If you do a quick online search of ‘backyard improvements that add value’, you’ll almost always find ‘firepit’ on the short list. Those of us who spend time outdoors love to do so around a fire. For those of us in the fireplace business, this comes as no surprise – it’s exactly the same inside the home. Firepits also bring back happy memories of campfires or summer nights at the beach with friends. While firepits are an easy and economical way to add fire to your outdoor space, there are many more options for bringing fire into the backyard. We have summarized the most important criteria you need to consider, below.

Amantii Symmetry SYM-42 is a great outdoor fireplace option that comes in many other sizes.

Access to Fuel Sources and Power

Your decision about whether to fuel your outdoor fireplace with wood, gas or electricity may depend on how easily you can bring any of those into your backyard. A gas fireplace will require a gas line or propane. A wood-burning fireplace will require a supply of dry firewood. An electric fireplace will require an electrical line, either 120 or 240 volts. Are any of these already in place for other things? For instance, do you have a gas line for a grill? Do you have a ready supply of firewood for your indoor fireplace? Do you have electrical lines for a hot tub or outdoor lights? Often, electrical lines are the easiest to access, especially close to the house. As with open fires and firepits, your municipality may also have a say, if they have banned gas lines in new construction, or they’ve banned wood-burning fires to preserve air quality. Again, an outdoor electric fireplace may be the answer.

Pro Tip: Only electric fireplaces that have been tested and rated for outdoor use should be installed outdoors. Any space that is not climate-controlled and protected from the elements should be considered an outdoor space.

Heat Requirements

Are you adding an outdoor fireplace for heat? There’s nothing cozier on a cool evening than a warm fire. All outdoor fireplaces can provide heat on demand, whether they burn wood or gas or they run on electricity. You will get the highest heat output from wood-burning and gas fires, so these are your best options if you plan to be outdoors in cold weather. However, only an electric fireplace can offer ambiance without heat on a hot summer night. While almost all electric fireplaces have built-in heaters, you can always turn on the flames without the heater, when heat is not required. That’s because the flames are not the source of heat, as they are on wood-burning or gas fireplaces. This is a huge consideration if you use your outdoor space primarily in warmer weather or in a warm climate. Electric fireplaces also have the most control over the amount of heat, as they generally have thermostatic controls. With an electric fireplace, setting the heat lower will not diminish the flames, as it will on a gas fireplace.

Fireplace Size

A custom masonry fireplace may be built to any size you need. However, if you are choosing something that’s readily available, electric fireplaces come in a wider range of sizes than gas fires. Plus, the heat output on an electric fireplace is not determined by the size of the burner, as it is on gas fireplaces. This means that electric outdoor fireplaces give us more flexibility. If I want a 100-inch fireplace in my backyard, I can easily do so with an electric model, and the heat output will be similar to the heat on a smaller model. However, this size would be a custom fireplace in gas, and the heat output coming from that larger burner would be unbearable to be around.

Space requirements

The space requirements of outdoor fireplaces depend on their fuel source. Wood-burning fires require a chimney, and a certain structure to ensure clean burning. A gas fireplace has clearance and possible venting requirements. Gas fireboxes are also quite deep compared to electric fireplaces, which range in depth from 4-inches to 12-inches for the most popular outdoor models. When outdoor space is at a premium, electric fireplaces will fit into more spaces more easily. This can be especially relevant for gazebos, cabanas or small patios.

Safety & Security and Forest Fire Risk    

Never has the risk of forest fires been more top-of-mind than it is today. Climate change has led to an extended forest fire season, with more intense and dangerous fires burning closer to more homes. With that in mind, many municipalities are choosing to ban open fires and firepits. Fortunately, there are lots of options for gas and electric fireplaces for outdoors. A gas fireplace that’s enclosed behind glass minimizes the risk of fire to surrounding trees and buildings, as long as all installation and venting clearances are observed. Electric fireplaces take safety one step further, because there is no fire – flames are an illusion created with lights, making them the safest option in areas where forest fires are a concern.

Pro Tip: If you are allowed to have a wood-burning fireplace in your backyard, you can minimize sparks and maximize safety by adding fireplace doors or a screen to the opening. Be sure they are made of stainless steel, to avoid corrosion over time.

Environmental Impact

If you love being outdoors, then you may want to consider the environmental impact of your backyard fireplace. Climate change experts agree that we need to reduce carbon emissions in order to slow the pace of global warming. One source of carbon emissions is the burning of natural gas or propane. So, when you install an outdoor gas fireplace, you are contributing to climate change. Ironically, if you add a gas fireplace or fire table so you can enjoy the outdoors, you are ultimately contributing to the destruction of the planet that you’re trying to enjoy. An electric fireplace has no emissions, because it’s not burning any fuel. This makes outdoor electric fireplaces the greenest of the options for your backyard.

Safety for the Family

Many of us will be enjoying our backyard with family and friends. If that group includes small children, then safety and burn prevention must be considered. As with a swimming pool, a backyard fireplace will require constant vigilance. Any open flame poses a risk of burns, should someone put their hand too close. On woodburning fireplaces, doors or a screen will keep flames in and hands out. On gas fireplaces, remember that the front glass is superheated; skin will burn on contact. That’s why they will come with a mesh protective barrier on the glass. This mesh is still hot, but it is meant to give us time to move our hand before serious burns occur. The safest of all the outdoor fireplaces are electric. Because the flames are not the source of heat, the front glass doesn’t get hot. If you have small kiddos around, consider these options carefully.

Stylish Fireplaces knows that adding a fireplace to your home can be challenging. With an electric fireplace and their NFI Certified Hearth Design Specialists, it’s easy to create a space you’ll love to share with family and friends. Check out all the options and connect with their experts for help to find the perfect electric fireplace for you. You’ll live stylishly ever after. 

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