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Various kinds of outdoor heating can expand your practical living space well into autumn and winter.

Even in spring and summer, heating an outdoor space creates a wonderful ambience for your family and guests.

Flames create a hypnotic effect that fosters comfort, security and satisfaction.

Finding the right type of outdoor heating is a matter of personal preference.

Some people prefer a fire pit, but others prefer the convenience of specially designed outdoor heaters.

The most popular options these days include gas heaters and chimineas, a popular favorite that originated in Mexico.

While personal preference is a big bonus, there are other considerations in choosing between chimineas and gas heaters.


Chimineas are essentially portable fireplaces, but the traditional terracotta or clay design and decorative painting are tremendously charming.

The mouth is on the side, and smoke rises through a vertical chimney.

The design contains and protects the fire from rain and wind.

You can also choose chimineas made of cast iron, steel, copper and cast aluminum.

Portable and compact, chimineas are the perfect solution for heating smaller areas on your patio or outdoor living spaces.

Chimineas have been in use since the 16th or 17th century when Mexican villagers began using them.

The traditional design uses clay and a shape not unlike a pot-bellied stove with a wide base and narrow chimney.

The wide mouth on the side focuses the heat in one direction and keeps rain away.

Aromatic woods are a good choice for burning because the design concentrates the appealing smells.

Product features

Product features include the unique shape, but you should look for a chiminea that isn’t crooked or misshapen, a common failing of hand-made varieties.

The features include a choice of material and size and 360-degree visibility.

Check whether you can load standard pieces of firewood.

Another important consideration is whether wood-burning fireplaces are allowed in your town.

Uses and benefits

The primary uses of chimineas include decor, light, heat and an outdoor platform for cooking.

The smoky flavor of cooking in a chiminea can’t be beat by coal- or propane-fired grills and barbecues.

You can choose from clay, terracotta, ceramic, stone and various metals.

The units are highly portable if you choose a smaller model, but even larger ones are easy to move.

Some of the benefits of a chiminea include:

  • Portability
  • Ability to toast marshmallows on your deck
  • Smokey barbecue cooking
  • Hotter fire than propane heaters
  • Choice of rustic or modern appearance
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Faster heat for outdoor areas
  • Affordable price


Many municipal codes limit backyard fires, so it’s important to check. Some municipalities ban the use of a grill or chiminea on porches and decks.

It’s not safe to use a chiminea indoors because there’s no outdoor venting of the smoke and dangerous carbon monoxide gas.

Safety considerations and potential hazards

It’s important not to touch the exterior of the chiminea when it’s lit or hot.

People should avoid overloading the portable stove.

Using proper tinder is important, and you should consider using a spark arrestor.

How to use safely

It’s important to choose your location for the chiminea carefully because you’re essentially setting a fire in your backyard.

The area should be clear of low-hanging tree branches, dry grass, nearby shrubs and other flammable materials.

You should exercise caution if using a chiminea on a wooden deck and protect the wood with a fire-resistant mat.

Keep a fire extinguisher or ready source of water nearby for emergencies.

Gas heaters using natural or bottled gas

Gas heaters provide heat quickly for outdoor areas, patios and decks. These heaters are an affordable luxury that’s available to anyone.

The heaters greatly extend the outdoor season, and having outdoor heat makes it possible to entertain guests without risking damage to your carpet, walls and decorative accents, a common problem when entertaining.

Gas heaters give you multiple options for heater placement, and the choice of styles is amazing.

You can choose propane heaters for greater portability or for heat when you don’t have a natural gas connection.

Propane heaters

Propane heaters are self-contained units that are easy to store and use anytime that you need some outdoor heat.

They’re useful for decks, patios and outdoor living areas.You can choose from the larger, umbrella-style heaters or small tabletop heaters, which are perfect for camping, tailgating or outdoor dining in cool weather.

Natural gas heaters

Natural gas heaters are usually installed on patios or decks for outdoor heat.

The benefits of natural gas heaters include an unlimited supply of fuel and increased aesthetic appeal for outdoor entertaining.

The heat can cover a larger area than chimineas and even most propane heaters.

However, the heaters offer limited outdoor usage because a gas connection must be available.

Product features

The primary benefits of gas heaters are better controlled heat and no mess to clean.

You won’t have to worry about ashes, upkeep and cleaning out the inside of the heater as you would with chimineas.

Propane patio heaters are silent, dependable and available in free-standing designs that range from vertical to pyramid shapes.

Most heaters are made of stainless steel, cast iron, cast aluminum and other metals, and they often have resin tops for durability.

The heaters can be left outdoors, but it’s not recommended.

Some models come with a cover, however, so it’s possible to leave them out during the primary season.

Uses and benefits

The appeal of a gas flame, although not as compelling as real flames, comes with greater safety for your guests, children and pets.

You can use a patio gas heater anywhere that heat is needed in areas that include open garages, outdoor entertaining areas, campsites, patios, porches, decks, etc.

A range of styles includes pyramid shapes, vertical designs, rectangular heaters and plenty of styles and colors from which to choose.

Gas heaters are equipped with safety features for your family’s protection, and you can choose propane or natural gas and permanent or portable styles with propane heaters.

Propane gas offers non-toxic use, and the gas won’t harm the soil or the water table.


Natural gas heaters require professional installation and aren’t portable like propane heaters.

These heaters can’t be used in enclosed spaces.

Propane heaters require regular tank replacement, and if you have a spare tank, it needs to be stored securely to meet local fire department guidelines.

It’s important to choose the right size heater for the space that you want to heat.

Some models have more safety features than others.

The CSA safety rating means that the model meets the rigorous safety standards required in North America.

Safety considerations and potential hazards

You should read the accompanying safety and setup guide before using a gas heater.

If you choose a natural gas heater, you will need a professional to install it, and he or she will usually explain how to use the heater safely.

For example, gas heaters should be located at least three feet away from foliage and combustibles.

You should place the heater on a concrete surface or flameproof or heat-resistant mat.

Propane tanks need to be placed far away from the heat.

Most heaters cut off automatically if there’s a problem, but if you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, turn off the heater.

For added safety, call the fire department because concentrations of gas could ignite even after being turned off.

How to use safely

Gas patio heaters are easy to use safely if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety recommendations.

Most of the safety measures are incorporated during setup, so unless you move the heater, the only thing to worry about is a gas leak or getting a burn by touching heated parts.

It’s also dangerous to place the propane tank near heat.

Chiminea vs. gas heater: Which is right for you?

In the end, choosing between a chiminea and a gas heater might come down to your personal preference.

If you want a highly decorative focal point for outdoors, a chiminea might be your best choice.

You can choose your favorite style, enjoy eco-friendly heat, move the unit as needed and burn fallen wood if you have a wooded area in your yard or nearby.

If you prefer greater control of heat, a natural gas or propane heater might be best.

Some people don’t enjoy gathering and cutting wood.

Gas heaters are generally safer, and you can easily use them on wooden porches and decks.

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