How to crank up the heat outdoors

As we start a new year, you may be missing people you haven’t been able to see because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s still recommended you keep any gatherings you have small and outside. While Florida’s temperatures in the winter can be up and down, there are some chilly days and nights ahead.

To stay warm outdoors, Consumer Reports says a fire pit is a good choice -- if you want a lot of heat. But if you’re bothered by the smoke, a chiminea might be a better choice because it’s designed to funnel the smoke upward.

No matter what your heat source is, think before you light. You should place fire pits and chimineas at least 10 feet away— and ideally 25 feet away—from any structures and keep the overhead area clear.

Never use a fire pit or chiminea on a deck. Instead, look for a propane fire pit table that’s designed for use on a deck or patio.

And if you want even more flexibility, consider a patio heater. They burn gas or use electricity.

Consumer Reports says if you have outdoor outlets, you may want to consider a few strategically placed space heaters.

But never use a space heater outdoors with an extension cord, because that poses a fire risk, just as it would inside. Instead, plug it directly into an outlet. Also, be sure to look for models with a safety tip-over switch.

The Comfort Zone CZ499R Space Heater for $55 performed well in Consumer Reports tests for spot-heating.

Consumer Reports says another option is a well-ventilated garage. You should keep the doors open, wear masks, and stay at least 6 feet apart.