Backyard Patio Heaters and Outdoor Fire Pits

swimming pool firepitsDuring the fall and winter months there are many days that we’d love to spend outside – enjoying our backyards or wonderful decks, but the cold weather has us bundled up indoors.  Fortunately for us, there are many options that can not only add warmth to those days that “look” warm and inviting, but can also provide hours of family activities and bonding.  What I’m referring to, of course, are patio heaters and fire pits.

Highly functional yes, but depending on your use and taste – outdoor firepits and propane patio heaters range in style from a simple outdoor fireplace, to those that add an elegant accent to an already classy backyard area.  Whether you’re looking for a way to enhance your backyard with a cozy fire or to warm up your patio or deck, you can follow these tips on choosing the best outdoor heating solution for your family’s needs.

Patio Heaters

There are many options to consider when shopping around for the perfect patio heater.  To start, there are three different types of outdoor patio heaters: propane patio heaters, lamp-style heaters, and infrared heaters.  To better illustrate each type, I’ll break them down below:

Propane Patio Heaters

Propane patio heaters are great for backyards and decks.  Instead of having to worry about plugging them into an outlet, and then having a cord to avoid – they are 100% self sufficient.  A propane tank is stored within the base and is started by an electric push-button ignition, and the heat is completely adjustable.  These patio heaters are usually completely metal and are equipped with a safety shut-off – in case the heater ever gets tipped over.  They usually come in two different sizes: floor and table-top.  Below is a table that illustrates the different sizes and their respective heating areas (ranges show variance of different models):

Patio Heaters Height BTU’s of Heat Heating Area
Floor Patio Heater 7-8ft 40,000 BTU’s 15-20ft
Table-Top Heater 3ft 11,000 BTU’s 5-10f

*Note* When purchasing this type of heater, make sure you know whether or not a starter propane tank is included.  If it is not, check with your manual to select the correct tank to fit your heater.

Lamp-Style Patio Heaters

Instead of using propane, Lamp-Style Patio Heaters are powered by 1200 watt halogen light bulbs.  All they require is a 120v grounded outlet!  Like the propane heaters, they are also equipped with safety shut-offs and come in the same two sizes: floor and table-top.  That being said, regardless of their height, they can both heat an area up to 12ft diameter – since they are powered by the same halogen bulbs.  Lamp-style patio heaters usually consist of a resin body with a steel hood and feature weather-resistant hardware. These very stylish table heaters can add look and a feel of warmth to your patio or deck.

Infrared Patio Heaters

Infrared patio heaters use infrared waves to directly heat the object or person that they are pointed at, instead of heating the air around them. They cost substantially less to operate than propane patio heaters and have no warm-up time.  Acting much like an outdoor lamp, they can either be plugged into a 120v grounded outlet or hardwired for maximum efficiency.  They come in two different varieties: wall-mounted heaters and umbrella-mounted heaters. The best thing about wall mounted patio heaters is that they are completely out of the way!  They require no gas or open flames and since they are permanently installed, you don’t have to worry about storing them when they’re not in use.

Umbrella-mounted heaters work in the same fashion, but are much smaller.  They usually have three heating heads that provide 15000 watts of heating power and can be attached to any standard pool umbrella pole.  Designed for indoor and outdoor use, the umbrella-mounted infrared heater is truly versatile.

Fire Pits

There’s nothing like a fire pit to provide countless hours of outdoor fun, family time, and s’mores!  Outdoor fire pits are enjoyed by young and old and can really bring people together during those perfect relaxing evenings.  Overall, pool and patio firepits are relatively simple – they allow you to enjoy an open fire in your outdoor living spaces.  That being said, there are a few important things to know.

The first thing to consider is what type of fuel you want to use in your fire pit – gas or wood.  While wood is my preferred fuel because nothing compares to the smell and sound of a real campfire, some people may just want the heat without the fuss of starting and keeping a fire going.

This is a good time to explain the difference between a firepit and a firebofirebowls are smaller than firepitswl. Firebowls are usually placed in the corners of pools, or next to a spa. More for accent, less for heat, firebowls are usually a concave concrete design, filled with river rock. Equipped with a gas line and connected to propane or natural gas source, firebowls produce a small, adjustable flame. Firepits are a larger affair, not quite a bonfire, but enough to produce some heat and a cooking source.

Second, you need to find the fire pit that best goes along with the rest of your backyard decor.  Firepits come in a variety of different sizes and shapes as well as materials used to build them.  As a fire pit fanatic, I recommend looking for a bowl that is built from weather resistant materials such as copper, stainless steel, or iron.  While they may be a bit more expensive, you are getting your money’s worth.  The better the fire bowl is built, the longer it will last, and look good too!

Finally, make sure your fire pit has a sturdy cover. While it may seem silly to place a mesh fire screen on the pit while the fire is going, it very well may protect you and your home from jumping sparks as the fire crackles. Also available are off-season covers, to keep your grill clean and dry during times of non-use.

So there you have it – you now know all the details and tips on buying a patio heater and a fire pit to enjoy your pool well into autumn.  You’re informed about the different types of patio heaters and what to look out for when shopping around for the perfect fire pit.  You can now make an educated decision on which type of outdoor patio heater best suits your family’s needs.  Now go out there, get what you need, and enjoy your backyard and patio the way it was meant to be enjoyed!

Till next time!

firepits and firebowls, I love 'em!
Martin Ratchev
InTheSwim Staff Blogger

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