Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Outdoor Heaters, Fire Pits and Chimineas

Whether or not you can believe it, fall is here! Now that temperatures are starting to drop at night you are probably looking for a way to heat your patio so that your outdoor fun and entertaining can continue. Here at Patio Products USA one of the most common questions we get is “How do I decide what’s going to work for my patio space?” The most important thing to consider when looking at patio products, particularly patio heaters, is how they will be used and where they will be used. Do you need something that is portable or are you okay with keeping the heater stationary? Do you have access to outlets, or do you require a gas or propane powered patio heater. How large of an area do you need to heat and how much heat output do you need? How often will you be using it? How important is operating cost? Are you trying to create a particular decorative aesthetic for your outdoor space? Once you’ve answered these questions take a look at the pros and cons of outdoor patio heaters, patio fire pits and chimineas to determine which device will best fit your needs.

Outdoor Heaters

Outdoor patio heaters can run on electricity, propane, or natural gas. While some models of electric, propane, and natural gas heaters may look similar, they can vary greatly in their usage, features, and applications.

Electric Patio Heaters

Electric heaters use radiant heat, which warms objects and people, not the air around them. This means that electric heaters are very efficient and heat up quickly for frequent use. Because electric heaters do not run off burning gases or wood they do not have any emissions, which is better for the environment and also provides a pleasant experience for people and pets nearby.

• Pros- Heats up quickly, good for frequent use, eco friendly, generally has the lowest operating cost

• Cons- Only heats small areas, restricted in where they can be used ( because they require a power outlet or mounting system)

Propane Heaters

Propane patio heaters are self-contained and highly mobile, making them a popular choice for restaurants, cafes, and large home patios. An outdoor propane patio heater can come in the form of a large “umbrella-style” heater or small tabletop version for camping or tailgating.
• Pros- Highly mobile, heats large areas, has a high heat output

• Cons- Have to remember to buy propane before using

Natural Gas Patio Heaters

Natural gas heaters can be installed on large patios by running a gas connection. Popular with restaurants and cafes, these heaters have become increasing popular on large home patios to accent outdoor kitchens and achieve an upscale aesthetic.

• Pros- Ties into gas lines so you don’t have to go out and buy gas to fuel it, heats large areas, has a high heat output

• Cons- Not very mobile, usually more expensive than other kinds of heaters, can go out in high wind environments

Fire Pits and Fire Tables

Fire pits and fire pit tables are more popular than ever because of the charming decorative element that they can add to an outdoor space. Fire pits provide a camp-fire look and feel that is just as good as the real thing. A gas fire pit may be even better than a real camp fire because you get all of the s’more roasting benefits of a real campfire without any of the hassle of wood gathering or cleanup! Whether you’re entertaining guests, relaxing with a glass of wine, or roasting marshmallows with the kids, an outdoor fire pit can provide great ambiance and bring the excitement of camping to your backyard year-round.

• Pros- Decorative and aesthetically appealing, more mobile than a chiminea, can sustain a large fire, provides a fun campfire feel, very affordable

• Cons- Can be dangerous for kids and pets if unattended, doesn’t retain heat as well as a heater or chiminea


Originally from Mexico, chimineas have now made their way across the southwest United States and Central America. Chimineas are becoming more popular across North and South America, particularly on smaller patio spaces. Because of the way chimineas are shaped, the smoke output is released upward and the heat that they provide can only be felt on one side. This means that chimineas are ideally situated on the edge of a patio space so that smoke is released away and heat can be directed toward the center of the patio. Chimineas, however, unlike heaters or fire pits, have a tendency to require more maintenance.

• Pros- Retains heat well, smoke blows upward, adds a decorative cultural element, highly affordable

• Cons- Directional heat output, requires regular maintenance (sealing and cleaning), can be cumbersome to move because of its shape, tends to be more fragile than a fire pit

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, a subsidiary of Neighbors Marketing specializing in patio products and accessories for the home and commercial use. Patio Products USA specializes in outdoor heating products, including a wide selection of authentic chimineas, outdoor fire pits and garden patio heaters. in all shapes and sizes.


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