Restaurant Heater Buyers Guide


In this guide our goal is to help you select the best restaurant patio heater for your individual needs by answering the questions you might have.  So whether you are looking for a portable heater for a small outdoor space, or you have several restaurants with large open outdoor spaces that need industrial style wall or ceiling heaters.  And even if you are needing to heat an open area that doesn’t give you an option to mount a heater to, this guide will benefit you.

We would like to introduce you to the expert providing the in depth knowledge on how best to heat your restaurant patio or outdoor space, Mike Workman.  You will be hard pressed to find anyone that is more qualified than Mike Workman to help you choose the best heater for your restaurant, bar or outdoor commercial space.

Mike has been in the patio heater industry for over 25 years. His expertise in this industry is invaluable in demystifying the intricacies and complexities of the various heaters on offer.  Mike will guide you as he has already previously advised hundreds of clients buying from for their restaurants and commercial spaces, advising which patio heaters are best suited for their specific application.  

Restaurant patio heaters come in many shapes and sizes, there are generally three different fuel sources to choose from, the pricing goes from affordable to expensive, and these days patio heaters are available everywhere to buy.

This availability can make it difficult to determine the best choice for your restaurants application, let Mike help simplify this process for you. Phone: 760-919-4358



Increase Your Max Capacity

During cooler months, without patio heaters, your outdoor space is likely not often used by your patrons. An effective outdoor patio heating system can increase your max capacity seating and head per table. Thus increasing your overall revenue.  Installing a outdoor patio heating system will allow you to expand your available space and offer outdoor seating to your client’s while keeping them comfortable with the use of the outdoor patio heater system.

Enjoyable Alfresco Dining

Many customers consider eating outside an enjoyable, pleasant experience.  Having patio seating options available at your restaurant is a great way to attract clients and to keep them coming back for more! Our outdoor patio heaters ensure that it will be a cozy temperature despite the weather!

Low-maintenance & Easy To Use

Modern patio heater systems are very low maintenance. Electric being the overall winner, however, natural gas and propane come in a close second. And with the option of adjustable controls, patio heaters are very easy to use, it’s as simple as turning a dial.

Attractive Gathering Spot

Flame effect outdoor patio heaters make for a very attractive outdoor gathering area. With outdoor patio heaters you can make a great feature for customers to gather around and enjoy your outdoor atmosphere.

Silent & Durable

Our modern patio heaters are very quiet, your customers won’t know they are actually running expect for the warmth they provide!  Visually the heating element will also indicate that they are on but you will not hear them hard at work!

Most of our restaurant grade patio heaters are built from materials like stainless steel, which means they are very durable and can handle the majority of harsh weather conditions. Marine grade stainless steel is now available on both of the Schwank and the Calcana brand gas heater lines.



One of the first steps to choosing a patio heater for your area, is to accurately measure the length and width to get your square footage.  Know what you are working with!

Natural Gas and Propane

To determine if the natural gas or propane patio heater of your choice will suit your space and adequately heat the area, follow Mike’s simple formula below:  

In Mike’s experience of all his 25 years selling and installing outdoor heaters; he has learned that not all heaters heat the same. Instead he has discovered that most gas heaters that are 25.000 btu (give or take) only heat about an 8×8 foot square area.

35.000 to 40.000 btu gas heaters heat 8 to 10 feet high and will heat a12x12 foot area quite efficiently and when you get 50.000 to the Calcana 75.000 btu heaters they will heat a 15×15 foot area easily.

In Mike’s experience the electric heaters will heat as well as gas with half the btu ratings. Example: An Infratech 6000 watt 240 volt electric heater feels as hot as a Sunpak 34.000 btu gas heater.

It’s important to note that not all gas heaters are built alike.

There are tube heaters and ceramic infrared patio heaters. Tube heaters are just that. There are built with a burner box on one end and simply blow fire/heat down thru a steel tube heating it up and reflecting the radiant heat outward heating objects and not the air, Once the objects start to heat up most everything gets warm and comfortable. On a tube heater there is no open flame so weather, rain and wind cannot affect the heat.  Also, fire inspectors love them because they work without an open flame!

Ceramic gas heaters are very popular. The way ceramic gas heaters make radiant heat is with a ceramic long block that has a flame running down through, this then serves to get the ceramic glowing red hot, thus turning it into INFRARED REFLECTIVE RADIANT HEAT. This is the same as the tube heaters in the fact that it only heats objects. It’s important to note that wind will blow the flames around and can disrupt heating.  If the wind also can at times even blow the flame out. Please also be aware that rain will damage the ceramic blocks and even crack them. So it’s important to use this type with these things in mind.

