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- The powerful AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater blasts out 46,000 British thermal units (Btu) of heat.
- It has helped me safely spend more time outdoors with loved ones during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- Like many of the patio heaters I’ve researched and tested, it’s big but still sturdy enough to keep on my deck all year long.
- It’s currently out of stock but has been in and out recently due to increased demand, so sign up for its waitlist for e-mail notifications when units become available.
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As the weather cools and the novel coronavirus sticks around, I’ve been spending time with loved ones primarily outdoors. No family has set foot in my house for nearly a year except to make a quick bathroom pit stop (with a mask on) after enjoying several caffeinated beverages on the deck.
As we round the corner into winter, many patio heaters are still on backorder. I managed to snag one after an aggressive bout of browser refreshing in early September. The days were getting shorter and I was nervous about the prospect of cutting off social ties completely. I knew that if I wanted to see my mom before next summer, I had to find a way to keep us both warm while enjoying distanced breakfasts.
I chose the AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater partly because it was the only one available and, at about $150, it happens to be fairly affordable. It also meets all the marks of what to look for in a patio heater from our guide to the best patio heaters: it’s from a brand I was familiar with, available on a site I shop at regularly, and had a good return policy should it not work.
In researching our guide to the best patio heaters, I also discovered that the higher the Btu, the better – 40,000 Btu is a good baseline, especially for cold-weather entertaining. At 46,000 Btu, the AmazonBasics heater is mighty powerful and meets that mark. I hoped it would extend outdoor socializing well into the winter.
Editor’s note: we’ve seen this patio heater go in and out of stock many times over the last several months. If it’s not in stock at the moment, you can sign up for e-mail alerts for when it becomes available on its Amazon page.
Assembly and ease of use
The sleek, stainless steel, dome-top patio heater arrives in pieces, so some assembly is required. As the not-so-handy one in my household, I enlisted the help of my husband – who regularly, eagerly volunteers to assemble other people’s IKEA furniture. Setup took about 40 minutes, thanks to the clear and easy-to-follow instructions. None of the pieces were warped or difficult to put together, either.
Once assembled, getting the patio heater ready to heat is easy. Simply twist and lift the cover to load up a 20-pound propane tank using the included hose and regulator, which attach in the same way you’d hook up a propane tank to your grill. A single propane tank should last you around 10 hours in a heater running on high, and a bit longer if run on lower settings. We popped in a propane tank (we always keep one on hand just in case) and started it up. I was immediately impressed with the device’s heat output. I instantly felt warm on an evening where my exposed arms were dotted with goosebumps.
Adjusting the temperature is easy, too. Although, I do have to stand on my tippy toes to reach the ignition knob and adjust the output from low to high. Bonus being that if you have kids, they definitely won’t be able to reach the knob and the taller height keeps the hottest part of the heater well out of reach.
Review of the AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater
Since the day we assembled it, I’ve used the AmazonBasics heater consistently for more than three months – on chilly evenings, during socially distanced outdoor dinners, and to keep warm while letting the dogs out to pee. More recently, I’ve tested its limitations in more uncomfortable, freezing conditions. Through it all, it’s allowed me and my pod of outdoor guests to keep warm when we’d otherwise much prefer to be inside. I’ve used the heater a lot. Mostly on days where it’s cold enough to need a sweater. A few times, I fired it up to enjoy breakfast with my parents on days with no sun and temperatures dipping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit – cold enough to need a jacket. Overall, I’ve spent way more time outside during the fall months than I have in any other year and it’s largely in part to having the heater on hand to keep me warm.
To really test the boundaries of the heater, I took to my patio table on a day where snow was still on the ground and it was almost 32 degrees outside. I grabbed my trusty digital thermometer, fired up my laptop, and turned on the patio heater hoping that it would warm the air and prevent me from freezing while I tried to get work done.
The 46,000 Btu managed to raise the surrounding ambient temperature of my 300-square foot deck to about 51 Fahrenheit. It’s a significant temperature difference when the air is that cold. It should be noted that it took a while for that temperature increase to occur – about two hours.
Here’s the deal: In the deep cold of winter, a single patio heater won’t get you very far – especially if you’re sitting around a table. During this chilly test, the coldest part of my body was my lower half, which was tucked under my patio table. I could definitely see myself sitting out there longer with a jacket and a warm meal or coffee, but I’d be most comfortable with an additional compact heater, like the Mr. Buddy Patio Heater, on the ground heating up my legs. Of course, sitting directly under the heater makes for a toastier experience than sitting across the table from it.
That said, the AmazonBasics patio heater is an excellent option for keeping your outdoor spot comfortable during chilly summer nights and cold fall evenings, so long as the temperature doesn’t dip too close to freezing. It’s also apparent that any kind of breeze – even a slight one – has a significant impact on heating performance, especially in cold weather. Over the many months I used the heater, I noticed I always felt more comfortable on a still day, rather than a breezy day, even if the temperatures outside were the same. Additionally, you’ll also feel warmer on a sunny day versus one that’s overcast.
Durability and storage
The heater has so far survived multiple rainstorms, one snowfall, a freeze, and windy weather. You can add sandbags to the bottom for added sturdiness, but we didn’t bother and it never once wobbled on stormy evenings.
There’s no need to disassemble it to store it for the winter. You can keep it on your deck or patio. I did buy a cover for it, but I haven’t yet managed to put it on because, well, I am too short to reach on my own. I also love that it has wheels and you can roll it around. It’s easy to move it out of the way when not in use.
The AmazonBasics heater has a tip-over shutoff feature, which automatically turns the heater off if it falls over – I tested this by tipping it over while lit, and it works (I don’t recommend trying this at home, however). Despite its safety features, it’s always important to be vigilant around any heating appliances. These flaming patio accessories can warm you up nicely, but they can also do some damage if not used correctly.
Matthew Griffith, Prevention Section Chief with the Montreal Fire Department, cautions people to keep patio heaters away from flammable materials, paying attention to low-hanging tree branches, umbrellas, wooden fences, and other obstacles. He also warns people to never use propane-powered appliances like patio heaters indoors, because they emit carbon monoxide, which can be deadly in confined spaces.
The bottom line
The AmazonBasics patio heater is now a permanent fixture on my deck. I’m not sure how much use I’ll get out of it when it’s regularly freezing outside, but it has helped me extend my outdoor social time during the pandemic. At a time when gathering indoors feels fraught, I’ve managed to occasionally see the people I love and maintain safe social distancing – even just for an hour.
But it’s not a perfect solution. Ideally, I’d outfit my patio with multiple heaters, but availability and cost limit my options. The heater isn’t capable of melting layers of snow, so there’s bound to be a moment in time when we’re stuck indoors and outdoor meetups are impossible. There’s also some trial and error involved in figuring out what feels acceptable and comfortable for you. Still, the heater makes me feel like I’ve won in some small way. I imagine that even when the pandemic is over, I’ll feel as if I’ve conquered the change of seasons with the help of my fiery, warming device.