.

Something you’ll never have to worry about with electric ones.

I’m not saying that this is an absolute certainty, though. In fact, there are several countermeasures built into propane heaters to keep this from happening. I’m just mentioning scenarios that are possible, but not probable.

#4 Price

You should always consider the collateral costs of each model

This one’s a draw.

Just as it happens with all household appliances, you can find both patio heater models in every price range. If you’re only looking for something simple,  you can get either technology for under $250. And if you want as many extra bells and whistles as possible, you can also find models upwards of $1000.

Being so similar, when it comes to comparing either version’s prices, you don’t want to look only at the appliance’s price tag, but at the additional costs as well.

Maintenance, replacement parts, and energy costs (propane gas & electricity) should always be taken into consideration.

You might buy the most amazing electric patio heater on clearance, thinking you got the deal of a lifetime. But if you live in an area where electricity is very expensive, you might end up paying a fortune every month.

And the same goes for repairs in propane models. You might be tempted to stay away from electric heaters due to your area’s electricity costs. But if you fail to clean your pilot, gas line, and thermocouple often, you could burn a hole in your pocket with the cost of repairs and labor.

#5 Reliability

Ok, let’s talk reliability.

If I were to put this into a dictionary definition, I’d say it’s how likely your appliance is to malfunction or fail to do its job well. And by those standards, I’m happy to tell you either model will pass the test with flying colors.

As long as you buy your patio heater from a reputable vendor, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of your new purchase uninterrupted. However, it’s very important to keep your eyes open for knockoffs, as they’re getting very good these days.

No matter how great a deal an off-brand appliance might seem to be, stay away from spending your hard-earned money on it. Remember, buy cheap, buy twice.

Now, going back to original, high quality products, let me assure you that, the way in which you care for your appliance will have a much greater impact on its functionality, than anything else.

Regardless of the lifespan your manufacturer might claim its product to have, it will be very difficult for it to last as long if you neglect it.

Which brings us back to durability.

A propane patio heater will require much more of you attention than an electric model. The former will need you to clean its components, check its gas line, and replace its canisters often. Whereas the latter will just need you to pay the utilities bill on time.

You’re much more likely to be stuck with a heatless propane heater, because you forgot to replace the canister, than you are to have the same problem with your electric model, because you forgot to plug it in.

Propane Patio Heater Fire Red
A propane patio heater will require more attention on your part, both in terms of risk and maintenance.

#6 Portability

Electric heaters might put you in a complicated position

Last, but definitely not least, is portability.

One of the most attractive features in patio heaters is that you can place them virtually anywhere to heat up an area.

Your room is too cold? No problem! You’re having a family picnic in the garden, but it’s 40 °F outside? It doesn’t matter. Your patio heater can follow you anywhere.

Well, propane heaters can.

You see, as wonderful as electric heaters are, they depend greatly on wall outlets, and other electrical power sources to function. Owning one of these models will liberate you from the hassle of continuous appliance maintenance, but also restrain your area of mobility.

Needing an outlet to power your heater can be inconvenient. Especially in the garden, where these electricity sources are scarce. Sometimes, you’ll have to decide between charging your phone and staying warm.

Which One Is Best for You?

Well… there’s no single answer to that question. The right model for you will be that which fits your needs and adjusts to your lifestyle better.

Some people might be willing to give a propane heater regular maintenance to avoid higher electric bills, whereas others might not mind spending more money to avoid having to constantly check their units for damage.

At the end of the day, you should go for the model that makes the most sense to you after considering all the important factors around this decision.

Conclusion

As technology progresses, the options at our disposal grow. And while this sounds like a good thing, sometimes, it can be a double-edged sword.

It can be difficult to decide between an electric and a propane patio heater. Especially when they look and feel so similar. I hope this list has helped you understand how each technology works, and what are the pros and cons of each model.

Before making a costly decision, remember to keep your personal habits, and budget in mind, as well as the conditions in your area, and the price of utilities. Trust in yourself, and overanalyze if necessary.

I’m sure you’ll make the right choice in the end.

Thank you so much for sticking with me all the way to the end. If you found this article helpful, why not check out our other resources below?