Bask in the glow of a fire pit,
fireplace or chiminea
Don’t let a chill chase you off the patio. Generating a little heat outside can help expand a home’s cold-season living space on all but the nastiest days.
For most every backyard and budget, there’s a way to create a bright spot in the landscape — from stone-ringed embers a la Scout to more upscale fire-spot solutions, either permanent or portable, there’s an outdoor heater for every budget.
These pot-bellied, freestanding clay or cast-iron fire pots, shaped like a light bulb with a topside smoke vent and gaping mouth, have been used in Mexico for centuries as outdoor cook stoves and heating devices. They add a rustic touch to a modern setting while providing a bit of warmth. Clay chimineas aren’t intended for use in truly frigid conditions, where moisture coupled with freezing temperatures can cause them to crack.
Freestanding fire pits
Square or round, wood-fueled or propane-using, freestanding fire pits come in a shape to suit most every taste, with prices starting at under $50 for a small wood-burning model that’s basically a metal bowl on legs.
Handle with Care
Locate any outdoor heat source — especially freestanding ones — well away from doors and footpaths. A fire or running heater should never be left unattended. In case of accident, have a fire extinguisher or bucket of water in easy reach.
Built-in fire pits
The DIY-inclined can build a stone-walled fire pit from scratch or from a kit, with prices starting around $300. Most homeowners will want to call in a contractor for an elaborate installation, such as a gas-operated, linear fire trough fashioned from chiseled blocks or a woodburning fire pit cut into a natural stone slab that can multitask as a serving table.
Planning to build the ultimate backyard? Nothing makes an outdoor room into a living room quite like a built-in fireplace where the crew can gather ’round in comfy, weather-resistant chairs. As Green Living Journal’s Stephen Morris puts it: “An outdoor fireplace will enhance your life more than a 42” plasma TV. … Sharing stories around the fire has brought families and friends together for millennia.”
Going With a Propane Heater
Now Heating a Patio Near You
Propane patio heaters of the type once seen mostly in commercial spaces are increasingly popular for home use. The most common models resemble floor or table lamps and cost $100 to $200. Electric patio heaters are also out there — in pole- or wall-mounted and pendant styles — but tend to be a tad pricier.
Propane 101, a website sponsored by propane dealers, cautions that portable gas patio heaters should not be considered portable when in operation: “Outdoor propane heaters should be turned off and disconnected prior to relocation.” Otherwise, these heaters tend to be easy to set up and use, and many feature an anti-tilt shutoff switch for safety. Heat output depends on the power of the unit, so shop carefully to get enough output.
Whether propane or electric, outdoor heaters aren’t intended for indoor use. Some get too hot to be safe inside, while those that produce a flame also produce deadly, odorless carbon monoxide.
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