High altitude gas heaters:

Please note that when you are ordering a gas heater, please tell us if its higher than 6500 feet. On some heaters we will need to rejet them for efficient heating. Always over size a gas heater when you are in an elevation of 6500 foot and above or in extremely cold areas.



Calcana: 5 foot and 10 foot 15” wide 9” thick. Only comes in stainless steel. Wall or ceiling mounting available.

Pros: Mounting within 6” to combustibles (makes this heater very popular). Adjustable heat range (they hold a patent on this technology and it is the only heater of its kind). This unit puts out very good heat and they are built well and are very stylish. Built in Alabama.

Cons: Hard to ship, Big crates. Built in fan can be a LITTLE noisy but we have only had a few customers tell us that. Installers need to be aware and read the instruction for install. We are always here to help. Other than that Mike loves these heaters.

Sunpak gas heaters: Truly the most popular heaters and have been the top seller for years.

Pros. Sunpak heaters have developed a model and a stylized look for every taste. Classic black or stainless 25.000 or 34.000 btu with a sexy decoritive facia that can be mounted on the face for a nice upgraded modern look. Facia comes in black, stainless steel and bronze. The fascia was an option provided as a direct result of Mike Workman suggesting and asking for the facia as a necessary feature.  And to the benefit of our clients they listened!

Sunpak TSR  Same as above but these have a wireless remote control and are too stage, 25 and 34.000 btu, Low or high with a touch of a hand held button or wall mounted pad.  These also have a small 9 foot power cord to plug in.

Sunpak TSH   Same as above but hard wired so you can’t lose the remote. Also, have high and low heat capabilities. Very popular, restaurants love these. All Sunpak heaters are built in So Cal.

Cons   All Sunpaks have to be kept 12” to 18” away from combustibles. Not the hottest heater on the market but very sufficient.  No other cons currently.

DSCS Detroit Radiant Designer series gas heaters:

This is a wonderful heater.  It burns hotter than most. It looks good and is the best bang for the buck. Mike advises that to this day he has not had any complaints with this heater.

Schwank gas heaters:

Schwank makes a wide variety of gas heaters and Mike likes them all. They burn extremely hot and offer 2 stage high low heating and merian grade stainless steel.  Please note that these heaters can take up to a week or so for delivery. See our page for more info and pricing. Made in Canada.

Bromic Gas heaters: These heaters have their own unique look.

Pros   Small in size, simple to install with a very modern look. A few options and moderately priced. The tunston burns/heats very well.

Cons  These need about 18” clearance away from combustibles. The platinum has a glass face but while mike likes the look it does seem to hold back some heat.

Electric Heater

When working to decide on your choice of an electric patio heater, the steps you need to figure out if it will be adequate to heat your space are based on the size of the room and the watts necessary to heat the space..  To identify the appropriate watts needed, a good rule of thumb is that the unit needs to consume 40 watts of power per square foot of the area to be heated. For an example: a room 12 feet by 12 feet, that gives us 144 sq.ft., multiplied by 40 to give us a total of: 6000 watts.  You then know that your ideal outdoor patio heater is a 6000 watt unit and that it will then meet your requirements.

Mike loves electric heaters, there are several factors to consider so we are lucky we have Mike on hand to guide us.

We receive several calls a day specifically asking what is the difference between gas and electric heaters.  Mike breaks it down for us here:

Initial upfront cost is more than half the cost than gas heaters. Way more than half the size. Can be mounted within 2” from combustables. Sleek looks and colors. No internal working parts just heat bulbs that last for years. Noiseless.

Just the opposite on gas heaters, Start at over $1000.00, and they are much bigger, Need heat clearances, and some can make a bit of noise. However, you can get more heat from gas heaters due to the fact they are available with more power (BTU). Gas heaters also need very good ventilation. Must have good clean air and because the put out carbon monoxide they need air to vent out. Electric does not put out carbon monoxide.

When determining if an electric heater is something you are able to install in your area; these are the things you will have to know.

Can I use the 115 volt power I have on my patio?  115 volt standard power you have on your patio will at best power only 1 1500 watt heater with only 5000 btu. What this will do is heat about a 5×5 foot area and that’s about it . So to heat a space about 12’x12’ you will need 208 or 240 volt and a dedicated breaker for each heater, sometimes 20 to 30 amps for each. So before you can make the determination that you can use electric heaters you need to know WHAT IS THE AVAILABLE POWER I HAVE LEFT IN MY SERVICE PANEL AND IS IT FEASIBLE COST WISE TO RUN HIGH POWER OUT TO MY PATIO OR IS GAS A SIMPLER WAY TO GO. You must know this before you buy an electric heater



What type of heater is best for your outdoor space?

