13 of the Best Patio Heaters and Fire Pits for 2023

Are you looking for a way to extend the use of your outdoor living space well into the winter? A patio heater, fire pit, or both might be just what you’re after!

In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about styles and fuel options.

And we share product reviews that will introduce you to some unique ways to add warmth and ambience to your patio, deck, poolside, or wherever you entertain beneath moonlit autumn and winter nights – and for those chilly evenings in the spring and summer, too!

A close up vertical image of a stainless steel gas-fired outdoor patio heater pictured on a soft focus background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

We link to vendors to help you find relevant products. If you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

When I feel that first nip in the air, I stock up on hot chocolate and marshmallows, air out the afghans, and clean out the fire pit.

At our house, autumn Friday nights under the stars are a tradition. And when Halloween comes, most of the front patios in the neighborhood glow with the flickering flames of Jack o’lanterns and cozy firelight.

For some people, it’s all about keeping warm. For others, it’s the lure of watching flames dance in the darkness. Maybe you want to toast your tootsies, roast some hotdogs, and catch up with your buddies.

A close up horizontal image of feet with colorful socks warming in front of a large outdoor fire.

While you imagine yourself enjoying a relaxing evening, I’ll tell you that there are two types of units to consider: patio heaters and fire pits.

Do you know what you want? How do you envision using this new addition to your outdoor space? We’ll break down the details for you.

But first up, let’s take a look at 13 of the best patio heaters and fire pits to add warmth and ambience to your outdoor space.

Here’s the lineup:

1. Fire Sense Performance Series Patio Heater

The Fire Sense Performance Series propane standing floor model with a quick-start ignition is our top pick patio heater.

This all-weather floor lamp unit is one of eight similar styles in the Performance Series manufactured by Fire Sense, available via Amazon.

Available in different colors including ash and stainless steel, onyx and stainless steel, kaffee, espresso, hammered bronze, hammered platinum, gloss black, and stainless steel, it measures 89 by 33 by 18 inches, and weighs 39 pounds.

Intended for outdoor use only, this model produces a heat output of 46,000 BTUs, which warms an area of approximately 1,600 square feet. Heat is delivered via durable stainless steel burners and a double-mantle heating grid.

At a stationary height of 89 inches, this unit is not intended to give off light for reading, but rather to provide heat for outdoor spaces.

Fire Sense Performance Series in Hammered Bronze

This attractive model is constructed from powder coated steel and boasts a push-button electric ignition in which a hammer strikes a quartz crystal that in turn sparks and ignites propane.

This means there’s no need for a pilot. It also has a safety auto shut-off tilt valve to shut the unit off instantly if it tips over.

Another nice feature of this model is a wheel assembly that lets you move the unit around your patio for optimal comfort.

For safety, it should not be placed within 50 inches of combustible materials. The heat output is regulated by a black knob, as with a barbecue grill.

This product requires a 20-pound tank of liquid propane gas for 10 hours of operation. It is not included. You’ll need a AAA battery for the igniter, also not included.

Fire Sense has been in business since 1998, and the company is known for their outdoor heating and electric fireplaces. This model comes with a standard one-year warranty. Assembly required.


  • No pilot light
  • Safety auto shut-off tilt valve
  • Heat regulator knob


  • Without a full propane tank, may be subject to toppling in strong wind
  • Stability is reduced when tank isn’t full
  • Wind disrupts heat delivery

A protective cover is recommended to keep the unit free of debris and dust for optimal performance.

Full-Length Cover in Black

You may like a full-length style or one that just covers the head. Lengths vary, so read descriptions carefully.

Options include the Full Length Patio Heater Cover, available in black via Amazon, or the Oxford Heater Cover, also available in black.

Not having to light a pilot is the main attraction of this model, but electric ignition at high altitudes may be less than optimal.

Check current prices and read customer reviews now on Amazon.

2. Sunjoy Canyon Wood Burning Fireplace

If you prefer fire pits to patio heaters, our top pick is a wood-burning model, available from Tractor Supply.

Made from manufactured stone and powder-coated steel, this heavy duty unit weighs in at just shy of 320 pounds and measures 48 by 41 by 24 inches.

A square image of an outdoor seating area with a Sunjoy Canyon Wood Burning Fireplace.

