Warm Up the Night! Patio Heaters and Fire Pits
by Debbie Rodgers
Description: Tips for using patio heaters and fire pits during the fall and winter seasons.
In some areas right now, the weather is ideal for sitting outside in
the evening -- the bugs have gone and the sky is clear -- but the
nights are chilly. Don't let the cool evenings send you inside --
extend your outdoor living season by heating your deck or patio.
Different heaters are available for different needs and
circumstances. A heater will be powered by propane, natural gas,
alcohol-gel, electricity, wood, or wood substitutes such as charcoal
or artificial logs. Depending on the size and the heat source, they
may warm only a small space or heat a party-size yard.
For all heating units to perform optimally, they will need the right
location. The ideal site is a combination of walls or fences (to
radiate the heat back into your space) and overhead structures that
will prevent the wind from blowing directly through your selected
Here are some tips for effective and safe use:
- Wood-burning fireplaces and fire pits are generally the least
expensive to buy and to operate. Check for zoning ordinances to be
sure that you can burn wood on your property. Some municipalities
allow wood burning in a small chimenea unit, but will not approve a
built-in or dug fire pit. Wood-burning units range from small
collapsible units on wheels for easy portability to huge built-in
concrete fireplaces. If you are permitted to burn wood, you are sure
to find a unit to suit your needs!
- If you have a pottery fireplace, or chimenea, use it
cautiously as these units are lightweight and reasonably fragile. To
keep the fire from getting hot enough to break the chimenea, it's
best to use kindling-size wood.
- Many wood-burning units have optional cooking grills so your
fire can do double duty warming your toes and your tummy. Try this
yummy "pizza" recipe, cooked up in campfire irons.
- Any open fire is a potential hazard. Keep any overhead sparks
from tree branches or patio overheads, and be sure to teach children
proper fire safety.
- Natural gas heaters are easy to use but are usually built in
and, although bottled gas may be purchased, are best limited to those
areas that have natural gas service.
- Propane heaters can be economical to operate. Depending on
the heat output level you set, a standard propane tank can provide 10-
12 hours of heat.
- Propane-powered "mushroom" or "umbrella" heaters (so called
because of their shape) are the best choice for heating large areas.
They radiate warming rays from the top cylinder and provide a comfort
zone of 12 - 20 feet in diameter. The propane tank is hidden in the
bottom of the unit. It's a good idea to put these units away when not
in use as they can be sensitive to the elements. Smaller tabletop
units are also available.
- Although electric heat is usually the most expensive, there
are a few electric heaters designed specifically for outdoor use. Be
sure that any heater that is left outside is rated as such.
With the wide selection of outdoor heating devices available, you're
sure to find one that right's for you. So heat up the night - and go
right on enjoying your outdoor space.
Debbie Rodgers owns and operates Paradise Porch, and is dedicated to
helping people create outdoor living spaces that nurture and enrich
them. Visit her on the web at http://www.paradiseporch.com and get a free
report on "Eight easy ways to create privacy in your outdoor space".
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