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Can You Use An Outdoor Heater Under A Covered Patio?

Can You Use An Outdoor Heater Under A Covered Patio?

An outdoor heater, also known as a patio heater, is a must-have for patio owners.

Especially if you live in a part of the country where the winter months are too cold to enjoy your patio space - a patio heater set up can make your space enjoyable year round.

It's fair to ask if you can use an outdoor heater underneath your covered patio. After all, these heaters can pump out quite a bit of heat in close proximity to your building structure.

We’re going to be explaining why many outdoor heaters can be used under covered patios and why some can't.

The Short Answer

The short answer is yes, you can use outdoor heaters under a covered patio.

However, you should be aware of the clearance specifications of the heater you intend to use outdoors.

Many heaters are designed specifically for use and mounting underneath a covered patio.  These heaters hardly need any clearance space on the back side of the heater, so you can mount them right on a wall or ceiling.

Other heaters, however, require clearance space around all sides of the heater.  Proceed with caution and make sure you are utilizing the proper amount of clearance space, no matter the type of heater you use.

Why Could Using An Outdoor Heater Under A Covered Patio Be Dangerous?

You might be wondering what could be so bad about using an outdoor heater under a covered patio, and if you’re not familiar with the science behind patio heaters, this is a fair question.

Basically, it all comes down to clearance. Clearance is a term used to describe the amount of space a heater needs between it and the nearest wall or ceiling.

Some outdoor heaters have relatively small clearance requirements, meaning that if your covered patio is large enough, they are safe to use.

However, other outdoor heaters require more clearance than a covered patio can provide.

If you want to know the clearance of a specific outdoor heater, you will need to look at the instructions for use provided by the manufacturer.

It’s very important to adhere to these instructions because otherwise, surfaces that are too close to the heater could be exposed to too much heat, resulting in a fire hazard.

Which Outdoor Heaters Can Be Used Under Covered Patios?

Now that we’re all aware of the potential dangers of using an outdoor heater under a covered patio, let’s take a look at which heaters pose this kind of danger, and which are safe to use in a semi-enclosed space.

Portable Propane Tower Heaters

One of the most common types of outdoor heaters is the portable propane "mushroom" style heater.

These tower heaters typically run on propane and distribute heat in an even ring around a circular heating element.

This type of heater tends to need about 2 feet of clearance at minimum on the top, and likely more on the sides.

Obviously, that would mean your patio covering needs to be at least a couple of feet higher than 

The great thing about portable propane mushroom heaters is that, as the name implies, they are portable.

This means that they’re easy to move around so that you can adjust the clearance as needed.

However, when it comes to materials like wood, fabric, and lattice (any material that is combustible), you’ll need to maintain at least a 6-foot clearance because of the increased fire risk (or more depending on manufacturer specifications).

Infrared Electric Heaters

If you have a covered patio and don’t yet have an outdoor heater, you can save yourself a lot of stress about fire safety by purchasing an infrared electric heater.

The reason infrared electric heaters are so safe for use under covered patios is that most of them let heat out to the sides rather than upward, so the presence of a roof isn’t so much of an issue. 

In fact, these heaters tend to be designed for flush mounting, meaning they can be mounted flush with your ceiling.

For example, below is the Bromic Electric Smart Heat installed with a flush mounting kit:

Tower Flame Heaters

Similar to mushroom style heaters, tower flame heaters require at least a few feet of clearance from the top of the heater to the covering of your patio.

Again, though, if the roof is made of combustible material (wood, for example), the clearance needs to be 6 feet.

How To Use An Outdoor Heater Safely Under A Covered Patio

Despite the fact that all of the heaters mentioned above can technically be used under covered patios (depending on the dimensions of the patio and the specific clearance instructions set by the heater’s manufacturer), tower style heaters are safest when used in uncovered spaces.

However, you can take some steps to make your use of your outdoor heater as safe as possible in a covered patio.

One thing we recommend doing if you want to ensure that your heater doesn’t cause a fire in your covered patio is to angle the heater towards an opening in the patio.

This is recommended because patio heaters don’t work like air heaters.

Air heaters blow hot air into the environment, whereas patio heaters produce something called radiant heat.

Radiant heat heats up objects surrounding the heater as opposed to the molecules in the air, so directing a patio heater towards a wall or roof will lead to that surface getting extremely hot.

This overheating can be prevented by pointing the heater at an open space.

Final Thoughts

Outdoor heaters are primarily designed to be used in open spaces, but most patio heaters can be used in covered patios as long as the patio dimensions are suitable and the clearance dimensions set out by the manufacturer are observed.

Electric infrared heaters are the safest for covered patios, but you can usually also use fixed mushroom heaters and portable tower heaters in these patios as long as you leave at least 2 feet of clearance between the heater and the walls and roof, or 6 feet between the heater and combustible materials.

You can make your outdoor heater safer in a covered patio by angling it toward an opening.

Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before using an outdoor heater in a covered patio.

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