Table Top Heaters
Outdoor Pizza Ovens
What is a Chiminea?
|A chiminea is a free-standing open fireplace that has a bulbous base and a vertical vent, or chimney to let the smoke out.
Chimineas were originally used by Mexican tribesmen for warmth and a method of heating for their families.The first chimineas exported for worldwide use were made of clay and designed for use in hot countries.Many people are not aware that their new chiminea needs curing before use. It’s recommended that you should make five small fires in the bottom of the chiminea pot, one after the other, allowing each to cool completely before setting the next one. If you don’t do this, your chiminea may develop a problem with thermal shock – which is cracking, due to a rapid change in temperature. As a result of this issue (mostly caused by ignorance) chimineas sadly fell from favour for a while. But now they are back in vogue and they are available in beautiful cast iron, antiqued metal, copper and aluminum designs.
These are understandably more expensive than the clay versions but wear a lot better.
What is a FirePit?
|Although it sounds like a crudely dug hole in your garden, a fire pit is a freestanding, decorative basket or bowl on legs, in which you burn an open fire. The least expensive version is called a kettle. These are basins, bowls or baskets on legs that are used for burning wood or charcoal. They are available in many finishes such as iron, terracotta, stainless steel and copper. Many models also include a screen lid to control sparks and a grill that simply sits on top of the fire so that you can cook on them as well. If you buy one of these, check for an inner fire cage which will make cleaning a lot easier. If you have children or animals, it’s a good idea to buy one with a safety lid, usually of metal mesh.If you’re worried about an open fire on your patio, take a look at the beautiful freestanding models which fully enclose the fire. You can choose from styles ranging from ultra modern stainless steel to bygone era elegance in antiqued metal.
The great thing about these firepits is that they are fairly lightweight and portable so you could put one in the car and take it to the beach or use it when you’re camping. You can enhance your open fire experience by burning different woods.
Red Cedar and Pinion Pine both smell lovely and are great for keeping mosquitoes away. Apple wood also smells beautiful and burgers grilled over a hickory fire are unbelievable! The downside of these off-ground fire pits is that there is no form of chimney and so they can smoke rather a lot.
Read our Review of the top Rated Uniflame Fire Pit.
Hassle Free Fires
If you are prepared to spend more, you could indulge yourself with a gas fired fire pit. Simply flick the switch and enjoy real flames without the hassle – or smoke! These can be run on propane tanks or natural gas hooked up to your household supply. We take a closer look at the pros and cons of tanks or ‘hook ups’ when we look at Patio Heaters.
Many of the gas powered models are quite heavy as they are made from glass fiber reinforced concrete and although that sounds rough – they don’t look like concrete at all. You can choose from Grecian Urns, Pottery vases, granite tables with inset fire pits – the list goes on! Some of the more modern designs even include colored glass in place of logs.
Fire pits vary tremendously in size and design so shop around until you find the right one to suit your available space and your budget. It doesn’t matter whether you love hi-tech stainless steel, granite or antiqued metal – there will be a fire pit to suit your tastes.
Is There Anything I Shouldn’t Burn
If you’re trying to decide which sort of patio heater to buy, you may have dismissed electrically powered ones as the most expensive to run. Traditionally, electric appliances have been more expensive than gas. But the way that infrared outdoor heaters work, makes them surprisingly economical
How Do They Work
Infrared energy travels through the air and only heats the objects which the heater is directed at. It doesn’t waste energy by heating the air in between itself and whatever it’s heating. Convection heaters which do heat the air are at the mercy of the wind. The smallest breeze can mean a large loss of heat. As radiant infrared doesn’t suffer this loss, it makes it a very energy efficient heating method. The other good news is that some models have 3,000 hours of bulb life!
Infrared heating doesn’t produce any condensation, fumes or hissing noise – as it is a ‘dry heat’ system. Another bonus is that because this method of heating doesn’t move any air or dust it makes it a clean and environmentally friendly choice.
A Few Words of Caution
If you want a permanent wall fixed infrared heater, check that the model you choose is safe to stay outside in all weathers. Not all are, so take care. Check if the element is exposed or protected. If it is exposed, once it is switched on it will become very, very hot and even a few drops of water on it could cause a very loud bang!
You will see some electric infrared outdoor heaters that have exposed elements being sold as safe if used underneath awnings and garden umbrellas. But just remember that rain doesn’t always fall down from the sky in a straight line. Light drizzle can be blown in all directions and a metal grille won’t prevent drops of water from landing on the electrical element. Some are sold as ‘splash proof’ but this would not be enough to keep it safely outside in the rain.
Look for models which are sold as ‘completely weatherproof’ and enjoy the warmth of the sun on your patio all year round!
Hook Up or Bottle for Patio Heaters and FirePits
Natural gas is cheaper than propane and it burns much more cleanly. So, it’ll save you money and be better for the environment. However, putting in a gas line to your patio is a job for a certified contractor.
Ask your gas company for a list of properly credited contractors who could do this – and then get several quotes before choosing someone. The job shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. Make sure that you ask the fitter to fix up a ‘quick connect’ hook up for you and ask him to fit one with a cover that drops down. This will protect it from the weather and nesting bugs! Once it’s fitted, you will be able to quickly and easily connect your heater to the house supply.
