Outdoor Living – All Winter Long

Philadelphia homeowners with backyards, roof decks, and outdoor terraces are taking a tip from restaurants. They are installing fire pits and heat lamps to make dining al fresco a year-round possibility. The choices can be confusing, so we’ve narrowed the selection to coordinate with your property’s energy source and environmental concerns.

Energy Sources

Outdoor heaters come in four forms: natural gas, electric, propane, and wood-burning.

Natural gas heaters make use of an existing natural gas line. They should be professionally installed and are therefore generally more expensive upfront. They are also less portable than other models. 

When it comes to the best ecological choice, if your electricity is generated by fossil fuels, a propane heater is a better environmental solution. Propane fire pits and lamps heat quickly and can be easily moved from one spot on the patio to another. However, they are more expensive than natural gas and require replacement. 

Garden Treasures Propane Heater
Garden Treasures Propane Heater

If you get your electricity from renewable sources, an electric heater is probably your most environmentally-friendly choice. They are easy to use and somewhat portable. However, electric patio heaters may cost more in the long run and they have to be located close to an outlet.

Wood-burning heatersfire pits, and chimineas are one of the most affordable and attractive options. Plus, the aroma of burning wood is pleasant. But keep in mind, they require frequent maintenance and should be cleaned regularly. They are also harder to light and produce sparks and embers, which can be unsafe if left unattended.  Here’s another consideration: fire pits emit aerosols and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon as the wood burns. You can reduce these emissions by making sure the wood is seasoned, which means it’s had at least six months to dry after being cut, and by chopping it into smaller pieces, which helps it burn more efficiently. 

Outdoor Heater Styles

Outdoor heaters can be floor-standing, hanging, wall-mounted, or sit nicely on a tabletop. There are a variety of styles to choose from, including the classic domed heaters that feature an umbrella-like reflector at the top, to pyramid-shaped heaters that contain the flame inside a glass tube and compact tabletop patio heaters which are ideal for smaller outdoor spaces. 

Depending on size and materials, fire pits range in price from under $100 to over $3,500. Homes & Gardens ranked the Outland Living 401 Series, 44-inch Propane Gas Fire Table as a top contender at $850. The push button spark ignition system provides simple and convenient control when lighting. Available on Amazon.

Outland Living Propane Gas Fire Table
Outland Living Propane Gas Fire Table

Lowe’s has a nice selection. We like their floor-standing, Garden Treasures Liquid Propane Heater, 87.4” High that heats up to 200 square feet for $149. Or an electric wall-mounted Dimplex Stainless Steel Electric Heater with three temperature settings. 35.5” wide, 6.75” high, $564.52. For a lightweight, portable, compact outdoor heater, consider Lowe’s EnerG Electric Patio Heater, 27” High, $109.

You will also find a wide array of outdoor heaters at Home Depot. For the wow factor, we like the pyramid style, open flame Gold Gas Patio Heater by Hampton Bay. An October 2020 review in the New York Times, found this type of heater to “…be the most enjoyable to sit near” and a better safety option than the mushroom-top models.” 89.5” high, it delivers 115 sq ft of warmth, features electronic ignition and has a rust-resistant gold finish. $209.

Gold Gas Patio Heater by Hampton Bay
Gold Gas Patio Heater by Hampton Bay


Before purchasing an outdoor heater make sure it has the following safety devices:

  1. Tempered glass tubing to protect flames. 
  2. Anti-tilt design features to minimize the risk of toppling over. 
  3. Automatic turn-off if the heater falls over.
  4. A flame failure device that shuts off the gas valve if the flame goes out. 

Keep patio heaters away from combustible materials. This includes planters and potted plants, outdoor textiles, and grass, but it also includes flammable items such as propane tanks used for grills or lighter fluid. 

Remember, being outdoors, in itself, does not protect you and your guests from Covid. To stay safe, maintain social distance, wear a face mask, and limit your guests to household members.

Looking to upgrade your living space and buy or rent a home with outdoor space in Philadelphia? Our listing at 2405 Amber Street is a 3,495 sq. ft home on a prized 18-foot wide parcel that features plenty of options for outdoor dining with its three balconies, roof deck, and backyard. If you’re looking for something smaller, there’s a one-bedroom rental in Rittenhouse Square with a cozy outdoor space located at 1816 Pine Street.

2405 Amber Street balcony. This home features 3 balconies, a roof deck and an outdoor space.
2405 Amber Street is a 4 bedroom home that features 3 balconies, a roof deck, and backyard space.