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3 Ways to Extend Your Outdoor Living Season

There are so many reasons to enjoy outdoor living beyond summer. There’s the beauty of fall and the cool, crisp weather. And then, how about saving big bucks on dining out and entertainment by savoring great food, drinks, and company — plus awesome scenery — right at home? Here are three ways to get a happy vibe going in your own backyard.

Light the Deck or Patio

The sun sets sooner on your outdoor living space in the fall, but that shouldn’t limit the hours you use your deck or patio. Adding low-voltage or solar outdoor lighting fixtures lets you party or relax well after dark.

With both lighting types, you can:

  • Light deck railings and stairs
  • Define the patio perimeter
  • Illuminate the edges of paths and walkways
  • Draw attention to a planter or tree

In addition, you can use other fixtures to light up dining tables, grill surfaces, and even underwater in swimming pools.

Low-Voltage Lighting

Low-voltage fixtures clip onto a safe, 12-volt cable connected to a transformer, which plugs into a GFCI-protected 120-volt electrical outlet. A timer or light-sensitive control automatically turns lights on and off.

For a pool area, a kit with eight LED step lights and 12 hardscape lights, plus wiring, a transformer, and installation, would cost about $3,000.

Solar Outdoor Lighting

Solar outdoor lighting fixtures don’t need cables and transformers. They simply turn themselves on automatically after dark. Each standalone fixture stakes into the ground or secures to a deck or exterior surface. Because a sunlight-charged battery powers the bulb, you’ll save energy. Solar light fixtures cost $188 to $231 for six lights, with installation ranging from $167 to $271.

Solar technology has improved over time. The lights generally include LED bulbs, which emit a large amount of light for their size and the amount of energy used. With about an eight-hour charge from the sun, solar lights can illuminate all evening. That said, the amount of sunlight around your house will greatly affect how the lights perform. Outside solar lights can last three or four years, and the LEDs,10 to 15 years.

Get Glowing with a Fire Pit, Portable Fireplace, or Smokeless Firepit

Bring a cozy glow and a stylish focal point to your outdoor living area with a fire pit or portable fireplace. Irresistible for gathering, warming up, or roasting marshmallows, they come in a variety of materials, sizes, and styles. You’ll also find options for fueling your fire with wood, propane, gas, or gel cans.

But here’s a warning before you start: Check local fire codes to find out if your community allows the use of a fire pit or portable fireplace on the patio or lawn. (Never use a fire feature on a wood deck.)

A fire pit is an open bowl, dish, or pan that varies in size from 24 inches across to about 40 inches. A fire pit may come on a stand (some with wheels) or nestle into a tiled tabletop. Select a model with screening to contain flyaway sparks. A wood-burning fire pit typically costs $500 to $1,300 including installation, and a gas fire pit ranges from $900 to $3,800 including installation.

A portable outdoor fireplace ($104 to $498) features a chimney to vent smoke up and away from people. Some portable fireplaces offer 360-degree views of the fire.

A smokeless fire pit, or smokeless stove, is a popular choice. Despite the name, they aren’t entirely smokeless, but they generate less ash than a wood-burning firepit. The price ranges from $90 to $600.

#3 Warm Up with a Patio Heater

Adding a portable patio heater can boost the warmth of your outdoor living area by as much as 15 to 25 degrees in the fall or spring. You’ll find three basic models:

1. Freestanding units resemble large floor lamps. You can set them anywhere on your patio that will accommodate their 7-foot to 8-foot height. Some models include wheels for mobility. Expect to pay $153 to $887, depending on heat output and fuel source.

2. A tabletop patio heater rests on a table, bench, or garden wall. These compact units typically produce less heat than tall, freestanding models. Prices range from $72 to $148.

3. Ceiling- or wall-mount patio heaters free up floor and table space, and typically emit heat via a halogen lamp. Prices vary from $112 to $866.

Make your selection based on how much outdoor living area you want to heat and whether you want a model powered by electricity or natural gas (each requiring a connection) or with a propane tank, which allows mobility.