Fire Pit vs Patio Heater: Which is Best for Your Home?
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Fire Pit vs Patio Heater: Which is Best for Your Home?

If you’re anything like me, you love using all that space out back that you can. But what do you do when the weather starts to cool? You can’t very well hang out in the freezing weather without getting sick at worst and chilled to the bone at best.

There are a few solutions to making that outdoor space a little more useable year-round: firepits and patio heaters. But which one is right for you? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the two outdoor heating options.

About Firepits

Closeup of firepit after dark
Image credits: Rob Sheahan via Unsplash

Backyard firepits can come in many types and styles suitable for small to large backyard entertaining spaces. They may be pre-built or DIY construction projects. Firepits also come in a variety of shapes and use a range of fuel sources.

Firepit Types

Firepits may come in any of the following formats.

  • Permanent firepits: Potentially most commonly thought of firepit style is the permanent pit. These are typically metal rings that contain the fire within a brick or concrete block structure.
  • Fire tables: A table with a firepit built-in. These have ledges suitable for dining around the firepit itself.
  • Firepit bowls: These are round metal firepits that are typically lightweight and semi-portable.
  • Chiminea: These are standing firepits with tall chimneys that direct smoke up and away from seating levels. They’re sort of like miniature, portable or semi-portable fireplaces.

Firepits may come in a range of shapes as well, including round, oval, and square. If you’re handy or want to hire a contractor, you can install a firepit in custom shapes as well.

Fuel Sources for Firepits

Firepits may use a variety of fuel sources including:

Pros and Cons of Firepits

Decorative firepits on patio
Image credits: Jesse Bridgewater via Pixabay

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About Patio Heaters

closeup of patio heater
Image credits: Jason Woodhead via Flickr

For those with smaller spaces or who regularly entertain or spend time on their patios in cooler months, an outdoor patio heater may be the more logical choice between firepits vs patio heaters. They come in many formats and forms, use different types of fuel that firepits may not offer, and tend to produce a bit more warmth than a firepit in most situations.

Patio Heater Styles

Patio heaters also come in different styles that may more strongly suit your needs over another.

  • “Mushroom” heaters: These are probably the most commonly thought of patio heaters, and are often seen at restaurant patio dining areas. The heater is atop a metal pole and has a hood.
  • Wall-mounted gas or electric heat sources: Wall-mounted electric or gas patio heaters are exactly what they sound like. The heater usually is a square or rectangle that mounts on a wall and safely heats the space surrounding it.
  • Hanging patio heater: Hanging patio heaters rather resemble a hanging lamp, with a hood, the heat source, and a firm bottom. They’re hung by chain or wire from overhead breams.
  • Tabletop models: Most tabletop models resemble the large mushroom models, just on a small enough scale to sit atop a patio table. They do not heat as large a space as the floor models, but they still provide a strong heat source to the space surrounding the tabletop where they sit.

Fuel Types for Patio Heaters

Patio heaters may use any of these fuel sources:

  • Natural gas outdoor heaters
  • Electric patio heater
  • Propane heater
  • Wood heater

Pros and Cons of Patio Heaters

Two-headed patio heater
Image credits: Jason Woodhead via Flickr

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How to Choose Which is Better for Your Home

Closeup of square firepit
Image credits: Hannah Nicollet via Unsplash

There are a few factors that can help you decide which is a better fit for you.

How much space do you have available?

I have a small patio with not much room to spare, so a firepit isn’t a good option for me. However, if you’ve got a bit of space to spread out, a fire pit may be the better choice.

What’s the fuel source?

As we’ve seen, there is a wide range of fuel sources for both fire pits and patio heaters. The fuel source could still be a determiner in which is the better choice. For example, an electric patio heater might be more appealing than a propane fire pit, or a wood-burning firepit with which you can roast marshmallows may be more appealing.

Where do you want the heat source?

If you’re looking for warmth that’s closer to the house, you’ll need to consider the patio heater more strongly. They’re designed to be used close to buildings, whereas firepits are not.

Do you want your heat source to be portable?

Some patio heaters are portable, and some firepits are portable – but the style you choose will determine that. Carefully consider this factor before you purchase or build.

Firepits vs. Patio Heaters – It’s Up to You

Ultimately, neither a patio eater nor a firepit is “better” in every situation. The gist of it is that you’ll have to decide for yourself based on your personal needs and intentions for the heat source’s use. Compare and contrast the pros and cons, consider your space and the fuel source you want, and then decide. This approach will allow you to find only the best product for your unique needs.

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