Firepit and Outdoor Heaters 101

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 Firepit and Outdoor Heater buying guide

Beautiful outdoor firepit showing an open flame

Outside Fire Pits and Outdoor Heaters

Do you wish you could spend more time on your patio? Are you tired of packing it in early because of your freezing on your patio? Well, perhaps it’s time to upgrade for an upgrade. Outdoor fire pits and outdoor heaters are all the rage. Modern Outdoor living has popularized every form of outdoor heat from stylish tables to free standing heaters. Use these heaters to take your outdoor patio to another level of entertainment and warmth.  USA Pool Direct has the inside scoop on the hottest fire pits and heaters, so stick around and learn the ABC’s of fire pits and outdoor heaters to help you upgrade your outdoor patio area.

safety sign exclamationFire Pit Safety

The most important part of a fire pit or outdoor heating ownership is safety. While these options are by nature safer than old-school campfires, there are a few rules you should follow as best practices for staying safe while enjoying the fire or heat. Firstly, make sure your new fire pit or heater is at least ten feet away from your home or outdoor kitchen, and ensure that five of those feet are clear of any plants or sticks that could become fuel. Be mindful of the materials you choose to set near the edge of your pit and always keep a jug of water nearby for insurance. Pay attention to the fueling instructions you’ve been given by the manufacturer, and always extinguish the pit before leaving it unattended. You also need to know how to properly work your pit and know what safety features are included. Some units may include automatic shut-offs and you should familiarize yourself with how that works if you have one. Some might have pilot lights and even tip over switches (a feature that automatically turns off the unit when it’s tilted past a set angle.) Knowing how your machine works and how to properly ignite your heat source is crucial to staying safe. Since fire pits are open flames they are generally considered more dangerous than outdoor heaters. Therefore, you may want to check out additional safety information. Check out what nationwide insurance had to say about fire safety.  Now that you’re safe and ready to play, let’s get into the fun stuff!

open fire pit open fire flame

Fire Pits vs. Outdoor Heaters

Fire pits and heaters will provide you with the heat you need for those chilly evenings. But is one better than the other? How do you know which one is right for you? There are a few things you need to consider before you make the choice. Firstly, let’s consider your wants and needs. Are you cooking, entertaining, trying to stay clean and hassle-free? Fire Pits are loved because of the heat, open flame, ability to cook, and custom design options. Having a fire pit means you can use any kind of fuel, but that may come at a cost and you may suffer cleanliness. A fire pit may cost you anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on design, features and much more.

outdoor header nice flame top half

Outdoor heaters are also a great option to consider. Heaters can be as simple as just turning an on a switch. Don’t worry about igniting or open flames with these bad boys.  By the flick of a switch or twist of a knob, you can warm a large area, control the temperature and keep you and your guest feeling cozy for hours. Most outdoor heaters are easy to move and feature wheels for easy moving. With such convenience, it is easy to stay warm and entertained on your patio. A typical outdoor heater may cost anywhere from 100$ to 2000$ dollars and provide warmth for you guest around a 12ft area or less.

Types of Fuel

Before you start making your decision it’s important to consider how you want to get your heat. There are many different ways fire pits and heaters can operate. Electric, natural gas, propane, wood, and fire gel.

Electric heaters are usually ready to operate right from the box. They plug into a wall and even produce zero emissions. They can run up your electric bill if you always have them on, but regardless it’s a nice, quick and easy solution to providing some heat.

 Natural gas is another great option and its even eco-friendly. However, it needs to have a permanent setup and it can be rather expensive to get it properly set up. A gas line would need to be installed by a professional as it can be dangerous. But once installed, natural gas is the cheapest of all the options.

