• Steph Tanguay

Outdoor Heating Appliances

For over 25 years I have been fortunate to visit thousands of properties and meet many people while walking around their Outdoor Living areas.

Whether a customer actually called me to discuss outdoor heating or something completely different I have always noticed when homeowners have either attempted a fire pit or had an appliance built professionally.

As in many industries there are always different trends or fads that come in and out of the spotlight.

In every drawing and concept discussion I have had this year the heating options are discussed, and often become a focal point of the design. Just like a fireplace indoors, a well thought out fireplace or fire pit can be enjoyed regardless of outdoor temperature.

Gardens these days are not just places to grow plants, they’re more like an extra room of the house and we want to make them as comfy as possible.

Heating, lighting, kitchens, TV’s and music are all becoming the norm in outdoor living rooms.

Sometimes just the appearance of a fire and a little heat is enough to create a cozy ambiance that will encourage you to linger outdoors a little longer.

In my experience of trial and error, reviewing hundreds of designs and of many installations of different variations of outdoor heating appliances there are 5 main categories .

Below you will find a brief description of the 5 main appliances

Outdoor Fire Pits

There are an infinite number of possible designs.

Outdoor fire pits no longer need to be just a round pile of rocks. We work with several basic styles of gas and wood fed fire pits when designing outdoor living lifestyles to enchant our clients. The popularity of fire pits and the fire effects they produce in the garden is one of fastest growing trends in outdoor design.

The allure of sitting around a fire ring has been around since the beginning of mankind.

Fire provides warmth, light, a cooking source and, of course relaxation.

A dancing flame has a mesmerizing effect that encourages you to unwind and settle in.

The popularity of fire pits, or conversation pits as they are commonly called, has grown rapidly in recent years.

Proper design and construction will ensure a safe and enjoyable feature that will last several decades. Design and installation of these popular features can be an investment, but with the proper construction techniques they will be enjoyable for the homeowner and of value for property resale.

Nothing does a better job of anchoring an outdoor living room than an authentic outdoor fireplace.

Outdoor fireplaces continue to grow in popularity with the outdoor room boom fueling the fire. Magazines and web-publishers frequently post beautiful photos of large stone fireplaces and homeowners are now demanding fireplaces, not just fire pits in their outdoor living rooms.

There is a certain romantic ambiance that surrounds an outdoor fireplace.

The glow of the flickering flame invites guests to sit down, relax and enjoy life. Properly designed fire features encourage conversation and soothe the soul.


After the traditional campfire, chimneys are probably the oldest kind of outdoor fire appliance.

Typically made of clay (some are cast-iron), chimneys provide an elevated, portable outdoor hearth with an opening that lets heat out on just one side.

While they provide warmth and ambiance, they are not recommended for use on wood decks and can be subject to cracking and breakage.

Chimneys are often the least-expensive style of an outdoor hearth. Over the last few years there are several models of what appears to be a combination of the characteristics of chimneys and fire pits in order to fulfill more custom requirements.

Patio Heaters

Patio heaters are a relatively new product that have quickly gaining popularity.

I think it’s safe to say we have all seen the tower looking structures that are seen in backyards and in many public areas. These appliances can run on liquid propane or natural gas, produce 35,000 to 45,000 BTU’s, and radiate heat 20 to 25 feet in all directions (further than a fire pit).

Patio heaters can be stainless steel (most durable, if high-grade), cast aluminum, or painted steel.

While most patio heaters are free-standing, there are some smaller “table-top” units that produce up to 10,000 BTU’s of heat.

Though these can be effective for certain applications where there is little or no wind I see more success with a radiant heat system.

I use mine often which are placed along the ceiling of a partially covered Outdoor Living area at my place. My kids love them…actually so do I. Radiant and infrared heaters are either powered by natural gas, propane or electricity.

The beauty of these systems is that with the flick of a switch you get instant heat.

Heat from this source does not get blown by the wind as it’s the non-harmful light that is emitted that creates the heat.

The heat is similar to sunlight without any UV dangers. Deciding between these outdoor heating appliances can be an arduous task. Maybe even a combination of the ones I have discussed is the right idea.

It is however, in my opinion, an important decision when creating an Outdoor Living area.

Fire Rings and Tables

Fire rings are cleared flat surfaces with protective metal, stone,granite or concrete built around them to contain the burn.

They often include cooking grills fueled by wood or gas — either natural gas or propane.

Fire-ring or fire-pit tables have holes in the middle for open flames to provide ambiance and warmth.

The tables can be used for place settings when the burner center is capped.

All these features extend the enjoyment of an outdoor living area by providing warmth, light, and relaxation and can certainly enhance any ambiance.

They have important differences that should be considered .

Ponder the content in the chart below to find out which appliance style best suits you and your space.

Though the chart compares just the fire pit to the fireplace I think it’s helpful during the outdoor heating appliance design phase.

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