Portable patio heaters are great for outdoor dining spaces that share public space or walkways, and need to be packed away after hours.

Wall mounted patio heaters are best for larger attached patios

Ceiling mounted heaters are a great candidate for patios with higher rafters that can be used as attachment points. If your space is a candidate for both Wall or Ceiling, which is the best option to go with?  Mike advises that clients concerned with the appearance of the unit they typically go with the wall mount. Or if the ceiling is too high, these units can be mounted anywhere. Ultimately a ceiling mount is more aesthetically pleasing but is determined by your space on how and where to best mount your patio heaters.

Typically portables are cheaper and more inexpensive allowing for flexibility and easily changing them out.  A great solution if you don’t have ample power or gas option, or if you are maxed out on either. Overall a better price point.

It’s important to note that propane is being outlawed in some of the larger cities.  There are often a lot of rules and regulations that the fire departments enforce and adhere to.  Be sure to know what is allowed in your region!



Restaurant patio heaters have three main power or fuel sources. The best choice for your needs will depend on a few variables we discuss this and more as we review the pros and cons for each fuel source.

Natural Gas aka NG gas

Best Suited for larger restaurants with attached outdoor areas that have natural gas already installed.

  • Pros
    • Continuous heating.
    • It doesn’t need to be refilled
    • It’s generally the most efficient
    • Typically it is the most cost effective option
    • Great safety features
  • Cons

The main disadvantage of natural gas patio heaters is that if you don’t have a natural gas line, you would need to hire a plumber to install gas lines to your heater locations.

Another disadvantage being that you cannot move the heaters around easily due to gas line connection, unlike propane which is very portable.

Propane aka LP gas

Best suited for restaurants that do not have natural gas installed, or if a portable heater would be a better option, as most propane options our found in our portable models.

  • Pros
    • Great for spaces that do not have a Natural Gas line
    • All that is necessary for it to run is a propane tank
    • Most models allow for the gas tank ito be stored inside the heater
    • Portable. so it’s easy to move propane heaters to different locations.
    • Very efficient
    • cost effective,
    • Ranked a close second to natural gas options
  • Cons
    • Hassel of refilling/replacing the propane tanks
    • Due to safety codes propane tanks cannot be brought in through elevators or enclosed staircases or through a building/restaurant itself.
    • Can only ever be delivered or stored outside
    • Approximate cost is currently $3 per gallon and a restaurant will easily burn through 4 gallons of propane a night.  
    • Most expensive option
    • Manual process
    • Hard to get service/repair
    • Heaters can blow over in the wind and get damaged


Best suited to facilities with no natural gas lines.

  • Pros
    • Very convenient if your restaurant has available electrical power in your service panel to power one or more heaters.
    • Very low maintenance when compared with it’s gas counterparts. No gas lines to check, no gas fittings to test for leaks, no working parts to service etc.
    • Safer than both gas options
    • Can be controlled with timers and heat ranges.


  • Not as cost effective as natural gas patio heaters
  • You may need to have a new power source installed depending on the location of your customers and the nearest electrical outlet
  • Not as aesthetically pleasing as the flame effect options found with natural gas heaters


Consider if you will you need a contractors help in setting up strategic electric outlets, or gas lines

Most often the contractor will need to coordinate with either an electrician or a plumber based on your choice of patio heaters.

We are only just a phone call away and we will try use our industry and equipment knowledge to help as best we can during the installation process. Please email or call Mike for more information.



If you can’t find the answer to a question in our restaurant patio heater buyers guide, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are always happy to answer any questions.


We are happy to discuss discounts for multiple heater purchases. Please email or call Mike for more information.  Watch for monthly specials!

More reasons to choose us

We do answer the phone, we are attentive to your needs and we care!  Our team is comprised of experts in what they do!

In the business for over 25 years!  We have the privilege of helping hundreds of clients over the years and in doing so we have amassed a wealth of knowledge.  You get the benefit our experience!

Mike is a licensed general contractor and he has installed/serviced most everything we sell!  

We look forward to working with you!

Phone:  760-919-4358

Let's get in touch!

Do you have any questions?

I'm Mike,

I’ve been providing top-notch commercial heaters for businesses and industrial use since 1995. I'm here to assist by offering a no strings attached consultation to help you choose the perfect outdoor heater for your commercial space.

Feel free to contact me at (760) 779-1352 or drop an email for personalized service and expert advice.