Informational Guide

How Long Do Propane Tanks Last On Patio Heaters?

Nobody wants to run out of gas and be stuck out in the cold. Learn how long a propane tank should be lasting so you won’t run out when you need it most.

by Josh M

As the nights grow colder, it’s great to have a patio heater so you can continue to use your outdoor space. There are a wide variety of patio heaters and fire pits on the market, each of which uses different fuels.

Propane is generally the most popular fuel because it’s the easiest to manipulate and control, but other fuels work well too. In this guide, we’ll briefly explain lighting a patio heater and show you exactly how long you should expect a propane fuel tank to last.

Belleze Premium Propane Patio Outdoor Heater in the Garden

There’s a lot of different fuels you can use for your patio heater, but propane is the most common because it offers some unique benefits. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Environment Friendly
    Propane is a very clean option as it doesn’t give off any smoke or emissions. This means there’s no air pollution, and it’s friendly for the environment, helping to lower your overall footprint.
  • Convenient To Use
    Propane is available in most stores, and you don’t need a specialist supplier. It’s also really easy to use and long-lasting. This means you won’t need to refuel anywhere near as often, allowing you to relax on your patio with no stress.
  • Effective Heating
    Propane patio heaters are regarded as some of the most effective at heating your outdoor space. Propane itself provides a consistent and reliable fuel that won’t drop out or dip. It allows you to fully control the heater and ensure you’re getting the level of heat you need consistently.
  • Low Maintenance
    Propane will fuel your heater continuously once it’s connected to the heater. Other fuels need to be replaced more often and can cause much more of a mess. Wood heaters can be especially high maintenance, and you’ll have to clean out and replace the wood much more often.
  • Flexible
    Propane patio heaters can be used safely inside and outside as there’s no smoke or other contaminants released. You can move this type of patio heater about as needed, and it won’t impact the performance, making it one of the most versatile options.
  • Equipped With Safety Features
    Propane heaters are equipped with anti-tip technology, so they will automatically shut off if they reach a certain angle. This helps prevent any of the fuel from leaking and potentially causing harm to you or your family.
Patio Heater Safety Feature Graphic

How Long Does A Propane Tank Last For a Patio Heater?

Propane is regarded as one of the most efficient fuel sources for patio heaters. The power needed for a heater is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), which is a way of describing how much energy is needed to heat 1 cubic foot of water. The higher the BTUs, the higher the output and the more heat that will be provided.

The number of BTUs needed for your patio heater will be impacted by the size of the space you need to heat. This will impact how quickly your fuel will be burned up, how big the tank needs to be, and how many hours you can expect it to last.

Propane will provide roughly 2500 BTUs per square foot, making it a very effective fuel. To calculate the number of BTUs provided by the patio heater, we need to multiply.

We’ve given a breakdown below of roughly how long you can expect each tank size to last based on the number of BTUs. Remember that the larger the area you want to heat, the more BTUs you’ll need. 40-45,000 BTUs will heat roughly 200 square feet, so you can select the heater you need based on the area you’re trying to heat.

Patio Heater BTU’s Propane Tank Size (lbs) No. Of Hours (approx)
20,000 20 21.5
40,000 20 10.75
60,000 20 7.2
20,000 30 32.5
40,000 30 16.25
60,000 30 10.75
20,000 40 43
40,000 60 21.5
60,000 60 14.3

How Does Space Affect the Amount of Propane Needed?

The number of BTUs needed by your propane patio heater is heavily influenced by the temperature you want to reach and the area you’re trying to heat. Your average patio heater will produce 40,000 BTUs, which will heat about 180 square feet. If you have a larger space, then you’ll need a larger heater that produces more BTU.

The larger the space, the more BTUs you need and the quicker the propane will be used. You should expect a 40,000 BTU heater with a 20lb tank to last just over 10 hours, but if you start having to produce more BTU, then the fuel will be used more quickly. With all patio heaters, you should also consider the specific conditions outside. Your heater will need to do more if adverse weather temperatures are preventing you from reaching the desired temperature.

Your patio heater needs to be suited to the space it’s heating. If your heater is too small, then your machine will be working harder to try and do the job, but it may end up damaging the internal mechanism. This will limit the unit’s longevity.

Heat Distance of a Patio Heater

Tips For Making Propane It Last Longer

Propane is an efficient way to fuel your patio heater, and it’s pretty affordable, but you still want to try and squeeze every last bit of value out of it that you can. There are some things you can do to make your heater more efficient and make better use of your propane:

  • Get The Right Size Heater
    The best way to improve the overall efficiency of your patio heater and get the most heat for the amount of propane is to select the correct size heater. Make sure the BTU of the unit reflects the area it needs to heat, and don’t expect too much from your heater.
  • Don’t Overuse The Heater
    You can protect your fuel supply by only using the heater when you really need to. Make sure to turn it off when it’s not in use and only switch it on when it gets colder.
  • Control The Temperature
    Some propane heaters come with a built-in thermostat that allows you to control the temperature and even get the device to turn off when it reaches a specific heat. This allows you to preserve your propane and only use it as needed.
  • Check Your Access Tube
    Your propane will travel into the patio heater through a tube or pipe. If this pipe becomes kinked, then it limits how much propane can come into your heater, and you’ll be wasting fuel without getting the full benefit.
  • Regularly Check Your Pilot Tube
    You should check the pilot tube for any corrosion or blockages which might prevent your flame from lighting. If there is any damage, you may need to replace that tube, or you’ll be wasting your propane before the patio heater is on.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Which is better: a propane or electric patio heater?

Electric patio heaters are generally more expensive to buy but slightly cheaper to run. They are usually somewhat less effective than propane heaters, and you’ll need to run them for longer. Propane heaters are often better suited for outdoor use.

Do most firepits use propane gas?

Yes, more firepits do use propane, but some use natural gas. Natural gas is much less efficient than propane, so it would cost you more if you went with that option.

Can you use a propane heater on a covered porch or gazebo?

Yes, as long as you have the right type of heater and it fits within the dimensions of the porch or gazebo with enough clearance.

Can you use a propane patio heater in the rain?

Yes, one of the advantages of propane is that it will continue to fuel the flame even if it’s raining. However, regularly exposing your heater to rain could cause damage to your heater.

Can outdoor propane heaters be left out in the rain?

Yes, they can, but exposing them to rain too frequently can damage the heater and may impact the unit’s longevity. We remember putting a cover over your heater when it is not in use.  Remember, electric heaters should never be left in the rain in any circumstances.

Conclusion

Propane patio heaters are the simple, convenient, and efficient way to heat your outdoor space. It’s worth knowing how much fuel you’ll use to heat your patio, and hopefully, this article has helped you better understand how much propane you’ll use and what it might cost you.

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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