A versatile column patio heater that throws out heat from the front and back making it ideal for outdoor gatherings. Plus, it's stylish, easy to assemble, has good build quality, and is easy to use.
Mid-range price point
Two heat settings (1000W & 2000W)
Easy to use
Good build quality
Tall column design great for garden parties
360-degree tip-over safety switch
Not that portable
Not the easiest to store
Doesn't heat your lower half that well if seated
Why you can trust Ideal Home
This Swan Column Patio Heater review puts one of the brand's bestselling patio heaters through its paces. A well-known name in the world of outdoor heaters, Swan offers electric heaters in a range of shapes and sizes, from wall-mounted options to tabletop heaters and standing patio heaters, all at relatively affordable mid-range price points.
The Swan Column Patio Heater is a versatile option designed to appeal to those who like to do more than just sit outdoors. Its taller height should make it a good option for outdoor gatherings and entertaining, with the column design offering the best of both worlds and (hopefully) dishing out warmth whether you're sitting down dining, standing up chatting, or moving around and entertaining a crowd.
But how would it perform in a real-life setting? I've now tested out a range of bestselling patio heaters in my slightly exposed hillside garden, so I was eager to see how the Swan Column Patio Heater would perform against the competition.
I tested the Swan Column Patio Heater over several weeks, assessing ease of assembly and setup, ease of use, portability, its design features, and, of course, its performance, to see whether it could keep away the chill on a cool and breezy evening. Read on to find out how it performed compared to the best patio heaters on the market.
Swan Column Patio Heater review
- Heat type: Electric carbon fibre
- Dimensions: H140 x Dia40cm
- Weight: 12.8kg
- Materials: Anodized aluminium alloy frame, stainless steel base cover
- Power settings: 1000W and 2000W
- Self-assembly required: Yes
- Portable: Yes
- Other features: 360 degree tip-over safety switch
How I tested
I'm Rachel, a freelance journalist who specialises in interior design and product reviews. I've tested out hundreds of appliances as well as plenty of outdoor living essentials, from the best BBQs to the best lawnmowers. When not happily unboxing and rigorously testing products, you’ll find me antique hunting, going for a gentle run, or unwinding with a glass of fizz.
I tested out the Swan Column Patio Heater on a sheltered area of decking within my windswept hillside garden, comparing it to other leading brand names to see how well it performed against the best-in-class outdoor heaters.
The Swan Column Patio Heater arrived packaged mostly in sustainable cardboard.
There are only two plastic bags covering the large parts of the heater, plus two small plastic bags of fixings.
Underneath these is the base, which is quite heavy, so a combination of cardboard and minimal polystyrene has been used to protect it from shifting around.
The Swan Column Patio Heater is assembled in six steps. First, you attach the top half of the column tower to the bottom section of the tower and then fit the bottom section to the base, before adding the side parts.
I put the Swan Column Patio Heater together by myself, so it can be done as a single-person assembly, but I would recommend having another person on-hand for attaching the base to the bottom section of the column tower.
I found I had to lean the bottom half up against a wall to prevent it from wobbling as I used the provided allen key to secure the heavy base in place. The downloadable assembly PDF advises a two-person assembly, although the instructions included in the box do not specify this.
I also found it easier to attach the top half (which is where the cable emerges from) to the bottom before attaching the cable clamp to the base as suggested by the instructions. For the cable clamp, you will also need a small crosshead screwdriver, which isn’t provided.
I found it annoying that you can only fix the cable to one side of the base and not the back – the position of my outdoor socket meant I then had to run the cable across back on itself, losing length by doing so. The cable is 1.8m long – the maximum length allowed to comply with current UK/EU safety standards.
Whilst not the hardest instructions, they could definitely be simplified and have better illustrations to follow. Assembly took me around 20 minutes all in all (plus searching for a screwdriver for the cable clamp section).
Once assembled, all I needed to do was plug the heater into an outdoor socket to power it. Like all patio heaters, the supplied power cable is 1.8m long – the maximum length allowed to comply with current UK/EU safety standards – so in my case, I needed to use an extension cable to get it into position on my decking.
As patio heaters go, the Swan Column Patio Heater is more stylish than most. The stainless-steel base cover, anodised aluminium alloy frame, and silver plastic side detail with contrasting black plastic tower give the outdoor heater a clean, modern look.
The heater sections felt a little flimsy and plasticky by themselves, but by the time the whole product was assembled the build quality felt good, and the heater feels sturdy and well-made with the heavy base making toppling unlikely.
Plus, just in case accidents do happen, the Swan Column Patio Heater benefits from a 360-degree tip-over safety switch meaning it will automatically turn itself off if knocked over.
The controls are very simple to use, with a control knob sitting halfway up the column tower that allows you to toggle between activating one bar (1,000W) or two bars (2,000W of heat to vary the temperature. The position of the control panel makes it easy to reach from both a sitting or standing position.
The control knob can be turned left or right, meaning it can go straight to two bars if turned counter-clockwise, and then be turned down to one without having to go through turning both bars off first. Or you can turn the knob clockwise to select one bar, then two.
