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Outdoor Heating Options

Start a fire, and what happens next is magical.  Once a fire is lit in your back yard, it’s inevitable:  that is where the party gathers.  Whatever it is about fire, it mesmerizes us, warms us, and relaxes us.  And today, there are more choices in outdoor hearth appliances than ever before.

Extend the Season

With Americans spending more on outdoor rooms than ever before, it’s not surprising they want to get as much from their investment as possible.  That’s why manufacturers are responding with a wide assortment of heating appliances to keep you cozy even through the cooler spring and fall seasons.  Read below to learn more about your choices.

Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces, permanently installed on your patio or outdoor room, bring the same kind of charm and ambiance to the outside of your home as on the inside.  Usually made of 100 percent stainless steel, outdoor fireplaces can be surrounded by granite, tile, stone, or any other material that complements your home’s architecture and style.  Outdoor fireplaces usually don’t require a chimney and can use either natural gas, propane or wood.  Prices generally range from about $2000 to $2500 and up.  HPBA strongly recommends installation performed by an NFI-certified installer (National Fireplace Institute).


After the traditional campfire, chimineas are probably the oldest kind of outdoor fire “appliance.”  Typically made of clay (some are cast-iron), chimineas provide an elevated, portable outdoor hearth with an opening that lets heat out on just one side.  While they provide warmth and ambiance, they are not recommended for use on wood decks and can be subject to cracking and breakage.  Chimineas are often the least-expensive style of outdoor hearth.


Making their debut in just the past few years, firepits have recently become highly popular with homeowners due to their portability, beauty, and convenience.   Firepits are hearth appliances that are closest in style to an old-fashioned campfire because they radiate heat in a complete circle (360 degrees).  Generally intended for heat and ambiance, some firepits come with grills and can be used for cooking.  Whether flush to the floor or elevated, firepits can burn natural gas, liquid propane gas, or wood logs.  They produce between 50,000 and 70,000 BTU’s of heat.  Most are made of steel and retail between $300 and $700.  Firepits should never be used indoors, too close to the house, on the grass, or under an overhang or anything that could catch fire.   Some firepits should not be used on wood decks.  Owners should check the product manual to determine whether use on a wood deck is recommended. 

Patio Heaters

Patio heaters are also a relatively new product offering that are quickly gaining popularity.  These appliances can run on liquid propane or natural gas, produce 35,000 to 45,000 BTU’s, and radiate heat 20 to 25 feet in all directions (farther than a firepit).  Patio heaters can be stainless steel (most durable, if high-grade), cast aluminum, or painted steel. Prices range from about $300 to $700.  While most patio heaters are free-standing, there are some smaller “table-top” units that produce up to 10,000 BTU’s of heat.

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