We all love the open air, especially in summertime when the days are longer and our gardens or patios are in full bloom.

But even with plenty of shelter, a light breeze or sudden drop in temperature can send a shiver, especially when the sun sets on your alfresco spread.

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Rather than having to reach for a throw or to put on an extra layer, the easiest and most attractive option is to invest in some outdoor heating, which can not only look good and will style up your space, but keep you pleasantly warm.

Visit any garden centre and the most obvious choices are a chimenea or a fire pit. But which portable heater is the best for you?

What is a chimenea

These Mexican style heaters were originally used for indoor cooking and providing warmth in the home, but we’ve fallen in love with their rustic charm and the cast iron models are right on trend.

There are three basic types: a fire clay chimenea, cast iron, or a steel and cast iron.

A fire clay chimenea only burns dry wood, while cast iron and steel chimeneas will burn wood, charcoal and coal.

Fire pits

Fire pits come in various styles and the most popular feature a fire bowl, which usually comes with a grill which you can cook on.

Fire pits can come in stone (heavy), tile, stainless steel or copper. If you want something manageable, stainless steel is a great option as they’re easy to clean and rain/rust resistant.

Most fire pits are either wood burning (for heating and cooking), while for appearances, gas is a clean burning option, otherwise gel fuel.

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What’s on offer

The main difference is the size and shape. Chimeneas (which hail from Mexico) are traditionally smaller in diameter but often taller and with sides that go all the way up to the chimney, which helps contain the fire.

Whereas a firepit allows you to burn larger fires because it is open and has no chimney.

Additionally, fire pits give a 360 degree view of the flames, while chimeneas only have a small window to view the fire – however, chimeneas often create less smoke and retain more heat because of their tunnelled chimney effect.

Safety first

If you have young children or animals, White Stores recommend a chimenea as a safer option because the flame is enclosed and creates less smoke.

However, if you enjoy parties and want a centrepiece for your patio area, a fire pit can make an impressive statement and help keep your guests warm.

Size matters

Additionally, your available space should be an important decision-making factor.

Patios will be better served with a smaller, chimenea, whereas large gardens would swallow the smaller chimeneas making a fire pit the obvious choice.

Whether you’re looking for an outdoor fire for heating, cooking, or both, there are plenty of options to choose from.