Fire Pit & Patio Heater Reviews

Editor's Note:
Not much has changed in the world of fire pits and patio heaters since our last update. Many of the same models are available, and after analyzing expert feedback and thousands of owner reviews, most of our top picks remain the same -- with one exception: we spotted a table-top patio heater that rates well enough to be worth considering (most aren't).
 
Red Ember Bronze Crossweave Firebowl Fire Pit
Specs that Matter
Dimensions - 27" x 36" x 36"Ignition type - ManualBtu rating - n/a
Best Reviewed
Best wood-burning fire pit
Red Ember Bronze Crossweave Firebowl Fire Pit

The Red Ember Bronze Crossweave Firebowl Fire Pit gets terrific feedback from owners. Positives include attractive, classic styling; easy assembly: large capacity and durable construction. Extra features include a steel mash spark guard, a fire poker, and a PVC cover to keep it safe from the elements. There's even a grill grate for outdoor cooking.
See our full review »

Landmann 28335 Big Sky Stars & Moons Fire Pit
Specs that Matter
Dimensions - 23" x 29.5" x 29.5"Ignition type - ManualBtu rating - n/a
Best Reviewed
Best value wood burning fire pit
Landmann 28335 Big Sky Stars & Moons Fire Pit

The Landmann Big Sky Stars & Moons Fire Pit's cute cut-out designs make it a popular choice with owners who want to decorate their patio with a whimsical flair. You'll need to budget an extra $25 for a protective cover if you plan to store the fire pit outdoors between uses, but it comes with a spark guard and a grill for outdoor cooking fun.
See our full review »

UniFlame Endless Summer GAD860SP
Specs that Matter
Dimensions - 21.7" x 41.3" x 41.3"Ignition type - Multi-spark electronicBtu rating - 40,000
Best Reviewed
Best propane fire pit
UniFlame Endless Summer GAD860SP

The UniFlame/Blue Rhino GAD860SP provides a terrific blend of style, performance and value. Ease of use is terrific as well, with a battery operated igniter and a slide out tray that makes swapping propane tanks easier. With a rating of 41,000 Btu, it can meet or beat the heat output of many patio heaters. The metal lattice body and multi-color slate tile mantle are classic and classy.
See our full review »

Heininger 5995 Portable Propane Outdoor Fire Pit
Specs that Matter
Dimensions - 10" x 19" x 19"Ignition type - ManualBtu rating - 58,000
Runner Up
Portable propane fire pit
Heininger 5995 Portable Propane Outdoor Fire Pit

If you want the ambience and fun of a roaring campfire without the nuisance and cleanup of burning wood, the Heininger 5995 might be just what you are looking for. At 19 inches across and weighing just 22 pounds, it's just small and lightweight enough to be brought along on outings to the park or beach. Tailgaters love it, too.

Fire Sense Hammer Tone Bronze Commercial Patio Heater
Specs that Matter
Dimensions - 89" x 33" x 33"Ignition type - PiezoelectricBtu rating - 46,000
Best Reviewed
Best propane patio heater
Fire Sense Hammer Tone Bronze Commercial Patio Heater

The Fire Sense Hammer Tone Bronze Commercial Patio Heater gets high marks from users for its fast heating, sturdy construction and stylish looks. The adjustable flame is easy to light, and once you figure out the instructions, owners say assembly isn't too bad either. It's available in lots of color and finish options to fit any outdoor décor.
See our full review »

image
Fire Sense Hammer Tone Bronze Commercial Patio Heater
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $229.99 $129.02   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
Fire Sense Propane Table Top Patio Heater
Specs that Matter
Dimensions - 35" x 21" x 21"Ignition type - PiezoelectricBtu rating - 10,000
Runner Up
Tabletop patio heater
Fire Sense Propane Table Top Patio Heater

The Fire Sense Propane Table Top Patio Heater is a reasonable choice if you need a heater for a small space or to take with you for tailgating, picnics or the like. There are some gripes about less than ideal build quality and low heat output -- not surprising considering that it's only rated to produce 10,000 Btus -- but most owners say that it does a great job warming up smaller spaces.

