Home & Garden

Outdoor heat sources help fend off fall’s chill

Lisa and Steve Sutherland and their backyard hot tub. (Aug. 24, 2015)
Lisa and Steve Sutherland and their backyard hot tub. (Aug. 24, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Chilly fall evenings don’t send Steve and Lisa Sutherland indoors. Instead they fire up the grill, maybe enjoy a glass of wine and jump into their hot tub.

The east Wichita residents have loved their backyard view all year long, but adding a hot tub in 2008 has helped them extend the use of their outdoor space into fall and beyond.

“We use it all through the winter,” Lisa Sutherland said. “You just pop open the lid and jump in it.”

She said the hot tub is popular with their teenagers and their friends, too.

Steve Sutherland said he appreciates the spa more every year.

“It’s kind of relaxing and makes you sleep a little better,” he said.

Hot tubs aren’t the only way to warm up an outdoor space on brisk days and evenings.

Jamil Toubassi, owner of Flint Hills Spas, said heat towers and ventless fireplaces also do the trick.

Here are some things to consider if you are looking to add a hot tub, outdoor heater, fireplace or fire pit.

Hot tubs

“A hot tub or swim spa is a great way to extend your backyard entertainment,” Toubassi said. “The use of a hot tub is directly related to its proximity.”

That means placing the slab close to the house and near a door. The hot tub does require some maintenance once a week, but “it’s nothing like a swimming pool,” he said.

Luckily, the prices are nothing like a swimming pool, either, but it’s still an investment of several thousand dollars.

Outdoor heaters

You see these on your favorite restaurant patios, but more and more people are buying them for personal use, too. At Flint Hills Spas, a heat tower starts at $219. Toubassi says it is important for customers to understand how much of a heat diameter a tower will radiate, whether it is eight feet or 14 feet. The greater the range, the greater the cost, of course. The heaters run on propane tanks that are usually disguised nicely in the base of the heater. Just as with a grill, it’s probably a good idea to have a second tank on hand ready to switch out so you don’t have to cut your night short if they heat runs out.

Outdoor fireplaces

Outdoor ventless fireplaces fueled by ethanol can add ambience as well as warmth. Toubassi sells small tabletop versions that can be used indoors or outdoors and that cost just $50 or $100. He says he would classify them as about 70 percent decorative and 30 percent a heat source. Wall-mounted models start at $300 and go up to about $2,000 and can be great for enclosed patios and all-season porches.

Fire pits

Fire pits can be found at home improvement stores and other retailers. A basic model could be $50, and then you just need wood, a flame and s’mores supplies for a great fall evening. There are more elaborate models that vary according to aesthetics, and some homeowners opt to build their own fire pits with stone, including in-ground designs. It is important to select an area away from the house and overhanging trees.