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The nights are getting longer, the days warmer - it’s time for lingering dinners in the garden, drinks with friends at an outdoor dining table. But to make the most of these languid days, a great patio heater can ensure you stay comfy if the temperature starts to dip. For a particularly evocative form of heat and light, opt for an efficient firepit.
Best patio heaters and firepits at a glance
- Best for an entertainment system and heater in one: Heatsail Dome Freestanding Electric Patio Heater Floor Lamp in Black with +25 HEAT, £3495
- Best for cost effective heating: Nena Electric Patio Heater, £178
- Best for waterproof, long-lasting heat:Black Waterproof Infrared Heater, £429
- Best budget option:Heatlab Set of 2 2kW Freestanding Electric Quartz Bulb Patio Heaters, £114.99
- Best for over-hanging heat: Herschel Sunset Hawaii Remote Controlled Hanging Electric Patio Heater, £237
- Best cast iron fire pit: Morsø Ignis Firepit & Grate, £298
- Best stylish fire pit:Josper Low Metal Firepit, Black, £185
- Best smokeless fire pit:BioLite Smokeless Firepit+, £251
- Best traditional fire pit: Reclaimed Iron Fire Pit Kadai - Large, £4
- Best portable fire pit: Cube Steel Fire pit, £339
There are three main ways of staying warm outdoors
Electric outdoor patio heaters - ideal for instant heat
You’ll have likely seen these at your local beer garden, and so you’ll know how swift they are. On and off in moments, fast to heat up, they’re great for ‘no fuss’ heating in outdoor spaces.
With multiple different models on the market, both free-standing and wall-mounted, it all depends on where you want the heat to come from - above you or next to you.
Most patio heaters are radiant heaters - i.e. they pump heat out directly, rather than convection heaters, which circulate warm air through a set space. They’re good for creating a sense of ‘direct heat,’ but cool quickly when turned off.
Gas patio heaters - better for warming up larger garden spaces
A gas heater is ideal for a larger garden space - they can heater bigger areas, if you have a garden patio, and the initial outlay will likely be cheaper. That said, they’re generally more expensive to run than electric heaters, and they take longer to heat up, so buyer beware.
Fire pits - great for evocative fireside fun, and can double as a cooking surface
Fire pits had quite the moment during the lockdowns, as people sought to make their backyards both cosy and beautifully lit. Warming, emitting gorgeous light, and redolent of a campfire, they’re evocative and practical.
You can get stainless steel, clay, or cast iron models, fuelled by either charcoal or wood.
Buy an additional cooking grill and you can roast marshmallows or cook your sausages atop.
If you’re after a traditional BBQ, we have a round-up of the best charcoal BBQs here
Too hot? Opt for one of these standing fans, instead
Read more garden furniture coverage:
Heatsail Dome Freestanding Electric Patio Heater Floor Lamp in Black with +25 HEAT
If you’ve the money and are looking for the best patio heater you can find - here it is. Radiating toasty heat, it comes complete with a remote control to allow you to change the temperature at will.
Energy efficient, with zero emissions, you can heat your backyard in good conscience and up to a radius of five metres. The sturdy aluminium construction means it will withstand the British elements year round.
Pleasingly, there are waterproof bluetooth speakers in the base, should you want to pipe in some tunes while enjoying an al fresco drink or dinner.
Nena Electric Patio Heater
A free-standing electric heater, this model offers everything you need, and has some nifty added details into the bargain.
With three settings, adjusted by a pull cord, you can control the temperature to your liking. It’s easy to adjust, heats up quickly, has wheels, and lights as well as heats.
Cleverly, it has a trip switch to turn it off if it tips over.
A downside? It can’t withstand bad weather - so you’ll need to take it inside if it rains.
Black Waterproof Infrared Heater
Big backyard? You can’t do better than this, a powerful heater that uses infrared light to instantly generate heat across a 13 metre radius.
With a rating of IP67, it’s fully waterproof (no need to worry about summer showers). Infrared light makes for low glare, so it’s warm but not abrasively bright.
It’s also impressively long-lasting: you can expect 5000 hours of heat.