Sunjoy Canyon Wood Burning Fireplace

The mesh screen prevents hot embers or sparks from flying out, while the smoke is directed up and away through the chimney.

There is a removable grate to catch the wood ashes, making clean up nice and easy.

The manufacturer offers a one-year limited warranty. Assembly required.


  • Real wood-burning fireplace
  • Functional chimney directs smoke up and away from seating area
  • Mesh screen provides protection from flying embers


  • Assembly can be a bit complicated
  • Large unit is not portable

Choose this model if you’re looking for a traditional wood-burner with a pleasing appearance.

Check prices now on Tractor Supply.

3. Hiland Portable Table Top Stainless Steel Patio Heater

Our bargain pick is a tabletop version that can be attached to a full-size propane tank for a cozy circle of warmth.

This propane tabletop model is manufactured by Hiland and available via Amazon. It measures 20.87 by 37.8 by 20.87 inches, and weighs 17.1 pounds.

To match your patio decor, it is available in a variety of finishes including stainless steel, hammered silver, hammered bronze with powder coat, two-tone black with stainless, and two-tone bronze with gold.

Portable Table Top Stainless Steel Patio Heater

Safety features include a burner screen guard, anti-tilt feature, and a weight plate for added stability. Heat delivery is 11,000 BTUs that warm a radius of four to five feet, adjustable for optimal comfort.

A one-pound propane canister is required. It is not included. If you purchase an optional adapter hose, you may use a standard 20-pound propane tank instead.

Intended for outdoor use only, this portable unit can be placed away from combustibles wherever heating is required. It is not a reading lamp.

Unlike some models, which have a push-button ignition, this one has a pilot light that is lit by the coordinated actions of a thermocouple and a control valve.

Hiland’s products are CSA and ETL approved. They ship in ISTA 3A packaging designed to protect materials in transit.

Each product is covered by a standard one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. Product assembly is required.


  • Portable
  • Adjustable heat control
  • Anti-tilt safety feature
  • Option to use small propane canister or a large one with an adapter hose


  • One-pound propane canisters are not refillable
  • Not intended to heat an area larger than 4 to 5 feet
  • Thermocouple, control valve, pilot light can be tricky
  • May topple in windy weather
  • Wind disrupts heat delivery

A cover is recommended for this model, to keep out dust and debris that may affect the unit’s operation. Covers are available in black, camel/tan, mocha, silver, and paprika, via Amazon.

Heavy Duty Waterproof Tabletop Heater Cover in Tan

Buyers who contacted customer support were pleased with the availability of representatives and the service provided.

Check current prices and read customer reviews now on Amazon.

4. Amazon Basics Commercial Patio Heater

This standing propane-fueled unit from Amazon Basics is very similar to the Fire Sense unit previously described.

Available in a variety of durable and attractive finishes including powder-coated Havana bronze, Bahama blue, slate gray, stainless steel, and sable brown, it puts out a powerful 46,000 BTUs.

A push-button Piezo ignition makes starting easy, a variable heat control knob ensures custom comfort, and a wheel assembly makes portability a breeze.

Amazon Basics Commercial Patio Heater

This item measures 89 by 33 by 18 inches and weighs 40 pounds. It requires a 20-pound propane tank that is not included, as well as a AAA battery for the ignition, also not included.

This model has the safety auto shut-off tilt valve that we have come to expect; however, it takes stability a step further.

There is a reservoir system in the base, which may be filled with either sand or water for added stability.

Amazon offers a one-year warranty for this product. Assembly is required.


  • Reservoir for sand or water for added stability
  • Piezo push-button ignition
  • Heat control knob


  • Water used as ballast may freeze in winter
  • May tip in windy weather with partial tank or inadequate ballast
  • Wind may disrupt heat delivery

Whether you store it in a garage or outside, a cover is a great way to protect your heater from debris and the elements.

The AmazonBasics Standup Patio Heater Cover is recommended for this model.

Rust can become an issue, so be sure to protect your heater, and keep it out of the elements when not in use.

Before first use, while the unit is still cold, be sure to peel off the blue plastic film that protects the product during shipment.

Read customer reviews and check prices now.

