There is officially a chill in the air (and by officially, I mean that I’ve busted out my novelty slipper boots and there’s no going back). It means that we’re all about to voluntarily spend a lot less time outside, unless we can find ways to keep our fingers, toes and noses at a comfortable temperature.
So, it feels like the right time to start talking specifically about garden heating ideas. Let’s look at all the ways to stay cosy outdoors, answer some heating-related questions, and figure out which option might be best for your home.
Garden Heater Ideas
There are three main types of garden heaters: electric heaters, gas-fuelled heaters and heaters that need solid fuel.
1. Electric Garden Heaters
Let’s take a look at electric heaters first.
What are the benefits of an electric patio heater?
With most electric heaters, it’s simply a case of plug it in and switch it on. Electric heaters are generally quite lightweight and portable, and they come in loads of different styles to suit the aesthetic of your garden. With a bit of searching, you can quickly find freestanding electric heaters, table-top electric heaters and wall-mounted ones at all price points.
Another benefit to electric heaters is that they often come with features to prevent unnecessary usage, like timers and motion-sensors. Even basic electric heaters are easy to switch off and on, so you can save energy (and money) when you’re not outside.
You’ll also find lots of electric heaters that are directional – meaning you can point them exactly where you need them – making them slightly more efficient. Unlike gas heaters, electric heaters don’t emit carbon dioxide, making them better for the environment (comparatively), and they also use less energy in general.
Key features of an electric heater
- The higher the kilowatt number (kW) of an electric heater, the more powerful it is, and the more warmth it can generate.
- Look for the kind of infrared rays the heater emits – long waves and medium waves heat the air, but short waves are better at actually heating people.
- Electric heaters will need a plug socket to connect to. Keep that in mind when you’re comparing cable lengths.
- Some electric heaters have fans, which makes them good at providing directional heat, but will mean that they make a bit of noise.
Looking after an electric heater
Any heater comes with risks. Keep children away from the heating element, and always make sure the power cable is positioned so that people can’t trip over it (hurting themselves and also pulling the heater over).
2. Gas Fired Garden Heating
Although electric patio heaters are incredibly popular, lots of people still prefer gas heaters to keep them toasty outside. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why that is, and what you need to look out for if you’re thinking about gas garden heating ideas.
What are the benefits of a gas patio heater?
Gas heaters are best at emitting a constant, intense heat with very little effort. It only takes a few more moments to power up a gas patio heater as it does an electric one, and yet the flames can be just as cosy and inviting as a fire pit. The radial heat means that a central patio heater can keep everyone that’s sat around it toasty all evening.
Gas patio heaters come in lots of different styles, from chic and modern, to more traditional looking, meaning there’s a style to suit every garden. Gas heating comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from table-top heaters to coffee tables with integrated gas fireplaces and gas-fuelled fire pits.
On the downside, gas heaters tend to consume the most fuel. Unless you frequently host a lot of people, the amount of heat might be overkill and generally wasteful on several fronts. There’s a reason why gas heaters are common in busy venues like pubs! In addition to that, gas heaters tend to be bulkier than electric counterparts, plus there’s a few risks involved in using propane and an open flame.
Staying safe with a gas patio heater
There are a few important steps to using a gas patio heater. First, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s guide to setting it up, including choosing the right size heater for the area you want to heat (especially if it’s covered in any way). Second, like any open flame, don’t leave them unattended and check there are no flammable materials that could blow into it.
Propane gas carries certain risks, and certain gas heaters give off carbon monoxide. Keep your canisters in a secure location where they can’t get knocked or damaged. Always, always ensure there’s good ventilation and don’t use your gas heater under a closed canopy (like a gazebo with its sides down).
3. Cooking up a storm
Eating dinner outside is nice, but what about actually cooking al fresco? An outdoor cooking area is an amazing way to add some variety to your meals, and lets your family and guests enjoy your garden and socialise with you while you cook. A gas-fired grill or cooker could be the centrepiece of your outdoor kitchen, making it just as easy to whip up a meal outside as inside.
Solid Fuel Garden Heating Ideas
Finally, there are garden heat sources that need solid fuel – you might think of these as more “traditional” ways of staying warm outside, like fire pits, fire baskets and fire places. Fires, basically.
What are the benefits of solid fuel heating in the garden?
Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are often a beautiful garden focal point, giving you somewhere to point your paths and centre your seating. A cosy open fire creates a rustic, welcoming atmosphere for everyone sitting around it. There are several types of solid fuel burners, with the majority needing wood or pellets to burn.
There are, however, a few drawbacks to solid fuel burners. For example, they tend to produce a lot of smoke. Not only does it stick to your clothes so you’ll smell like campfire as soon as you go inside, but it’s also pretty bad for your lungs. You’ll also need to keep a supply of solid fuel to burn, and have somewhere dry to store it.
