A gas-fired heater is an obvious choice and has the benefit of being easy to operate, effective over a generous distance and provides instantaneous heat. Unsurprisingly this outdoor heating option is popular with restaurants and, like an espresso machine, people now want one at their own house.
The increasing popularity of this type of outdoor heating has created significant economies of scale, to the point where they are an increasingly attractive option. Tall and slim, they fit into most areas comfortably and emit a radiant heat of up to 5m. Gas can come from a fixed line to the household supply, but more commonly from a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder.
A 9kg LPG cylinder lasts around 10 hours, with heat output measured in megajoules (mJ) per hour, so the higher the number the greater heat emitted. With that in mind, these kinds of heaters vary from 20mJ to 40mJ, providing radiant heat between 3 and 5 metres. Another advantage of these larger models is that the heat source is 2-3 metres above the ground, making them ideal where children or pets are concerned. Alternatively, the smallest version at 12mJ is designed to sit on the table and emits a gentle heat felt by those sitting half a metre away.
Safety tip - when entertaining on a verandah or covered outdoor area allow a clearance of at least 600mm from the top of the heater to the ceiling surface above, and don't place them too close to walls or fences.
A stylish wood-fired outdoor heating option is the chiminea, which has been used in Mexico for centuries as both a source of heat and a place to cook. The design of chimineas also adds a talking point and charming gathering point to your outdoor entertaining area.
Chimineas are constructed from one of two materials - clay or cast iron. While clay is certainly less expensive than cast iron and conducts heat magnificently, it is somewhat less robust and can crack if care is not taken.
The appeal of braziers is not only in their warmth but in the visual delight of a crackling fire. Available in a range of sizes, braziers are economical both to purchase and to run on solid wood, heat beads, coal or briquettes. They are made of cast iron and sit on a tray to both catch any stray ash or embers and keep your patio clean.
While braziers start producing heat almost immediately from lighting, the heat only radiates a couple of metres so are ideal to keep a small group warm. Griiles can also be purchased to turn your brazier into a chargrill barbecue.
Functionally a fire pit works like a brazier and burns solid wood, heat beads, coal or briquettes but rather than having open slats the fire is contained in the base of the unit. They are inexpensive to purchase and run and are a great option if you wish to cook by simply purchasing a top grille, however they emit the least heat of the options described.