5. Lava Heat Italia Lavalite Natural Gas Heater

This sleek and stylish triangular glass tube heater, available via Home Depot, is manufactured from solid steel, aluminum, and 304-grade heavy-duty stainless steel, a popular variety of austenite steel with 18 percent chromium and eight percent nickel.

It runs efficiently on natural gas with a quick-connection system that is sparked by an easy-start infrared electric ignition, and maintained with a variable heat control regulator.

A propane option is also available from Home Depot.

This stylish model in hammered black measures 92.5 by 23.6 by 23.6 inches, and weighs just under 73 pounds.

A close up of the top of the Lava Heat Lavaline patio heater.

Lava Heat Lavalite Patio Heater

Designed in Modena, this product is part of the Lava Heat Italia Collection.

The highlight of this model is its durable and weather resistant four-foot borosilicate glass tube, the foundation of its signature “column of flame.”

With chrome reflectors positioned within the unit, light disperses to create an attractive ambient glow.

With a whopping 56,000 BTUs, this powerhouse generates a 360-degree heating zone with a five-foot radius for warm outdoor comfort on chilly evenings.

A built-in safety tilt switch gives peace of mind when breezes start to blow.

A square image of a Lava Heat Italia Lavalite patio heater with a residence and outdoor furniture in the background.

Lava Heat Italia Lavalite

The product configured for propane has a tank storage compartment and wheel assembly. A 10-foot quick-connect gas line is included for use with natural gas.

This model comes with a five-year limited warranty. It’s CSA certified, and assembly is required.


  • Column of flame and stylish construction
  • Propane or natural gas option
  • Propane configuration is portable
  • Tilt-switch auto shutoff
  • 56,000 BTUs


  • Natural gas line hookup must be professionally installed
  • Unit must be used where natural gas hookup is located
  • Small but warm heat radius

A cover is recommended to keep unit clean for optimal performance. The Lava Heat Italia Outdoor Patio Heater Cover is recommended to extend the life of the product.

Lava Heat Italia Outdoor Cover

This cover is available via Amazon.

If you’re looking for a unique design aesthetic that differs from the typical heaters on the market today, you’ll love the appearance and performance of this unit.

Check out this product at Home Depot.

6. Westinghouse Tabletop Electric Patio Heater

This next model is a 26-inch-tall black powder-coated steel tabletop version from Westinghouse, available from Home Depot, that is fueled by electricity and generates infrared heat.

It produces 1,500 watts of power, and provides instant heat for small areas. It has tip-over and overheating protection and can be used indoors as well as outdoors.

A square image of a Westinghouse infra red heater on an outdoor table.

Westinghouse 1500-Watt Table Top Electric Heater

The dimensions on this model are 26 by 17 by 17 inches and it weighs just shy of nine pounds.

It’s IP44 certified waterproof, uses a standard electrical outlet, and ships with a bulb that lasts up to 5,000 hours.

This model is also protected by a one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. Minor assembly required.


  • May also be used indoors
  • Portable
  • No fuel canisters
  • Waterproof
  • Wind does not disrupt heat delivery


  • Small area of heat
  • May blow over in windy weather
  • Requires an electrical outlet
  • Not usable in a power outage
  • Should be sheltered for best performance

If you’re looking for a tabletop option that provides a small circle of warmth paired with output that provides enough light to read by, this is the one for you.

For optimal operation, remember to keep the unit clean. Use it in a sheltered area, such as a covered patio or sun room.

If your intent is to use your heater in an unprotected area outdoors, select another model.

Check current prices now at Home Depot.

7. Amazon Basics Steel Lattice Fire Pit

Our bargain pick in the fire pit category is a sturdy, portable classic wood burner.

This rugged steel wood-burning model from Amazon Basics is finished in black. Overall dimensions are 27.8 inches in diameter by 35 inches high, with a weight of just over 16 pounds.

With a 23.5-inch diameter solid bottom fire bowl approximately 12 inches deep, spark guard lid, screen sides, and poker, this item has everything you’ll need for a cozy fire – except the wood.

An attractive basket weave pattern makes for rustic ambiance and 360 degrees of fire viewing.

Ring handles make toting this unit convenient, and three sturdy legs support it in style.

A one-year limited warranty is included with this item. It is for outdoor use only, and may be used for cooking. Assembly required.


