As a society, it seems we’re approaching winter with a collective dread–and not for the quaint pre-COVID reason of just not liking the colder weather. Before these current pandemic times, you could just do indoor things with your friends and extended family, whenever you wanted, sans mask and worry. Knowing now that it’s safer to be outdoors than in, people have their eyes on outdoor patio heaters as a must-have for winter. But is it perhaps a bit too late? Demand has spiked, leading to a shortage and of course, price gouging.

CivicScience conducted research to understand the demand for outdoor heaters and uncovered several fascinating insights.

In a study of adults familiar with (had heard of) outdoor heaters, 14% responded that they plan to buy one. Another 11% reported already owning one.

Those who have already been on the outdoor heater bandwagon are actually way less likely to be concerned about being in public spaces right now. Those who plan to buy one, but also those who aren’t interested, are more concerned about being out and about.

We see a similar correlation between patio heater ownership (and intent) and comfort eating out at restaurants. Those who already have an outdoor heater are more likely to be keen on dining out now, while those who are in the market for an outdoor heater are more likely to want to wait many months. However, both owners and intenders are just as likely to want to wait six or more months to go to a restaurant. Those uninterested in patio heaters are more likely to want to wait the longest.

Another somewhat fascinating finding is that political conservatives are more likely to already own outdoor heaters, while liberals are slightly more likely to be outdoor heater intenders. However, intent is up there for conservatives, too. Maybe these heaters are the one thing we can all agree on right now. Huh.

While heater owners and intenders are still a pretty niche group out of the whole adult population, it’s not just one generational group holding interest. Most owners and intenders are between 25 and 64, but there is still strong interest to buy among younger and older age groups. 

Outdoor patio heaters are so widespread, in terms of interest and among whom, that when comparing the two major retailers for home improvement goods, Lowe’s and The Home Depot, we see little to no difference among favorable shoppers.

However, we do observe a distinction between Target and Walmart favorables in the CivicScience database; the former of which is more likely to be in the market for an outdoor heater than the latter.

Amazon shoppers are also more likely to be intenders in purchasing patio heaters compared to the shoppers at home improvement stores.

A key difference found is that outdoor heater intenders are much more likely to say that price is more important to them when shopping. Owners, on the other hand, are more likely to care about brands when shopping.

Further analysis reveals that the above comparison is likely due to the fact that seasoned owners of patio heaters are more likely to be in upper-income households, likely with more money in the bank and money invested in outdoor spaces before COVID times. 

Patio heater intenders on the other hand are all across the board in terms of household income (more likely to be making anywhere from $35k-$125k or more, but they’re represented even in under $35k households, too).

The demand for these heaters is high and widespread among many different groups but will availability and prices put a damper on the plans of many Americans hoping to continue safely socializing outdoors this fall and winter? We can only hope the supply can increase, not only for the sake of the retailers who have many interested buyers, but also for the safety (and warmth) of gatherings in the colder months.