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Fire Pit vs. Patio Heater: A Complete Guide

Don’t let the colder weather in the fall and winter keep you trapped inside! You can still have gatherings outside and enjoy the fresh air on your back patio without freezing. All you need is a little warmth from a patio heater or fire pit.

Depending on what types of gatherings you are planning and which outdoor heating solutions you prefer, you might be more inclined towards one type of heater over the other.

In the comparison of fire pit vs. patio heater, which do you choose?

Patio heaters tend to be fully enclosed, while fire pits have an open flame. While the former is primarily just for heating, the latter is meant to be the focal point as it creates a warm, glowing ambiance to gather around.

When choosing the best solution for your needs, you’ll want to consider factors like size, cleaning needs, fuel type, design, and price.

We’ll break it all down in this guide so that you know all there is about each option.

Fire pit

Fire Pits

A fire pit is the coziest choice to heat your space, akin to a fireplace. If you enjoy sitting around the fire with friends and family, then a fire pit is the ideal focal point to provide warmth, light, and atmosphere.

Pros of Fire Pits

There are endless design styles of fire pits, ranging from a built-in stone model to a portable steel fire bowl that you can take camping with you.

Fire pits add so much interest to a back patio that built-in varieties can even raise the property value of your home!

Cons of Fire Pits

As fire pits have an open flame, they should not be left unattended. Wood-burning fire pits are more hazardous than gas-burning because they have the potential to expel embers, which could potentially catch on a dry leaf or grass.

Wood burning pits also require more upkeep and cleaning after usage as they willleave ash and soot behind.

Popular Models of Fire Pits to Consider

1. OUTLAND LIVING Firecube Fire Pit

Our selection

Firecube Fire Pit

The Firecube is our first ever square fire pit. The compact size and included Cover + Carry Kit make this model portable and easy to store without sacrificing heat output or flame profile.
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The newest model of fire pits from OUTLAND LIVING is also the first square-shaped pit they’ve produced.

The Firecube features a compact size and an included Cover + Carry Kit, so it is ideal for moving around. It requires no assembly and has 58,000 BTU/HR, for use with a standard 20 lb propane tank. Price: $149.99

2. OUTLAND LIVING Cypress Fire Pit

Our selection

Cypress Fire Pit

This propane fire pit is our newest addition, and features a unique Helios burner. The design is enhanced with a sleek low profile and stainless-steel band.
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If you’re looking for a unique fire pit model, consider the Cypress. It has a sleek, low-profile design and a Helios burner. The stainless steel burner and fasteners are covered by sparkling natural lava rocks, which are included in the set. Price: $169.99

Patio Heaters

patio heater

Primarily used for heating, patio heaters are relatively maintenance free, as they produce almost no smoke or residue after burning.

Typically, they use either gas, butane, or electricity for fuel. The most popular types of patio heaters are tower, mushroom, pyramid, or box-shaped.

Pros of Patio Heaters

Patio heaters are a popular choice for commercial spaces in particular because they are more safe than an open flame. Many of the towers come with wheels, which make them more portable.

Many restaurants also use space heaters that are ceiling mounted from above so that customers can benefit from a more even spread of warmth.

Cons of Patio Heaters

Unlike a fire pit, patio heaters do not provide the same sense of atmosphere that a fire pit does. There is something about gathering around an open flame that brings about a sense of nostalgia and joy that a patio heater doesn’t provide in the same way.

While a fire pit is more experiential, a patio heater simply serves to heat. It does produce some light, but it is not going to be as bright and strong as the open flames of a fire pit.

Popular Models of Patio Heaters to Consider

1. Hampton Bay 48000 Btu Stainless Steel Patio Heater

Hampton Bay 48000

This seven-foot pillar patio heater can heat up to 200 square feet, making it particularly good for large restaurant patios. It requires a 20-pound propane tank, which is not included and has a 48,000-BTU burner that can be adjusted with a control valve. It does not have wheels, so this heater should stay put in one spot. Price: $174.95

2. CAPRI-A-LINE-6MPB Heritage Bronze Propane Heater

CAPRI-A-LINE-6MPB Heritage Bronze Propane Heater

With a more luxurious look, this tripod-style heater by Lava Heat is frequently used for commercial properties. It is six feet tall and constructed of stainless steel with a double baked powder coating and a bronze finish. It features multiple heat settings and can reach 42,000 BTUs for up to 12 hours with the use of a propane tank. Price: $1,999

Main Features of Outdoor Heating Solutions

When choosing a fire pit or patio heater, it’s important to look at all the factors that go into making one stand out from the crowd. Sometimes, your choice will come down to the usage while other times, it might be more selective based on your budget.

Materials

As we are considering heaters that are both meant to stay outdoors all the time as well as produce fire, it’s really important that whichever you choose, it is constructed of high-quality, durable materials. Fire pits and patio heaters come in a range of materials, including steel, aluminum, cast iron, copper, stone, and ceramic.

The best and most expensive models will be made out of high-quality steel construction with a protective powder coating and enamel finish to protect from rust and general wear and tear.

Depending on the design, they might have an all-weather wicker or faux-wicker exterior for aesthetic purposes to match other patio furniture.

Fuel Type

The means by which you power your outdoor heater should greatly affect which you choose. Fire pits are generally fueled by propane gas, natural gas, coal, or wood while patio heaters are typically powered by electricity or gas. Here are some benefits of each type of fuel:

  • Propane Tank: Easy to install and portable so that you can take your heater anywhere. This is an efficient fuel source that doesn’t produce much smoke or ash.
  • Natural Gas: If you wish to connect your heater to your house’s natural gas line, that is an option with many models. Note that this will reduce portability.
  • Coal: Only for use in fire pits, coal is a more traditional fuel source that produces smoke and leaves behind ash and soot.
  • Wood: Also only for use in fire pits, wood produces snoke and requires cleanup, but it provides a nice experience that many people enjoy while camping.
  • Electricity: Electricity is the most environmentally-friendly power source. It does require an outlet, and you should keep in mind that the cord can be a trip hazard.

Temperature and Flame Control

One feature that heightens the usability of your heater or fire pit is an adjustable knob to control the temperature and flame height. A push-button ignition is beneficial so that you can get your fire going immediately.

For obvious reasons, a wood or coal burning fire will not have either of these features.

Safety

Whichever model you choose, it’s important to read the safety manual to understand the risks.

Some models will have built-in sensors to turn off the gas when there are no flames present, while others might have protective glass or a wind guard.Always check with your local laws about fire bans before using a heater outside.

Price

Finally, consider your budget. Fire pits and patio heaters have a huge range of price points depending on whether you want one that is customized and built-in or lightweight and portable.Good models can cost anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars.

Fire Pit Vs. Patio Heater: Which is Right for You?

fire pit vs patio heater

If you’re looking to create a charming, rustic ambiance in your own backyard, then nothing beats a fire pit. A fire pit creates a cozy gathering spot that will keep you friends and family entertained and warm for hours.

Imagine sitting around a fire pit with a warm mug of cocoa, gazing at the stars, or relaxing next to the fire on an early morning when you’re reading the newspaper outside.

For restaurants and commercial spaces, you might prefer a patio heater as they are designed to be a source of heat that stands in the background to the main event.

Beyond fire pits and patio heaters, you can also take a look at fire tables, which feature a fire element in the middle of a table. Browse all of our heating sources to find what you are looking for and take a look at our other guides for more inspiration.

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Outland Living is the premier brand for outdoor patio and camping equipment. We love to share our knowledge with you. Read more about patios and gardening.