  • Easy to assemble
  • Portable
  • Availability and cost of wood
  • Hot wood fire
  • Nice view and access from any angle


  • Wood fires must be fed to maintain heat
  • Smoke and odor
  • Ash cleanout required after every use
  • No holes in bottom for water drainage

Covering your product will extend its life by protecting it from debris and inclement weather.

Shinestar 32-Inch Cover

A 32-inch cover is available from Shinestar via Amazon.

A cooking grate may also be placed on top for toasting marshmallows and grilling hot dogs by the fire.

A round grill pad is another nice accessory to have, to protect the surface beneath a pit like this. It’s a great option for preventing damage to a lawn, patio, or deck.

Mister Buddy BBQ Grill Mat

The Mister Buddy BBQ Grill Mat is a great pick. This 36-inch round black rubber mat is available on Amazon.

Without ground protection, keep in mind that this model may scorch lawns. And rusting is possible if exposed to the elements. The bottom may hold water, so this is not a pit that can be left out in the rain.

Adding a layer of sand to the bottom of the bowl is recommended, to protect its surface while burning logs.

Read customer reviews and check prices now.

8. AZ Patio Heaters Propane Fire Pit

This tabletop propane unit from AZ Patio Heaters, available via Amazon, will add grace and warmth to any outdoor living space.

Standing 28 inches tall, with a 38-inch square table top, this unit has a 17-inch square burn area, and a 19-inch square lid. Weight is 105 pounds.

This model’s classic cabinet style is constructed of antique bronze finished steel, making it a striking addition to any outdoor decor.

With a battery-operated pulse ignition system, this unit delivers 40,000 BTUs of heat to a 15-foot diameter.

It’s CSA approved and has a thermocouple failure device to maximize safety. This model comes to your address in ISTA – 3A certified packaging designed to protect contents in transit.

AZ Propane Fire Pit with Antique Bronze Finish

A nice feature is the inclusion of good quality fire glass that retains little moisture for safe burning. Another is the easy-access propane tank door, which makes removing and replacing canisters a breeze.

This unit requires a 20-pound tank of liquid propane gas for six to 12 hours of operation. It is not included.

A standard one-year warranty is included with this product. Assembly required.


  • Easy-access door to stow propane tank
  • Fire glass included
  • Flame height regulator knob
  • Nice view and access from any angle


  • Finish discolors with persistent moisture and contact with recommended cover
  • Some buyers have had ignition issues
  • Not intended for cooking

As we’ve said, a cover is an excellent investment for keeping your unit clean and free from debris.

The Heavy-Duty Waterproof cover from AZ Patio is recommended for this model, and it’s available on Amazon.

Heavy Duty Waterproof Propane Fire Pit Cover in Tan

You may purchase additional fire glass for use in this unit as well, which we recommended in order to get full coverage for the first time you use it.

AZ sells fire glass in 10-pound packages, available on Amazon in cobalt blue, ice, amber, aqua, black, green, red, turquoise, Bahama blend, chestnut, ocean blue, and Pacific blend.

If you provide your own fire glass or choose to purchase from a different manufacturer, be sure it is at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, like the glass included.

Fire Pit Glass, Bahama Blend

When loading fire glass, care should be taken not to block the air vents.

Keep in mind that hot fire glass or lava rocks can burst and become projectiles if made or used improperly. Read instructions carefully and be sure to buy from reputable manufacturers.

With a pleasing appearance and excellent performance. Assembly of this unit is fairly straightforward though the instructions are somewhat lacking.

Note that a cloth must be placed under the recommended cover to prevent discoloration of the fire pit. And old towel will work.

Check out this product on Amazon now.

9. Teamson Home Round Stone Look Propane Gas Fire Pit

This concrete stone-look propane campfire pit from Teamson Home, available from Amazon, has a round fire bowl with a stainless steel burner and a decorative concrete base.

A one-step spark-ignition button ignites glowing flames around the included lava rocks, and a gas flow knob facilitates height adjustment.

This model has a diameter of 28 inches and measures 9.65 inches high, weighing just over 48 pounds. It is fueled by a 20-pound propane tank (not included) and puts out a maximum of 40,000 BTUs of heat.

Teamson Home Stone Look Fire Pit

The manufacturer offers a 60-day warranty, extendable to 90 days upon registration via their website. Cover included. Assembly required.


