Staying Warm While Eating Outdoors

propane heater

One of my favorite pandemic purchases is the outdoor propane heater my husband and I bought last autumn in anticipation of a long winter unable to entertain friends and family inside the house. We paid $159 for a 48,000 BTU Hampton Bay stainless steel patio heater from The Home Depot. It came in a box that fit easily in the back of the car and was simple to set up and operate. About a month later, we invested $139 in an outdoor tabletop fire pit from Wayfair, also powered by propane. The fuel hose snakes through the umbrella hole in the center of the dining table; the propane tank sits, unseen, beneath the table. Those two items have enabled us to have our 26-year-old daughter over for a safely distanced, warm outdoor dinner every Sunday evening no matter how chilly the weather. (We cancel if it rains.) A bonus: When lit, the tabletop fire pit provides a lot of ambience as well as heat.

The only problem? We go through propane like nobody’s business. Schlepping empty tanks to the hardware store for refills is not my idea of fun. Recently, I discovered a propane delivery service called Cynch ( It delivers filled tanks to your driveway or backyard and picks up the empties. The cost is $19.99 to exchange a used tank, $49.99 to buy a spare tank. Ordering and scheduling is done online, easy-peasy.

propane firepiece

Dining outdoors in the winter has turned out to be one of the silver linings to the pandemic. All we needed was the right equipment. (By the way, if The Home Depot runs out of heaters, check out Sacramento’s East Bay Restaurant Supply, which carries restaurant-quality outdoor heaters.)