Heatlab Set of 2 2kW Freestanding Electric Quartz Bulb Patio Heaters
As best buys go, you can’t improve upon this twin set of electric heaters from Primrose. Adjustable, you can change their height from 5ft9 inch, up to 6 foot 11inch, as well as choosing from three heat settings, which makes for a pleasingly malleable experience - you can heat up your garden progressively as the night wears on.
It’s also IPX4 rated, which means it is safe for use indoors and outside.
Well made, durable, and featuring an adjustable head - able to be tilted 45 degrees - it’s ideal for angling as and how you wish. Additionally, the bulbs are energy efficient, offering 2,500 hours lamp life.
Herschel Sunset Hawaii Remote Controlled Hanging Electric Patio Heater
If you’re after an elegant heating solution, this chain-mounted patio heater is stylish and unobtrusive. It’s safety rating makes it ok to use under a canopy or roof.
Utilising infrared heating, it’s safe and silent - and efficient. The heat is instantaneous once switched on (well, five seconds - but it’s impressively quick). With a heat radius of up to 7 metres squared, your whole garden party will be warmed.
Morsø Ignis Firepit & Grate
This stylish firepit is from Danish brand Morsø Ignis, who have produced cast-iron goods since 1853, and perfected the art of working with the sturdy material.
Naturally, this firepit & grate is fashioned entirely from cast iron, portable, and gorgeous.
With a deep bowl and high sides, your fire is well shielded from the elements. A good ventilation system also helps keep your fire burning.
As you’d expect, the cast iron helps create and radiate ambient heat. The grate is great (forgive me) for cooking on, as well.
Josper Low Metal Firepit, Black
We love this sturdy, handsome firepit from Made, which emits some serious heat. Choose charcoal or wood fuel and it will emit a glorious, long-lasting burn.
The bowl is separate from the base, making it easy to clean out once you are down, or to flip over when raining to protect any wood inside. It’s durable enough to withstand bad weather, but easy to move around as well - a very reasonably priced higher-end firepit.
BioLite Smokeless Firepit+
If you thought fire was so primal an element it couldn’t have a technological edge, you’re mistaken.
This ‘smart’ - and smokeless - fire pit allows you to control the height of your flames via a Bluetooth app. It’s still wood-burning, it’s just that, should you choose to amp things up, air jets are deployed to fan your flames with oxygen.
Great for holidays camping, or a beach house, you’ll be seriously impressed with the efficient, smokeless flames and instant heat. Well worth the price tag.
Reclaimed Iron Kadai With Grill
Nkuku pride themselves on reclaiming natural materials, and this stunning fire bowl is a great example of how they take something care-worn and turn it into something beautiful.
‘Kadai’ fire bowls are traditionally used as cooking bowls in India, which this lovely, cast-iron fire pit can also be used for - perfect for BBQs.
Our only issue is that it comes with no cover, so you’ll need to store it inside or in a garden shed when it rains if you want to avoid the bowl/ash overflowing.
Cube Steel Firepit
Firepits are undeniably sexy, offering heat by way of open flame, making them evocative as well as cosy. This model is easy to assemble. Made from hand-finished steel, it’s built to last, heats up like a dream, but easy to disassemble for cleaning.
Hungry? There is a custom grill to sit atop it, so you can get duel-service from your firepit as a BBQ grill. It’s light enough to be fully portable, too, so you can take it to a friend’s house or the beach if you fancy bringing some instant atmosphere with you. A winner.
Mangonia Cast Iron Charcoal/Wood Burning Fire Pit
Good-looking, effective, and able to burn charcoal and wood, this fire pit is an inexpensive option. It’s weather resistant and handsome to look at.
A great fire pit if you don’t want to make a huge financial outlay.
Planika Chantico Glassfire Bio-Ethanol Tabletop Fireplace
If it’s eco-credentials you’re searching for, this freestanding patio heater will meet your requirements -it runs on bio-ethanol, a fuel bi-product of food waste.
As a fuel, it is clean-burning, without smoke or smell, and better for the environment than gas or wood-burning heaters.
With a burn time of three and half hours, it will keep you cosy for the evening, and is able to be used indoors and out. Completely portable and compact, it’s everything you need to stay warm. Looks a treat, too.