  • Lightweight
  • Good for small spaces
  • Nice view and access from any angle
  • Lava rocks included


  • Small size
  • Propane tank and hose are visible
  • Propane tank and hose pose tripping hazard/danger
  • Not intended for cooking

This small unit makes an attractive addition to the patio or yard, though it serves as more of a decorative item than heat source – perfect if your main goal is to create a little ambience.

Of course, since this is a propane model, the propane tank and hose are not hidden away.

The propane connection hose is approximately 10 feet long. It hooks to the side of the unit, with the propane tank sitting outside of the unit.

Read customer reviews and check prices now on Amazon.

10. Deckmate Sonora Outdoor Chimenea Fireplace

This three-legged cast iron wood burning fireplace from Kay Home Products, available via Amazon, is a type of chimenea or chiminea, which is a front-loading oven with a smokestack.

This model is intended for ornamental use only, not for cooking.

Its decorative embossed design and high-temp paint finish give it artisan charm as it warms your outdoor space and provides 360 degrees of fire viewing.

Deckmate Sonora Outdoor Chimenea Fireplace

This item’s dimensions are 21 by 21 by 51.6 inches. It weighs 75 pounds.

A fine wire mesh screen provides protection from sparks. There’s a large sliding fuel door, and cleanup is easy with a handy ash catcher. A top cap helps to keep rain out when not in use.

Included with this item are a log grate and fire tool. This model is for outdoor use only. Assembly required.


  • Sturdy and stable
  • Nice view and access from any angle
  • Chimney to remove smoke


  • Wood fires produce ash; unit must be cleaned after use
  • Wood fires produce smoke
  • Fires must be fed to maintain heat

A cover is recommended to keep rain from entering the chimenea through its sides.

Amazon offers the Veranda Chimenea Cover by Classic Accessories. Its dimensions are perfect for this Deckmate model.

Classic Accessories Veranda Chimenea Cover

Owners like the weight of this model, the availability of a nice view from all angles, and the chimney for smoke removal.

The chimenea is sturdy, but assembly can be a bit tricky. Some buyers have found the holes and screws did not align and they had to make modifications with a drill.

This is not intended to be a portable unit. It’s heavy, so assemble it where you want it to stay.

The most commonly replaced part for this item is the ash tray, because it tends to deteriorate with use over time, either rusting or burning out. Replacement parts are available direct from the manufacturer.

Check current prices and read customer reviews now on Amazon.

11. Real Flame Baltic Square Natural Gas Table

Another lovely design, this contemporary natural gas fire table from Real Flame is made of high-performance kodiak brown or glacier gray tinted fiber-concrete and heavy-gauge steel for durability and clean, sophisticated lines.

A square image of an outdoor seating area on a tiled floor.

Real Flame Baltic Square Natural Gas Table in Kodiak Brown

Its overall dimensions are 36 inches square by 15.5 inches in height, and it weighs 152 pounds. Larger rectangular models are also available from Home Depot.

This model comes with everything you need, from a 50,000 BTU burner with lava rocks, to a 10-foot connection hose, protective storage cover, and even a AAA battery.

The product is covered by a standard two-year warranty.

Professional installation of both a natural gas line and the unit itself are required for CSA certification.


  • Electronic ignition
  • No cleanup
  • High heat output


  • Requires utility company installation of natural gas hookup
  • Product must be professionally installed

Real Flame offers fire glass and lava rocks that you may be interested in, including Real Flame Fire Glass Filler in black or gray reflective glass, ice clear glass, or black glass pebbles, and red lava rock.

Propane cover to match the Baltic heater. | GardenersPath.com

Baltic Fire Pit Fuel Cover

Real Flame also offers propane tank covers that coordinate with this model, available from Wayfair.

Check out current pricing now at Home Depot.

12. Zeny Outdoor Square Metal Fire Pit

The faux stone lines of this steel fire pit from Zeny, available via Amazon, add character to outdoor living spaces on cool evenings. It measures 32 by 32 by 13 inches and weighs 29.6 pounds.

This wood-fired model is for outdoor heating, but can also be used for cooking.

Zeny Outdoor Square Metal Fire Pit with Cover

Safety mesh prevents sparks from flying, and a poker is included. There’s also a PVC rain cover for protection from the elements when not in use, and a grill rack for cooking. Assembly required.


