Be aware too that there are a lot of vested interests out there trying to persuade you to click through their Amazon & Wayfair affiliate links with "best product" reviews which exclude products that should be considered.
I'll say now that I also have a vested interest. I want you to consider buying one of our wood burning fire pits. Why? Because I believe they offer great value for money, they actually deliver enough practical heat to be fit for purpose and they are better for the environment than all the other more technical outdoor heating options out there.
Read on to discover why...
Halogen Lamp Heaters
A growing trend for outdoor heating, these things look super funky and promise the earth!
I recently attended an outdoor diner party with a few friends. We sat under a gazebo for the evening and had a lovely meal. But we were all freezing cold, wrapped in blankets and holding hot water bottles while we ate. Lockdown makes us do the craziest things!
In the centre of the table was a 1500w halogen heater. That's the equivalent of having an electric kettle on the boil permanently. Sitting at the table I could feel a light warmth on the very tip of my nose. You know kind of heat you get from putting you nose against a puppy. It was utterly useless for keeping warm on a cold evening.
It's fair to say that these pieces of kit do look pretty cool - like some kind of flying saucer floating above the food. Also, the promise of them sounds very appealing. But they simply don't work in the cold. At prices from £40 to over £200 or more they are in my opinion a complete waste of money. You can buy sculptures that provides more cerebral warmth than these things!
Then there are the bulbs. They fail over time - read the reviews carefully! And usually you can't get replacement bulbs anywhere rendering your heater to landfill. Type in "halogen" into Google and you'll see the number one predicted result after "heater" and "oven" is "halogen bulb"! And these bulbs can cost as much as the heaters themselves! Don't be fooled into buying one.
I shudder to think about the cost to the environment. All the energy that goes into making these products. Shipping them from China or the USA. All the energy that went into manufacturing the bulbs and filling them with rare gasses extracted from the air with yet more energy and shipping! And for what purpose? To shackle you to 1500w per hour or more electricity consumption costs of running the darn thing and to end their short lives in UK landfill. :-(
And all of this is in part driven by fake review sites and fake reviews trying to get a small commission from Amazon or Wayfair. Please, "for the love of your god", stop buying these halogen heaters and get a blanket and a hot water bottle and buy a piece of art instead. You're going to need half a dozen of these things and a fat wallet to achieve the kind of heat even a very basic fire pit kicks out!
If you have had a good experience with your halogen heater, one that can heat 6-8 people socially distanced at a sensible purchase price and running cost, please contact me and I will update this article!
<insert tumble weed image here>
Gas Patio Heaters & Gas Fire Pits
Honestly, I can't believe you can still buy these things in 2021. They should have been banned years ago.
Probably the most costly way to heat your outdoor space and the most costly to the environment. Each gas bottle lasts only a couple of long evenings and you'll be back and forth to the gas shop spending £100s in fuel and giving yourself back problems lugging the darn things around.
"Keep warm on your patio all year round!" the marketing says. No, no, no and no. Do not believe the hype. They are not that great at heating an outdoor space! With the tall ones, if you are bald you might stay warm as they gently roast the top of your head whilst 90% of your money literally goes up in flames. With the fire pit ones, they look lovely but smell a bit of unspent gas and don't actually generate that much heat and certainly not enough for practical outdoor use.
Further, by purchasing gas patio heaters and fire pits you are massively contributing to global warming. Directly by heating the air (and not you) and indirectly by burning gas, a fossil fuel. Stop it now!
I'll leave these articles from the Guardian in 2015 and 2005 for the final word on gas heaters:
Ok, now we are on my pet subject and where I do have a vested interest. I set up Fabulous Firepits in 2020 in the middle of lockdown here in the UK. The reason I did this was because a) I was out of work having been in the travel and weddings industry and b) because the choice of fire pits was very limited and of exceptionally poor quality and c) because I genuinely care about our environment.
There is something rather magical about sitting around an open fire. It's actually better than watching most television these days. It's real, tangible and warms the heart and soul when shared with friends. The flames dance, you keep warm. Simples. It's also fun adding logs to keep the fire going and you can cook on many fire pits these days, even if it's to just toast some marshmallows.
One downside of fire pits can be the smoke, but with careful choice of wood this can be minimised. See my article on reducing the smoke from your fire pit here or buy a smokeless fire pit.
The other problem with fire pits is that they don't last very long. They are usually built from very thin steel which makes them prone to rust, warping or blowing around the garden in the wind. After nearly a year selling Fabulous Fire Pits I have discovered the truth about why you can't find a decent fire pit anywhere.
Firstly, most retailers have such high margins (up to 75% or more) on their products that they are forced to buy cheap fire pits wholesale. That means, when you buy a fire pit in the shops for £200-£300 the company that made that fire pit is getting about £50-£75. Fire pits cannot be built for that price in the UK so almost all fire pits are made in India or China and imported here - so part of that £60 goes into shipping leaving even less for the product itself. If that fire pit in the shops costs less than £200 either the retailer has cut their profit margin to barely profitable levels or the fire pit costs even less to make than £50.
Secondly, steel costs have been rising globally for years and look set to rise even further in 2021. Any product that uses steel as it's main component is getting much more expensive or is having the steel content reduced to a point where the product will barely last a few uses before it warps or rusts through in the harsh UK weather.
There is only one answer to this problem. Buy a decent quality fire pit direct from a manufacturer like us or an artisan maker. But before you buy a fire pit, read our article on choosing a fire pit here.
Finally, if you want to keep warm outside, the other reason to buy a fire pit is to help our environment. Fire pits use wood which is not a fossil fuel. Wood is part of a sustainable energy cycle: Trees grow, trees fall or are cut down, wood is harvested, wood is burned, CO2 is released, trees absorb the CO2, trees grow...
If wood from trees is not burned, it rots and that CO2 is released into the atmosphere anyway!
So stay outside longer, enjoy the experience of a real fire outside, cook on it with friends and when it's time for bed retire to inside and put on your heating knowing that you've spent less on heating your home or using your oven while sitting around your fire pit.
In summary, if you must keep warm outdoors, buy a fire pit.
Eric, Director of Fabulous Firepits and other contributors.
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