The warmth and charm of a flickering fire is enough to tempt anyone outdoors, and overpowers the chill of a winter evening. With so many outdoor heating options available, ranging from traditional clay chimeneas to sophisticated, modern-looking metal braziers, you can find something to suit any backyard. If you’d rather not have to add firewood regularly, you can always use a patio heater that is supplied by a standard gas bottle, or an electric outdoor radiator.
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1. Metal brazier or fire bowl
A brazier is an open metal frame that holds burning firewood. It’s the simplest and barest of these designs, and is usually sold with a suitably sized tray to catch ash as it falls. A step up from this is a metal fire pit or fire bowl, which is a portable design. Fire bowls come in a diverse range of shapes and sizes, some of which can be positioned on a combustible surface such as a deck, and are often sold with a mesh screen to catch flying embers.
2. Masonry fire pit
This is a more permanent alternative, and a popular DIY project. Whether you buy a ready-made fire pit, or choose to build it yourself, remember to choose the location carefully, taking nearby structures and prevailing wind directions into account. Your neighbours won’t be impressed if their home is filled with windblown smoke every time you light a fire!
The characteristic pot-bellied shape of this traditional freestanding fireplace has stood the test of time, and for good reason. Originally developed hundreds of years ago, the bulbous design creates a natural draught that draws air in through the opening at the front of the chimenea. This makes the fire burn more intensely, and pushes smoke upwards and away from people enjoying its warmth.
4. Outdoor gas heater
Some of them may look like alien spacecraft, but outdoor gas heaters -- often called patio heaters -- do a great job of warming up an outdoor area. The more popular type is supplied by a portable gas bottle of the same kind as is used to fuel a barbecue, although there are also models available that can be connected to a mains-pressure gas outlet.
5. Electric outdoor heater
Probably the sleekest and most sophisticated way to staying warm outside is to install an electric radiant heater. It’s energy-efficient and requires neither kindling nor a gas bottle to function. Electric heaters can be wired to work with a timer switch, meaning you’ll never have to worry about accidentally leaving them running, and freestanding models are also available.
Stay safe as well as warm
When using naked flame to warm an outdoor area, whether that’s from a fire pit or a gas-powered heater, make safety your highest priority. Specific regulations for outdoor fire safety vary from council to council, but in general, you will need to allow a reasonably wide area around a fire pit or chimenea which is free of anything that could burn.
If you have an outdoor gas heater, make sure it is standing on a flat, stable surface in a well-ventilated location, and there are no combustible materials such as awnings or shade sails nearby.