  • Inexpensive model
  • Inexpensive fuel
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Included grill rack for cooking


  • Thin metal
  • Thin cover

A good buy for the price, verified purchasers had little difficulty with assembly, and enjoy using it. Some have noted that the metal is on the thin side.

Read customer reviews and check prices now.

13. Anywhere Fireplace Oasis Tabletop

This compact stainless steel ethanol-fueled unit from Anywhere Fireplace, available at Home Depot, is intended more for appearance than heat.

For indoor or outdoor use, it is a conversation starter that creates a mood of elegance and intrigue.

Dimensions are 14 by 14 by 8 inches and weight is 13 pounds.

Used atop a steady table or at ground level, it’s durable, yet lightweight and portable. White river rocks are included to line the bottom.

Then all that’s needed is a can of fuel and a long matchstick to set the flames to dancing. This unit requires canned gel fuel that is not included.

A square image of a seating area on an apartment balcony overlooking a lake with mountains in the background.

Anywhere Fireplace Oasis Tabletop

The manufacturer’s return policy states that opened boxes and/or used items are not accepted, and that a 20 percent restocking fee will be charged for unopened returns. Also, return shipping is at the customer’s expense.

If your box looks damaged upon receipt, either refuse delivery or contact customer service before opening it.


  • Exceptional appearance
  • Outdoor/indoor use
  • Clean burning fuel
  • No cleanup


  • Highly flammable fuel
  • Expensive fuel
  • No flame height control
  • Small heat radius
  • Not for cooking
  • Return policy stipulations

Decorative fire glass may be used in this model instead of the rocks, such as those listed above.

Be sure to purchase only non-flammable material made by a reputable manufacturer specifically for this purpose, if you choose to supplement the material used to line the bottom of the unit.

If you want to forego the rocks or glass altogether, another model you may like is the Sutton from Anywhere Fireplace, available via Amazon.

Anywhere Fireplace Indoor/Outdoor Sutton

Made of polished stainless steel with a black finish, it has a more enclosed top and does not include the river rocks, giving it a very modern look.

Check prices now at Home Depot.

Breaking it Down: Patio Heaters

These units vary in size, shape, and description, and include the following:

  • Standing floor lamp style
  • Tabletop lamp style
  • Standing triangular glass tube
  • Tabletop triangular glass tube
  • Ceiling mounted
  • Wall mounted

They require one of three fuels to operate:

  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Electricity

Electricity is currently the most affordable option in my area, and propane is cheaper than natural gas.

A close up horizontal image of a gas fired patio heater pictured on a soft focus background.

It’s interesting to note each of the three fuels may also power infrared heaters.

The Details: Fire Pits

Varying in size and shape, and generally bearing some resemblance to a campfire, situated close to, or in, the ground.

Styles include:

  • Bowls
  • Globes
  • Tubs
  • Baskets
  • Rings
  • Tables
  • Fireplaces

Many models provide not only heat, but the option to cook food over their open flames.

A close up horizontal image of an outdoor portable fire pit on a dark background.

Fire is produced using one of the following fuels:

These fuels are not interchangeable. There are some models that may be configured for either propane or natural gas.

It is very important to use all fire-producing products in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions.

A Handy Primer on Fuel

The main types of fuel are the following:


This is liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG. It’s an environmentally friendly nontoxic flammable fuel that comes in canisters. Propane contains a skunky odor so that in the event of a leak, you will notice right away.

A close up horizontal image of a propane tank and connector.

Propane is used to fuel standing, tabletop, and pyramid heaters, as well as wall-mounted infrared heaters. It is also sometimes used in fire pits.

Often referred to simply as gas, be sure to distinguish it from models that run on natural gas, a completely different fuel.


  • Unit may be moved, as propane canisters do not require a stationary hookup
  • Turn on and off as needed for instant heat
  • No smoke, sparks, or odor
  • No cleanup


  • Requires purchase/refill of tank of combustible fuel
  • Must clean burners regularly
  • Doesn’t operate efficiently at temps below 40°F
  • No crackling sound
  • Not generally intended for cooking, as elements may be damaged by food drippings

A 20-pound tank is the most commonly required, and it should provide about 10 hours of fuel.


