How to Stay Safe on Your Patio While Using Space Heaters and Fire Pits

Here are some tips for keeping cozy and comfy outside without creating a fire hazard.

Do you have to start socializing inside once the temperature drops? The Norwegians don't think so—Friluftsliving, anyone?—and neither do we. But as the weather gets colder, it's likely that you'll turn to space heaters, fire pits, and other outdoor heaters to make sitting outside more comfortable.

Outdoor heating products can be safe if you follow the rules. That includes keeping your patio heater or fire pit away from buildings, bushes, trees, and other flammable objects, and ensuring that kids and pets keep their distance. Stick to these safety tips to make your evening around the campfire (or the patio heater) safe.

Fire Pit Safety

Who doesn't love making s'mores around a crackling fire? Just be careful about how you use your pit or chiminea—here's how.

Pick the perfect spot.

Fire pits can throw sparks, which could put everything surrounding it at risk. Put brick, metal, or stone beneath it, set up chairs at least three feet away from the pit, and keep at least 10 feet between your pit and houses. If your fire pit comes with a screen, use it to give you an extra layer of fire safety.

Patio Heater Safety

Patio heaters have become so popular, they are practically a must-have accessory. Whether you opt for a small tabletop option or a restaurant-style overhead propane heater, you'll be able to take a little of the chill off. Just follow these tips to stay safe.

Check out the safety features.

Choose heating products that have been tested and labeled with UL and CSA safety certifications, and look for ones that feature tip-over switches and automatic shutoffs to help reduce the risk of a fire.

Pick a heater that is outdoor compliant.

That means the heater's components are built to withstand the temperature changes (and inevitable rain) that come when they're outside.

Set a patio heater on level ground—ideally a patio or deck. Putting it on grass or dirt could make for an unstable surface that could result in it falling over.

Consider your fuel source.

Most patio heaters either run on propane gas or electricity. Propane ones tend to provide stronger heat but are more expensive to run and require refilling propane tanks regularly. Electrical ones are easier to run but may not provide the power you need.

Follow the manufacturer's directions.

The owner's manual will give you all the information you need about where to place your heater in relation to your house, plants, and other potential fire hazards—generally, about two feet of distance is recommended.

Opt for more than one.

If you're planning on having a few groups over, consider investing in a couple of heaters so you don't have to huddle close together around the heater for warmth.

Don't take them indoors.

Most outdoor heaters (especially propane ones) are not meant to be used indoors or under covered conditions. Using a propane heater inside could put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Alternative Outdoor Heating Options

Fire pits, chimineas, and patio heaters may be hard to come by as the weather gets colder. But there are other safe options you could consider to keep everybody toasty.

Heated Seats and Seat Cushions

Generally, these are used by sports fans or hunters to keep warm when they're outdoors, but there's nothing stopping you from using them to make a backyard get-together more comfortable.

Heated Blankets or Wraps

Electric blankets or shawls can be used for single guests (or a couple with a larger blanket)—look for ones that can use USB power, so you can use a USB cell phone charger for wireless warmth.

Hand Warmers

Consider springing for reusable ones that can be boiled and "recharged" or are battery-powered so you'll always have them at the ready to share with guests.

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