In the case of overhead gas outdoor heaters, their combustible clearances require them to hang down well below flammables that may be above them. Most overhead gas outdoor heaters are either on or off. Some gas patio heaters have low and high settings. However gas heaters are economical to run, and have a warmth that is pleasantly similar in feeling to an open fire.

Electric quartz-tube patio heaters are low profile, with minimal combustible clearances and low maintenance. They can be set up with controls to dial the heat up and down. Many overhead stainless steel heaters can be powder coated a variety of colors. Single-element quartz electric patio heaters warm softly. The intensity of dual-element quartz-tube outdoor heaters rivals the heat of overhead gas patio heaters. Electric patio heaters use a lot of electricity, which is expensive, but are normally operated for a short time, limiting the operating cost.