  • You need to buy a tank
  • This can be refilled or exchanged after complete use

A 20-pound tank is seldom filled more than three-quarters full, so you may not get as much as you might expect per tank.

At the time of writing, a rough estimate of the cost to use propane is approximately $4 per hour, based on a 20-pound tank cost of approximately $40, and an estimated 10 hours of use per tank.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a fossil fuel comprised of decomposed organic material, commonly used for cooking and heating. It is piped to residences via underground pipelines.

Whether you use it for a home heater, hot water heater, patio heater, barbecue grill, or fire pit, it will attach to each gas-fired appliance with a dedicated hookup.

Natural gas has a scent added to it that smells like rotten eggs or skunk.

This fuel is used in standing, tabletop, and pyramid heaters, as well as wall-mounted infrared models. It is also used in fire pits.

Natural gas products are not as prevalent as those fueled by propane. If you see the word gas without natural, this almost always refers to propane.


  • Cheaper than propane
  • Turn on and off as needed for instant heat
  • Permanent gas line instead of fuel tank
  • No smoke, sparks, or odor
  • No cleanup


  • More expensive than wood
  • Must run gas line to unit
  • Unit must remain stationary once hooked up
  • No crackling sound
  • Not generally intended for cooking, as elements may be damaged by food drippings


If you have natural gas at your house and would like to power a heater or pit with this fuel, first you need to have a hookup installed professionally.

You’ll have an idea of how much your unit costs to operate when you get your natural gas bill. The cost is typically less than $1.00 per hour.

If your house already has a natural gas line into your property, this is a viable option for you. Otherwise, avoid products that require this fuel.


Infrared heat provides a consistent temperature to an outdoor space. Interestingly, it doesn’t warm the air – just the people within its range.

Products that produce BTUs of infrared heat convert fuel to electromagnetic radiation, which is as safe as the visible light we see all around us, according to the Infrared Heater Safety Council (IRSC), which has created guidelines for gas-fired infrared heating.

In addition to units powered by propane and natural gas, there are others that use electricity.

Some units are mounted high on the wall and all areas within their range receive equal heat.


  • Instant efficient and even heating
  • Mounts out of way, preventing tripping hazard
  • No tank or gas line
  • No odor, sparks, or smoke
  • No cleanup


  • Fixed location
  • Requires a wall for mounting
  • Electric models require outlet, natural gas types require hookup


The cost to operate can range from under $100 to over $2,000, based upon the square footage heated.

According to Fire Sense, one of the manufacturers reviewed here, the cost to run an electric heating device has been estimated to be about 29 cents per hour for a 1,500-watt capacity unit.


Seasoned firewood is best. This is wood that has dried out and has a low moisture content.

A vertical image of flames and logs burning on a fire.

You can supply this yourself if you’ve got wood to chop on your property, or you may purchase it from a reputable supplier.

Kindling for starting wood-burning fires may be gathered in the form of twigs, or flatwood kindling may be purchased.

Look for products derived from non-endangered species that have not been chemically treated.


  • No storage of combustible fuel
  • Wood is cheaper than other fuels
  • Real crackling sound, best looking flames
  • Intended for both heating and cooking


  • Takes time to heat up
  • Logs must be added and tended after fire is started
  • Odor, smoke, sparks fly
  • Cleanup required


If you gather wood yourself and let it dry until next season, this can be a very cost effective fuel. If you have to buy a cord of wood at $100+, consider thoughtfully.


Black briquettes of carbon and ash are a useful and affordable fuel, particularly for barbecuing.

A close up of flames on a charcoal fire pictured on a dark background.


  • Reasonably priced
  • Hot flame
  • No tank of combustible fuel, quick-lighting brands save time


  • Coals take time to heat up
  • More coals may have to be added after fire is started
  • No heat control
  • Ashes require cleanup


At the time of writing, you can buy 20 pounds for under $10, with prices going up to almost 10 times as much for oak hardwood. You may need a partial bag, one full bag, or several bags to fill a pit.

Depending on a variety of factors like the type of pit, whether it’s covered or uncovered, and the temperature reached, charcoal burns for approximately one to four hours before it is reduced to ash.


This is denatured alcohol from corn or sugar, also called biofuel.

A close up horizontal image of the flames produced by ethanol.

