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Outdoor Heating Choices

Outdoor rooms can become an extension of your home, inviting friends and family to enjoy the beauty of your yard and providing ample space for entertainment. But what happens when evening or off-season chills starts ushering guests inside toward the heat? It's time to bring the warmth outdoors - with an outdoor heater!

Typical outdoor heaters throw heat in a circle up to 20 feet in diameter, ample room to entertain on a patio or in the yard. Choose one of the following types that best matches your outdoor lifestyle:

Outdoor Fireplace: Outdoor fireplaces add both warmth and style to your backyard sitting area. Traditional wood-burning fireplaces provide a rustic feel, if you don’t mind maintaining the fire and keeping your wood supply stocked. Many models have an opening for a gas line on the side of the firebox, allowing you to make the switch to a gas fireplace if you are looking for something more convenient.


Outdoor gas fireplaces can have all the beautiful stonework, tile, or brick design of a wood-burning fireplace, but they can be turned on and off with the simple push of a button. Most gas fireplaces are ventless and do not require a chimney. Some have an automatic shutoff when the fire reaches a certain temperature. 

Patio Heater. These heaters take on many forms, the most popular being a portable umbrella-shaped (or domed) heater. Most use natural gas, propane or electricity as fuel; the former two typically include their own fuel compartments. Most patio heaters are constructed with steel, and several finishes - including custom paint and copper plating - can customize them according to patio décor. For more direct heat, select a spot heater; these smaller devices, which typically use electricity, concentrate heat in a smaller area. Patio heater features include automatic safety shut-offs and manual heat adjusters.

Chiminea. Essentially self-contained clay fireplaces, chimineas were originally created in Mexico as bread ovens. They consist of a round base with an opening for inserting a fuel source, topped with a cylinder chimney. Chimineas typically use wood as fuel, but some people have used charcoal (and an enterprising few actually use charcoal to cook with their chimineas!). These heaters require a bit more effort to use and maintain than patio heaters, but the aesthetic effect can be well worth it!

Fire Pit. These backyard additions look exactly as they sound, manmade pits for holding fire - but these fire pits are much more stylish than their name lets on. Typically using wood or natural gas as fuel, fire pits create a controlled bonfire in your backyard. Styles range from simple copper bowls, raised on supports, to custom in-ground pits lined with brick or stone. Most in-ground fire pits use natural gas, for ease of maintenance.

Ready to buy? Check out the company listings in our Firepits, Fireplaces and Outdoor Heating Buyers' Guide.

Photo courtesy of Trex Company

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