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Patio Heater vs. Fire Pit (10 Key Differences)

Patio Heater vs. Fire Pit (10 Key Differences)

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One of the best aspects of owning a house is getting to enjoy your backyard. The outdoor space is the perfect spot for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Plus, your kids can run around in the greenery and have fun in the sun. Yet, this can be a little tricky as winter comes about.

As the weather gets chillier, you’ll find it difficult to sit in your backyard for long periods. That’s when outdoor heaters can come in handy.

These devices can warm up the space and keep you feeling toasty for hours. The two most popular types of gadgets are patio heaters and fire pits.

Each one has a set of advantages and disadvantages. So, if you’re comparing patio heaters and fire pits, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the specifications of the two devices. Plus, I’ll cover how they are different.

Patio Heater Overview

Patio heaters are devices that can warm a large area in a short period. Plus, they come in a variety of amazing designs that can add an exotic flare to your backyard.

Aside from that, the gadgets are typically easy to set up and use.

Moving, there are several types of patio heaters. That includes propane, natural gas, and electric devices.

Each one relies on a different fuel source, which means they operate in distinct ways.

Besides that, these devices are usually completely safe to use. If you follow the right steps, you should be able to enjoy the warmth with your entire family.

Other than that, with patio heaters, users can choose how much heat they generate.

Yet, these devices also have a few issues. For starters, you’ll need to constantly supply them with fuel.

Whether it’s from a power cord or a gas tank, you need a continuous supply to keep the heater running.

On top of that, patio heaters can release harmful gases into the environment.

Fire Pit Overview

Fire pits are another excellent option for outdoor heating. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

From tiny contained flames to massive installations, the options are limitless.

Moving on, these devices can use a wide variety of fuels. These include coal, wood, propane, or natural gas.

Plus, some gadgets even come with electric igniters to make starting a fire simpler.

Not only will fire pits warm your backyard, but they’ll also give it a rustic feel. That’s because it reminds people of small, quaint campfires.

It brings back memories of toasting marshmallows and making s’mores.

Besides that, they can turn any space into a cozy nook. People can watch the flames as they dance and crackle and forget about the world for a few hours.

To top it all off, fire pits are an amazing source of light. They can illuminate a wide area for a long period.

Yet, these devices also have several drawbacks. First up, you won’t have much control over the temperature.

Other than that, cleaning fire pits can prove to be a frustrating chore.

Patio Heater vs. Fire Pit

Now that you know a little about each device, I can move on to the comparison. In this section, I’ll dive into the major differences between patio heaters and fire pits.

1 – Design

The first aspect I’ll compare is the design of each device. For starters, patio heaters come in a variety of unique styles.

These include:

  • Umbrella
  • Hanging
  • Freestanding
  • Wall-mounted
  • Tabletops
  • Lighted

That means you should have no problem finding a model you like.

Moving on, while fire pits come in fewer designs, there are still a couple of styles for you to choose from.

These are:

  • In-ground
  • Open flame
  • Contained flame

2 – Heat Generation

When choosing a heater, you have to consider how much warmth it can generate. This will depend on the size of the gadget and where you place it.

Although fire pits will usually produce more heat. That’s because of their large surface area.

Not only will this mean more room for bigger flames, but it also improves airflow. That way, your fire will have plenty of oxygen to burn and generate a lot of heat.

3 – Fuel Source

You can use a variety of fuel sources for both fire pits and patio heaters. Yet, fire pits still win this category.

That’s because patio heater fuel is a little more difficult to store.

You can put away wood logs or coal without worrying about starting an accidental fire.

In contrast, propane tanks require users to take a few extra safety precautions.

4 – Ease of Use

When it comes to ease of use, both devices are on equal footing. For starters, the two gadgets will require constant fuel top-ups.

Other than that, fire pits and patio heaters tend to come with electric igniters. That means all you have to do to start a fire is click a button.

The only area where there’s a difference in use is turning off the devices. With patio heaters, you can simply turn off the gas valve.

As for fire pits, you’ll need to wait until the flames die out on their own.

5 – Maintenance

When it comes to maintenance, patio heaters take the lead. Aside from dusting and changing the gas tank, you won’t have to do much else.

Yet, fire pits require a lot of care to function normally. That’s because you’ll need to clean out the pit after every use.

Users need to clear out the ashes and then scrub the bowl.

6 – Sparks and Embers

With most newer patio heater models, the fire sits behind a flame screen. This is to ensure that users don’t burn themselves in an accident.

While this will decrease the heat output, it’ll ensure your safety.

Sadly, the same isn’t true with fire pits. Typically, these devices will feature open flames.

Because of that, there’s a chance that sparks and embers can go flying every which way. So, you have to keep any flammable objects away from fire pits.

7 – Mobility

If you have a massive backyard, then it may be a good idea to invest in a portable heater. That way, you can enjoy all parts of the space in the winter.

Thankfully, patio heaters tend to be easy to move. Even the bigger models will come with wheels to make shifting them simple.

On the other hand, fire pits are stationary devices. Once you install them in place, it’ll be tough to move them to a new location.

8 – Illumination

Both fire pits and patio heaters can generate light but with varying intensity. The former will produce a soft wash of light over a large area.

As for the latter, it can only illuminate the area that directly surrounds the device. That’s because the burner is out of sight, behind a flame screen.

9 – Environmental Impact

Neither fire pits nor patio heaters are particularly good for the environment. Since they both burn fuel, they can produce a variety of harmful gases, like carbon monoxide.

Although this will depend on the type of fuel you’re using. For instance, wood fires generate more toxic gases as they burn.

That’s why most people consider patio heaters to be the more eco-friendly option.

10 – Cooking

If you’re planning on throwing many parties in your backyard, then fire pits are the way to go. That’s because these devices can double as grills.

All you have to do is throw a couple of grill grates on top and you’re ready to barbecue.

Unfortunately, the same isn’t true with patio heaters. Since the flames are out of sight, you can’t use them for anything but heat generation.

Final Thoughts

When comparing patio heaters and fire pits, there are a few factors to consider. For starters, the former comes in a few more designs.

Plus, it’s more mobile and easier to maintain.

Moving on, fire pits tend to generate more heat and provide extra illumination. Yet, they’re not all that great for the environment.

On top of that, with a fire pit, there’s always the risk of flying sparks and embers.


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