Adding outdoor heating to your backyard can extend your enjoyment of outdoor living by several months each year, so it's definitely a worthwhile investment. There's nothing quite like being toasty warm outside when the weather cools down. So here's our guide to great outdoor heating ideas. BYO marshmallows.
Choosing the best outdoor heating option for your backyard begins with what fuel you want to use: timber, gas, bioethanol or electricity.
Gas outdoor heaters can use either bottled gas or mains supply if available. Gas outdoor heaters also tend to have a limited heat radius.
There's a choice of 'mushroom' type heaters you would see at your local pub beer garden, in large or table-top versions, wall-mounted panel-type heaters and overhead strip heaters that hang from the ceiling. A ceiling fan set on reverse winter cycle over a floor-standing gas heater will make for more efficient heating as the fan pushes the heat back down as it rises.
Another option is a gas firepit that gives out attractive flames.
Image courtesy of Solus Decor.
Timber and Solid Fuels
The most affordable outdoor heating option is a simple firepit – though there are handmade metal ones available that look like stunning sculptural additions to your garden.
Firepods - Bespoke outdoor fires handcrafted in Sydney by local metalworker Dean Roach. Perfect for inner-city living or larger outdoor spaces. Firepods may be suspended or fitted with legs. A sculptural and functional addition to your balcony, backyard or courtyard. Image courtesy of Firepod
A firepit gives a lovely campfire-like atmosphere, however you do need to be very careful if children are around. If smoke is an issue, use almost-smokeless 'eco-briquettes' made from compressed and shredded recycled demolition materials instead of timber. A mix of seasoned hardwood and charcoal bricks gives a slow, reliable heat.
What to do with your firepit in the warmer months? Many come with lift-off lids than can be fitted on top in warmer weather to convert the firepit into a convenient side table. Most firepits are fitted with a hole for drainage in the centre of the bowl and can be used to keep drinks on ice in summer.
Another option using solid fuel such as timber is a Spanish cheminea. Made from thick clay or cast iron, these provide a strong, steady spread of heat and radiate it slowly. These also include a chimney so the smoke goes up, and out of your eyes.
Even once the sun has set, the Sarsden Chiminea ensures the whole family can sit and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Crafted in Powder Coated Steel, the deep matt finish and shape echoes traditional Spanish chimeneas. Image courtesy of Garden Trading.
Another common solution in terms of an easily accessible fuel source is electric outdoor heaters. These are quite efficient and probably a better environmental solution than gas, however you are still chewing up a lot of power – unless you have solar panels on your roof.
Thermastrip electric radiant heaters are more effective within an outdoor or uninsulated indoor area because they provide targeted warmth directly to the people and objects in their path. Discrete, stylish heating for undercover outdoor and indoor open areas. Using the radiant heating principle, Thermastrip from Beacon Lighting provides effective and energy-efficient comfort heating.
If you are trying to balance your choice from an environmental and sustainable perspective, the most sustainable – aside from an electric heater offset by solar panels – is a bioethanol heater. Made by companies such a EcoSmart, they burn bioethanol, which is basically methylated spirits. They're efficient, they burn very cleanly and they look very cool as they come in some amazing designs, shapes and sizes to suit different situations.
The Aeris hanging fire from Cocoon Fires is a flueless bioethanol fire so doesn't need ventilation, a gas supply, any special installation or equipment and can be hung from the ceiling almost anywhere, indoors or out. Image courtesy of Go Modern Furniture.
There are several things you need to consider when choosing the best outdoor heating for your own situation.
Space: How large is the space you are heating? Solid fuel heaters work best in very large spaces as you can simply add more fuel to increase the heat
Ventilation: Do you have blinds or curtains surrounding the space? A ceiling fan? These could affect the type of heater you choose.
Running costs/convenience: What type of fuel are you using? How much will you need? What's the cost? How is it delivered? Is it practical to be bringing in gas bottles, bioethanol, briquettes or firewood?
Safety: Who uses your backyard? Heating sources that are hot to the touch or can be stepped on or tipped over may not be a good choice if there are children, elderly people or pets around. A wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted gas or electric heater is out of the way and safe. With any form of outdoor heating you should also ensure there is an emergency shut-off switch if applicable and you have a fire extinguisher handy.
Price: Cheaper is not necessarily better or more efficient. Do your homework and make sure the option you choose will do the job