Outdoor Cooling and Heating Ideas
If you love spending time in your backyard, you might be sorry when cold weather cuts your outdoor time back, or wish you didn’t have to wait until after the sun goes down to enjoy the yard during the heat of summer. While the weather is out of your control, there are options for making your yard more comfortable even during those days when the elements don’t cooperate.
Outdoor Heating Ideas
There are many types of outdoor heaters to keep things warm and cozy even on a chilly fall or winter night. Your choice will depend on your budget and how big an area you want to warm.
Tabletop heater: If you just want to warm up the area surrounding your patio table, a small heater can provide 10 to 25 degrees of warmth, enough to make it very pleasant to sit and enjoy a glass of wine and conversation without the need for a sweater on a brisk evening. Typically fueled with small propane canisters, tabletop heaters usually look like smaller versions of tall patio heaters, though there are also tabletop units styled like decorative lamps. Look for a unit with electronic ignition for a quick, easy start, and tilt shut-off for safety if the heater should be knocked over. Your tabletop heater will need at least 24 inches of clearance on all sides for safety.
Patio heater: Familiar to most people from restaurants or facilities with outdoor seating, tall patio heaters can radiate heat up to 20 feet in all directions. Most run off a large propane tank stored in the base of the heater. If you prefer something more permanent and have a natural gas line already running to your patio, there are also patio heaters that can run from natural gas. You can find a wide range of materials and styles to match your landscaping. Tall patio heaters should have easy ignition, temperature control and tip shut-off in case the unit is tipped or knocked over. Your patio heater needs at least 36 inches of clearance on all sides, including overhead.
Built-in fire pit: For those who love to entertain in their yard, or just sit outside enjoying the evening, a built-in fire pit will provide pleasure throughout the year. Usually installed by a contractor, these normally run off natural gas, and may have faux logs or burn real wood. You can have your fire pit designed out of brick, stone or tile to match the rest of your landscaping, and sized to suit the dimensions of your yard and your needs.
Portable fire pit: If a built-in fire pit is beyond your budget or not allowed in your area, a portable fire pit is a great alternative. Fire pits can be found in a wide range of styles to suit any landscape and with many different finishes. They also come in a range of sizes, so choose one that is in proper scale for your patio. You need clearance on all sides of the fire pit, and most are not suitable for use on wooden decks. Some fire pits use propane as fuel; many simply burn wood or charcoal. Often a metal grill is included, allowing you to cook over the fire pit. For very small spaces, tabletop fire pits are available.
Outdoor fireplace: An outdoor fireplace can be a built-in structure resembling an indoor fireplace, or a ceramic or metal freestanding, portable unit. A built-in fireplace requires the services of a contractor, and most run off natural gas. Chimineas, or freestanding outdoor fireplaces, burn wood, and come in a wide range of styles. Most have a rustic or ethnic flair.
Outdoor Cooling Ideas
If your summers are long and hot, cooling off the patio area will let you spend more time enjoying the outdoors.
Umbrellas and Awnings: A simple solution for a little bit of cooling is to use an umbrella or an awning for shade. While this may not seem like enough to combat mid-summer sun, a shaded patio can be up to 20 degrees cooler than one subjected to direct sunlight. Large market umbrellas come in nearly endless colors and designs, and can be freestanding or centered through the opening in your patio table. Umbrellas allow convenient positioning for maximum shade throughout the day. Awnings are a good option for attaching to the side of the house, and there are roll-up and retractable awnings for use just when you need shade.
Misters: Also called foggers, these work by putting out a dense cloud of mist which cools the air down as it evaporates. Depending on the relative humidity of the air, misters can lower the temperature in their immediate vicinity by 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Misters range from simple stands attached to your garden hose to installed units running along the patio overhang, awning or umbrella. Any misting unit will need a water source, usually your hose spigot.
Fans: Outdoor portable fans are rugged, have a heavy base and an electrical cord rated for outdoor use. There are outdoor tabletop fans, ceiling fans, tall fans and box fans, all in a wide range of styles and finishes. A pleasant breeze cools you down and discourages flying insects from pestering you. If there is not an electrical outlet near where you will run the fan, you will need an outdoor-rated extension cord.
Misting fans: Combining an outdoor fan with a mister, these units produce a cloud of mist along with a breeze to multiply the cooling effect. Most mister fans resemble typical freestanding fans, and adjust for speed, angle and use with or without mist. You will need to hook your misting fan to your hose spigot and an electrical outlet.
If you have a beautiful backyard, you should be able to enjoy it throughout most of the year. With simple solutions available for providing heating and cooling, you can spend more time than ever relaxing on the patio.