Propane, on the other hand, can be installed by anyone and often considered the easiest to use. Tanks are easy to transport, however, they are often considered a little bit of hassle. Propane tanks are not cheap, they need to be refilled and often times that means a trip to your local hardware store.

realflame fire gel

          Gel Fuels are often best used in an open fire pit. You can use gel fuel when you don’t want to deal with the mesh and ash of a wood-burning fire. Fire gel is intended to provide little warmth, but mainly decoration, Typically these gels only provide 3,000-5,00BTUs of heat. They are not a primary heat source and shouldn’t be used for cooking or providing large amounts of heat. Typically one 13oz can provide 2.5 hours worth of fire. It’s important to check your local and state laws about using gel fuels. Some states and cities have banned the use of gel fuels. For instance, the state of California has prohibited items like these.

Wood burning pits are the most traditional style and can provide unmatched comfort and coziness compared to these other options. Burning wood can produce anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 BTUs. Leaving you with the most amount of heat, smoky aroma and a good old fashion snap crackle pop sound. If you ask us at the USA Pool Direct staff, there is nothing better than a good old fashioned wood burning fire. But we understand why others prefer the clean-burning convenience of gas, gels, etc.

Types of Firepits

Outdoor table top propane fire pit

Depending on what type of fuel and design you want, you can use gas, propane, wood and more. From fancy tabletop glass pits to beautiful in-ground pits there are many options to decide on. The two main options are Tabletop fire pits and wood-burning pits. Tabletops are often made of glass, use gas or ethanol and feature a clean and unique design. These tabletops are often used for light warmth, entertainment, and design. Wood Burning fire pits are more traditional. Wood burning pits are usually made of metal or stone. They are used for lots of warmth, entertainment, and cooking. They may often feature some kind of metal top for cooking. With bigger pits like these, you are not just limited to wood either. Depending on your design and set up, you can modify these pits to also use natural gas. If you’d like a good place to start than look no further than this fire pit kit from Pavestone. This kit is easy to install and even features a grill enclosure so you can cook outside.

Types of Outdoor Heaters

When one imagines an outdoor heater they usually think of a free-standing pole-base designed heater. Over the past years, these have grown in popularity and are now often seen on the patios of your favorite restaurants. However, there are many different types of outdoor heaters. When designing your patio you may want more options.  The three types of outdoor heaters are Freestanding, Tabletop and Wall mounted. These can use Natural gas, electricity or propane. Since outdoor heaters do not produce an open flame they can be mounted and placed almost anywhere without much worry.

If you want to stay warm, but don’t want to move around a heater all the time a wall mount might just be for you. Wall-mounted heaters are not portable, they are often constructed for permanent installation. They are often electric and are really intended for small spaces. Because they are really only intended for small spaces they produce a smaller range of BTUs or heat. These kinds of heaters can produce heat ranges anywhere from 10,000 BTUs of heat to 30,000 BTUs. This BTU range is usually considered to provide heat to a 12ft range of warmth.

wall mounted warm glowing heater

Table Top heaters can help create a beautiful atmosphere. Usually offered with glass and decorative rocks they may be just the look you need.  They can be easy to transport, great for small parties and dinner gatherings. They can be electric or use propane and produce anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 BTUs. If you decide to go with a model that uses propane than you are in luck. Most units offer a secret compartment to hide the propane tank. Most tabletop heaters usually offer a smaller heat radius of around 3 sq ft which may be perfect for the smaller dinners or meetings.

glass outdoor tabletop heater

Last but not least we have freestanding heaters. These are in fact the most popular type of outdoor heater and are commonly seen on restaurant patios. These units are full size, often portable and come with a hidden compartment for propane tanks. These are ideal for larger patios and parties as they produce more heat in a bigger range. Typically outdoor heater these types of heaters produce around 40,000 BTUs or more and provide warmth for a 20-foot diameter or even larger.

Relaxing by a fire pit or snuggling near a fire table is a relaxation experience like any other, and we at USA Pool Direct hope we’ve helped inspire you to find new and innovative ways to play with fire. No matter what style or fuel we hope you stay safe and stay warm, Please check out our selection of fire pits and heaters at And if you are all about staying warm in the off-seasons than check out our blog on pool heaters at