Our loyal reader Bonny (Hi Bonny!) asked if we’d provide a summary of the different types of patio heaters so here’s a few tips to get you started:
Wood burning firepits.
These firepits come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are made out of a variety of materials such as cast iron, ceramic, stainless steel and sheet metal. Many have cooking grills. The heat provided by these units is directly related to how much wood you put into them. Consider products that have a spark screen to reduce sparks and an ash pan so cleaning is as easy as possible. When burning wood please consider local bylaws, distance to combustibles and fussy neighbours.
Gas burning firepits.
Big on convenience and there’s still some romance in the yard! An amazing amount of heat from these units. And they burn gas which, my friend Tim says will last forever and ever. Most are portable but can be mounted into a semi-permanent spot in the yard if you desire. Both propane and natural gas units are available. Seriously consider a cover for these units as rain and snow isn’t good for the valve or burner.
Infrared Halogen Heaters.
The new kid on the block. These electric heaters are easy to wire, make no noise and don’t take up very much space. They throw heat for about eight feet and, unlike most other heaters, the heat can be ‘directed’ to some degree. On the downside, they emit a very bright, intense light that’s about as romantic as a bug zapper.
These heaters are ubiquitous because they are effective and relatively cheap. This is definitely a product category where you get what you pay for. Look for high quality steel and a high quality valve system. Both propane and natural gas models are available from most manufacturers. If the heaters come with a top reflector that is removable then you should consider removing it when not in use. Strong winds (shout out to Lethbridge!) can utilize those reflectors to send the heaters to Kansas.
These days more and more people are installing true outdoor fireplaces into their backyards and finishing off their outdoor rooms in style! Obviously this is not as straightforward or inexpensive as rolling a firepit into the middle of your yard but, when properly, installed, vented and finished, these can take your yard to a different level of sophistication. Off the charts on the romance-meter: be prepared for some lovin’.