You’ll also need to keep your fireplace or pellet burner clean, so it can burn as efficiently as possible. There’s also the fact that, unlike an electric or gas patio heater, you can’t just switch a fire pit on and off. It takes some time to get it going, and at the end of the night you’ll either have to douse the flames on partially burned fuel, or start getting chilly as you wait for the flames to burn out.
4. Fire pits
Fire pits come in loads of different styles (take a look at our list of fire pit ideas for examples), and there are options for in-built fire pits, portable fire baskets and DIY features. You can spend thousands on a beautiful, bespoke fire pit for your garden, or salvage some materials and build one for free.
In-built fire pits can add value to your home, and be a worthwhile investment if you like indoor/outdoor living. Next to a luxurious outdoor kitchen or covered seating area, a permanent fireplace makes a beautiful, homely statement – perfect for enjoying your garden in the cooler months.
There are lots of reasons why a freestanding fire pit might be a better choice. Maybe you’re looking for garden upgrades on a budget, or are renting your home and can’t make any permanent modifications. Sometimes a freestanding fire pit is just more portable and easy to store, in case you want to take it camping or to the beach.
A chiminea (or chimenea) is kind of a small, self-contained clay fireplace, with an open front. These traditional outdoor heaters originated in Mexico, and usually have a rounded shape with a tall smokestack coming straight out the top – although modern designs can vary!
Before properly using a clay chiminea for the first time, it will usually need to be “cured”. Curing a chiminea basically involves lighting a few small fires, so the inside gets coated with soot and the pores in the clay are sealed. This prevents it from cracking and protects the chiminea from water damage.
Thanks to their open front (but otherwise closed design), a chiminea is much better than a regular fire pit for directing heat in one direction. If you only have a small patio, it’s safer to put a small chiminea near the corner or a fence than it is an open flame.
As an added bonus, larger chimineas sometimes come with grill grate. You can use them as a BBQ to cook burgers, pizzas, veggie skewers or just about anything else!
Useful chiminea accessories include spark screens, grill grates (if one isn’t included) and chimney extensions that can keep smoke away from your seating area. These are especially useful if you want to put your chiminea under a garden structure.
6. Wood-fired ovens
We’ve mentioned outdoor cooking ideas already, but remember they don’t have to be gas-fuelled. It’s equally exciting to cook with a traditional charcoal BBQ or wood-fired pizza brick oven, and they’ll both keep the surrounding area of your garden warm at the same time.
7. How about a hot tub?
Is there a more appealing idea in brisk weather than stepping into a steaming hot, private pool just for you and your household? Add a bit of shelter and somewhere cosy to dry off, and you’re basically living the dream (or as close to the dream as you’ll get during a British winter).
Inflatable hot tubs are heated using electricity, but a permanent installation can be gas-fired or warmed with a pellet burner – whatever is your preference!
Environmentally friendly garden heating ideas
Okay, let’s rip the band-aid off quickly: actively trying to heat the outdoors is never going to be environmentally friendly. The majority of devices pump more heat upwards than towards you, meaning that you’re doing much less for personal warming than you are contributing to global warming. France has already issued a ban on outdoor heating devices, and it’s possible that the EU will follow suit.
If being eco-conscious is a priority for you, you’ll need to focus on ways to keep you warm, rather than making the air around you toasty. So, what are the best ways to heat your garden in an environmentally friendly way?
8. Take cover
Whichever garden heating ideas you choose, they will be hugely more effective if you can trap the warmth in your seating area. Adding any kind of cover, like a gazebo, to your garden seating area is a good move. Equally, having some kind of windbreak, curtains, fence panel or screen will help keep warm air from getting whipped away in the wind.
Make sure you check the safety guidelines of your shelter and heater before you do – be careful with flammable fabrics and heaters that give off harmful gases and smoke in confined spaces.
9. Outdoor rugs
An outdoor rug isn’t going to raise the temperature of your patio, but it will provide a barrier between your feet and the cold stone or concrete. Adding socks and slippers will help too!
Outdoor rugs come in loads of patterns, materials and styles – brightly patterned rugs can look great in an eclectic, bohemian style garden, while a simple jute rectangle keeps things elegant in a more low-maintenance, minimalist space.
10. Blankets, throws & cushions
Soft coverings are great for making any garden furniture look cosy. They’ll also keep you insulated on a chilly evening, helping you stay out on your garden sofa for just a little bit longer.
11. Cuddle up with someone!
In case you needed an extra excuse to get cosy with a loved one (yes, pets definitely count), having a snuggle is exceptionally cost-effective and environmentally friendly! Having a hot chocolate or mulled wine nearby won’t hurt, either.