The grill elements are double-sided, meaning that the patio heater gives out heat from both the front and back – perfect if you want to use it during a garden party to warm mingling guests.
Turning the control to one bar (1,000W) or two (2,000W) activates the heater. It takes a few seconds to start to heat up, then you’ll start to feel a gentle warmth. It’s not a fierce heat, especially when only one bar is on. I found it delivered the best performance when I was standing up. I’m 5’7 (170cm) and could feel the heat right up to my shoulders. When sitting down, I could feel it across my face and torso but my legs didn’t receive much.
At one metre away, I could easily feel the heat when standing and two bars were on. At the same distance, with one bar on, I found the heat was faint but still detectable. When sitting with two bars on, the heat was pleasant on my face and shoulders but the rest of my torso could start to feel the breeze more. With one bar on while sitting, the heat was not detectable on my body but I could feel some heat on my face.
The bars are quite orangey and bright when on but not unpleasant thanks to the black metal grill subduing the glow. In the evenings, it reminded me of the light from a fire pit.
The choice of heat outputs makes this a more economical heater than some to run on a regular basis. Opting for the one-bar 1,000W setting, at a rate of 30p per kWh, it would cost 30p an hour to run, meaning, for example, an evening of three hours would be 90p.
Choosing the higher two-bar setting that uses 2,000W of energy would mean a cost of 60p per hour and £1.80 for an evening.
I used a thermometer to check how hot the heater’s grill was once it had been on for five minutes on full power and then turned off. The highest reading was 55°C, which started to cool quickly after about a minute.
Even though the upper heater section isn’t incredibly heavy, its weighty base makes the bottom of the Swan Column Patio Heater heavy, and at 12.8kg overall, it's difficult to move or carry it solo.
I found it was much easier to shift it with two people, but choosing a home for it and leaving it there during periods of frequent use would be much more convenient than moving it around regularly.
There’s no real maintenance required with the Swan Column Patio Heater. The instructions advise cleaning the outer surface when disconnected with a damp cloth and then drying it with a dry cloth to keep it looking its best.
You won’t need to drag Swan’s patio heater under cover every time you feel a little drizzle. It has an IP rating of IP24 giving it sufficient protection from the damp, if not a sudden downpour.
Long-term storage might be more demanding. The heater is tall, and not easy to store at an angle because of the heavy base, so needs somewhere with enough vertical space to accommodate it. The instructions suggest storing it in its original packaging when it won’t be used for prolonged periods, meaning that you’d have to dismantle it to get it back in its box, then reassemble, which is a chore.
How does it rate online?
There are only a few reviews of the heater on Swan’s own website – mostly positive and focusing on its height and design, meaning that small children and pets aren’t at risk of being burnt, and mentioning that the heater is ideal for placing between two people when sitting.
Over at Amazon, there are comments about the heater's short cable – somewhat unfair as the 1.8m cable length is required as standard on outdoor appliances to conform to current UK/EU safety standards – as well as some reviews mentioning difficulty with assembling and that the heat didn't reach as far as expected. However, it’s praised for being sturdy, easy to use, and looking attractive.
I didn't have much trouble with assembly, although there's no doubt having to self-assemble is more trouble than a product that arrives ready-built, and I was happy with the amount of heat it kicked out – especially when both heating elements were switched on. I also agreed with those who praised its sturdiness, ease of use, and attractive design.
More utilitarian than some yet more thoughtfully designed than others, the Swan Column Patio Heater is stylish and modern, feels sturdy, and benefits from a 360-degree tip-over safety switch meaning it will automatically turn itself off if knocked over – great for extra peace of mind whilst it's in use. I also found it relatively easy to assemble, and very easy to use once set up.
What's more, it's ideal if you’re keen to keep a check on running costs without compromising on taking the chill off evenings outside. Its two heat settings allow you to toggle between 1000W and 2000W of power, and provide a degree of flexibility – and economy – that a few heaters have.
Its column design is also versatile. If you don't want a tabletop patio heater cluttering your dining surface then this option will still heat faces and torsos when users are seated, but it's also tall enough to warm a group who are standing up. The higher heating elements also offer more peace of mind to those with young children or pets.
However, I did find that when seated my lower half wasn't warmed that much by the column design, so if you're considering mainly using it whilst seated then you might want to think about a model more suited to low-level heating instead. The patio heater's weight and subsequent lack of portability are also somewhat of a restriction.
That said, for its reasonable purchase price, I think the Swan Column Patio Heater is a good-value buy for most people.
The Swan Column Patio Heater's tall design and front and rear heating elements make it particularly suited to those keen on outdoor entertaining, where standing garden party guests will appreciate the multi-directional body-level heat whilst mingling. But, it's also a great choice for anyone looking for a relatively affordable way to add outdoor warmth to the patio or deck, enabling you to get more use out of your garden or outside space off-season.
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Rachel Ogden is a freelance journalist with more than 20 years’ experience of writing, editing and sub-editing. Since 2007, she's worked exclusively in interiors, writing about everything from extending your home to kitchen worktops, flooring, storage and more. She specialises in product reviews, having reviews hundreds of small and large appliances and homeware.
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