To operate, a burner is filled with this highly flammable liquid, and the unit is turned on.


  • Burns cleanly with byproducts of carbon dioxide and water
  • Renewable, eco-friendly, and efficient
  • No gas line
  • Vent-less


  • Fuel is expensive
  • Storage of highly combustible fuel required
  • Flame blows easily in wind, so models often have glass surrounds that may obstruct view of flames
  • Not intended for cooking, as elements may be damaged by food drippings
  • Must cool down before relighting


With ethanol, you can expect to pay about $2.50 per hour since one canister costs approximately $10 and burns for about four hours.

The manufacturers of ethanol tout it as the cleanest burning fuel.


This is pourable premium-grade isopropyl alcohol that is highly flammable and comes in cans.

A vertical image of a small gel burner pictured on a dark background.

The cans are placed into a gel burner, opened, and lit.


  • Vent-less
  • Real flame
  • No smoke, soot, or ashes
  • No cleanup
  • Crackling sound


  • Gives little heat
  • Uses up oxygen
  • No flame regulation
  • Not intended for cooking, as elements may be damaged by food drippings
  • Must cool down before re-lighting.


Gel costs approximately $2.00 per hour, given an approximate cost of $75 for a case of 24 cans, with each can providing about 90 minutes of flame.

A Word About BTUs and Watts

As you shop, you’ll notice heating units provide heat measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs. A good rule of thumb to remember when comparing models is this:

40,000 BTUs of heat will cover a radius of approximately eight to 10 feet, with the inner circle of three to four feet being the warmest.

A close up horizontal image of an infrared bulb to heat an outdoor space.

If you are looking at electric models, heat output may be measured in watts.

A unit that puts out 1,500 watts is equivalent to one that yields 5,100 BTUs. Each covers an area of approximately 150 square feet, or a 10-by-15-foot space.

Again, the heat is not as warm at the outer perimeter as it is in the center.

Knowing about BTUs and wattage will help you determine how a unit’s capacity relates to the size of your outdoor space.

Which to Buy – Patio Heater or Fire Pit?

Not sure if you want to heat your outdoor space with a patio heater or a fire pit?

First, check the fire regulations of your municipality if you plan to use a fire-producing product.

A close up horizontal image of a wine glass in front of a decorative outdoor firepit.

Did you know that a large built-in unit may be categorized as a structure on your homeowner’s insurance, whereas a movable model is simply personal property?

Next, take a good look at where you want your new patio heater or fire pit to go. Be sure to consider safe clearances from flammable objects and room for air to flow freely around your unit.

Be aware that lightweight heaters and fire pits are susceptible to toppling over in windy weather. They must not only be placed away from combustibles, but away from glass as well.

And finally, if you’re considering a fire pit that heats and cooks, review your grilling safety tips.

Make the Most of Outdoor Living

Patio parties are not just for summertime! By creating warm and inviting spaces, you can extend the use of outdoor living areas from summer’s end right through to spring.

A horizontal image of a couple enjoying a large outdoor fire, seated in adirondack chairs with alcoholic beverages in hand.

My front patio is becoming my favorite living space. With outdoor furnishings that have morphed from webbing and tubing to all-weather wicker with plush cushions, who could resist curling up with a good book, a glass of wine, and golden sunsets?

As a child, I helped haul the seasonal furniture into the garage as the last of the geese flew over the house headed for warmer locales. I never dreamed of leaving it out in the snow, let alone using it in the cold weather.

Now, patio suites are made to enjoy year-round, and in my neighborhood, outdoor furniture and accessories abound that would rival that of any indoor family room.

A horizontal image of an outdoor living space with wooden furniture, candles and a large patio heater burning wooden logs.

And as the weather cools off, heaters are turned on and flames flicker in the moonlight, making our patios one big block party.

Enjoy evenings with friends beneath a velvety winter sky strewn with stars, faces aglow in the warmth of your new patio heater or fire pit.

We love to hear from you. How are you enjoying your patio heater or fire pit this season? Tell us in the comments section below!

And if you are in the market for more furniture to enhance your outdoor space, check out these reviews next:

Photo of author


Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!
Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Monu (@guest_4669)
4 years ago

An Excellent post explains well about the different types of patio heaters and fire pits for winter season. Thanks for sharing an informative post.