Fire Sense Indoor/Outdoor Wall-Mounted Infrared Heater, Stainless Steel
Specs that Matter
Dimensions - 4.5" x 7.5" x 22"Ignition type - n/aBtu rating - 5,100 (calculated)
Runner Up
Electric patio heater
Fire Sense Indoor/Outdoor Wall-Mounted Infrared Heater, Stainless Steel

With the electric Fire Sense 02110 Stainless Steel Wall Mounted Infrared Patio Heater there's no flammable material to worry about, no fuel to buy and no noise. Power costs are very low as well, although replacement bulbs can be expensive. On the downside, reviews are mixed and some users say this heater doesn't provide as much heat as they'd hoped -- a common complaint with all electric patio heaters we spotted.

Fire pits and patio heaters provide warmth, ambiance

Check out any design- or garden-oriented website or magazine and you can't miss the fact that an outdoor fire pit or fireplace is all the rage. Designs range from the simple and sublime, to the elaborate and expensive. You can buy a simple fire pit for less than $100 -- or even make one yourself out of common household items, such as a galvanized steel wash basin, old tire rims or a recycled drum from an old washing machine. On the other side of the coin, you can spend thousands on a large, outdoor fireplace or fire pit that can light with the touch of a button and will warm a crowd.

If warmth is more important than ambience, or you don't desire an open flame, a patio heater is a good alternative -- and a propane patio heater can cost substantially less than a propane fire pit with a similar heat output. Outdoor heaters got their start in commercial establishments, like restaurants, so they could extend the use of outdoor dining areas beyond the warmer summer months. Today, however, these heaters have found new homes on private patios, swimming pool areas and any other place people lounge outdoors. Patio heaters produce radiant energy that heats the objects in their path, rather than the surrounding air. In areas with long cool seasons, a patio heater can make outdoor living spaces comfortable well into fall or even winter.

Types of fire pits and patio heaters

Wood Burning Fire Pits

Whether they're plain or fancy, a wood-burning fire pit's main function is to safely contain a fire. Design choices are only limited by your -- and the manufacturer's -- imagination. In this report, we discuss the most popular types of wood-burning fire pits -- freestanding units that are attractive, yet fairly affordable and easy to use. These are somewhat portable so that they can be placed as needed for an occasion or stored away once winter weather sets in. Some are relatively small and lightweight, so they can travel with you when you go on an outing or on vacation. Wood burning fire pits can also be permanently installed, but those are usually part of a larger design plan and are often customized. Fire pit tables incorporate a surrounding metal, stone, glass or ceramic surface that may be large enough to use for holding food or drinks.

Gas Fire Pits

While wood-burning fire pits are inexpensive and versatile, gas fire pits have advantages of their own. Propane-fueled fire pits are easier to light than wood-burning models, they produce less smoke and soot, and you don't need to deal with the ash and debris that remain after the fire is extinguished. They can also produce quite a bit of heat -- some are rated to produce as many Btus as a propane patio heater. However, they tend to be quite a bit more expensive than wood-burning fire pits and are generally not portable, or even very easy to move around. Some, especially stone gas fire pits, are designed to be permanently installed on your patio.

Propane Patio heaters

Most patio heaters burn propane, also called LP gas, from the same kind of refillable tanks used by gas grills and propane fire pits. Free-standing models, which cost between $100 and $300, stand a bit over 7 feet high and can warm an area within 5 to 10 feet of the heater. Smaller tabletop models, which draw their fuel from disposable canisters rather than refillable tanks, are also available. These are priced between $100 and $200.

Electric Patio Heaters

Those who want to avoid dealing with propane and propane tanks can opt for electric patio heaters instead; these use either infrared or halogen bulbs to generate heat. Electric patio heaters, which can cost anywhere from $130 to $450, are relatively inexpensive to run and eliminate the hassles of dealing with propane, but put out less warmth than most propane models.

Finding the best fire pits and patio heaters

Credible, expert reviews of patio heaters are hard to find, but you can read some good general advice regarding fire pits and outdoor fireplaces at sites such as HGTVGardens.com and FamilyFirePit.com. Instead, we relied primarily on user reviews from retail sites such as HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com Amazon.com and Hayneedle.com to find the best models. We looked for fire pits and patio heaters that are sturdy, easy to assemble and use, and include important safety features. We also factored in manufacturer warranties and the quality of customer service to compile our list of the best fire pits and patio heaters.