It also means that in the unlikely event of the patio heater catching fire, you can turn off the gas supply at the ‘quick connect’ point without having to go near the heater itself. You can also disconnect it for storage elsewhere when it’s not in use.
Having a patio heater that you can hook up means that you never need worry about the gas running out and getting caught without a spare! It also solves the problem of where to store spare bottles of gas as there aren’t any! But it does mean that you will be limited as to where you can position your heater. The maximum length allowed for a hook up hose is 12 feet.
If you don’t have a home gas supply or you don’t want the cost and hassle of having a gas line run to your patio then a propane gas bottle version would suit you better. It would also give you the choice of having your heater in different positions and means that you could use it to heat the garage or a workshop.
The bottle that runs the unit usually sits in the base and is not seen. Don’t forget that you will probably want to buy a spare tank. If you have nowhere to store it, you may wish to buy a cover for it or have a ‘bottle cupboard’ built against the wall.
Which Patio Heater to Choose
Patio heaters can also be powered by natural or propane gas which means that you can position them anywhere as you’re no longer restricted by the length of an electrical cord. You can choose from freestanding, table top or wall fixed models.
Free Standing Patio Heaters
Table Top Patio Heaters
Ceiling Mount Patio Heater
There is nothing quite like a real fire. ‘Mushroom’ heaters provide warmth but if you also want the delicious glow and inviting ambiance of a real fire to enhance your outdoor entertaining, an outdoor fireplace is the way to go. Outdoor heating has become a booming business and designers have risen to the challenge of providing something for everyone.
Most outdoor fireplaces are portable which means that you can take them with you if you move house. The term ‘Outdoor fireplaces’ include fire pits, enclosed fuel burners and chimineas but the term also refers to full fireplaces – just as you would have inside your home – but built outside. They are the most expensive form of all the outdoor heating options but as they are such beautiful permanent features and although they cost a lot, they will add value to your house.
It may sound like a new trend to bring the indoors outside but in France and Italy, outdoor cooking and eating has been going on for hundreds of years. Many farmhouses in these countries have entire outdoor kitchen areas, featuring pizza ovens and grill, sinks and of course, wood burning fireplaces. Now, it is possible to emulate this wonderfully relaxed way of dining with the easy availability of custom built outdoor sinks, refrigerators, patio heaters and even kitchen cabinets!
Check Before You Buy
If you’re tempted to splash out on a brick built outdoor fireplace, or a freestanding fire pit, be sure to check how your local laws view the use of them. Some American cities will not allow fires in residential back yards or on decking garden areas on rooftops. In Boston, there is a law against anyone having an outdoor fireplace. The local fire department rates them as a hazard and says that most people aren’t careful enough in choosing where to place them. They are worried that when people put them too close to trees or fences, flying sparks could easily start a serious residential fire.
The Most Expensive Outdoor Heating
A true outdoor fireplace is usually built to look like an existing wall. It is just like an indoor fireplace and includes a fully working chimney and a brick or stone fire surround. The price depends on whether you will be buying a ready-made one or having one custom-built to your own requirements. The cheapest option is to build it yourself but if you want to do this, you must check with your local regulations to make sure you are within the acceptable codes.
Some outdoor fireplaces are portable which means that you can take them with you if you move house. Or you may decide to have one permanently built into your patio.
What Features Should You Look For?
Many of these features now come as standard but it is worth taking a moment to check that your chosen fireplace has them.
- Spark arrester
- Rain cap for chimney
- Ash catcher in base for easy cleaning
- Fine wire mesh doors to stop small pieces of burning wood or charcoal falling out
- A large door for easy loading of logs and charcoal
- Cooking Grill (one of variable height is useful)
Fuel for the Fire
You can buy patio fireplaces that burn solid fuel such as wood or charcoal. If you want an easy life, get one that is fueled by natural gas (hooked up from your home supply) or propane tanks. They light at the press of a switch, there is no clean-up to do, no smoke and no need to worry that the fire hasn’t been put out properly.
The Three Most Important Things to Bear in Mind Are:
- Does the design comply with local building and regulation codes? Check before you build as they may specify which type of firebricks you must use.
- Is the design safe?
- Does it have an appropriate and adequate system for ventilation?
The design of an outdoor fireplace is much the same as an indoor one, except outdoor fireplaces don’t use dampers. A damper is a moveable flap between where the firebox and the flue meet. When it’s open, it lets smoke and heat go up the chimney. It can be closed when the fireplace is not being used to stop outside air from coming down the chimney into the home. Instead of a damper, the chimney on an outdoor fireplace is extra tall to carry away the smoke.
Outdoor fireplaces that are built of some form of masonry are much stronger and will last much longer than metal ones. However well finished metal is, the weather will eventually rust it. You can call in a building contractor to build your outdoor fireplace but that is the more expensive option. Shop around for a do-it-yourself kit but always buy from a reputable dealer and ask to see what the kits look like when they have been put together. A visit to a past customer would be the ideal.
Your Check List for Parts – an Outdoor Fireplace Comprises:-
- A crown
- An over mantel
- A mantel shelf
- A header
- A filler panel
- A fire box
- A leg
- A plinth base
- A hearth
- Some types use a combined mantel shelf and header.
Once you have built it the basic structure you can choose to cover it in stone, brick or stucco and design your own finish!