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In an indoor setting, a wood burner is far, far more efficient than an open fire. What about outdoors in a patio or courtyard? I have a large amount of low grade firewood and I'd like an outdoor fire of some sort.

How should I decide what's the best option?

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  • Efficient for what purpose? – Ecnerwal Jun 18 '20 at 2:30
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You're not going to heat the patio significantly either way - the hot air will rise, there's no ceiling to contain it.

Radiant heat is about all you'll get, and that is pretty similar between open fire and stove - the major improvement in efficiency inside is from using less excess air that simply goes up the chimney, and trapping more of the heated air inside the house - but outside all the heated air inside or outside the stove or fire is going to go up and away from people.

If you are into large complex projects you could follow the Romans and build a "stove" under or around your patio (hypocaust ala Romans, or more modernly a "rocket mass heater" in the wall or seat form.) That gives you a larger area of lower temperature radiant heat than a bare fire.

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    Iteresting point on air - so a roaring fire is going to warm people just as well as a modern stove outdoors. And probably 'feel' warmer as you can see the flames more? – Mr. Boy Jun 18 '20 at 9:07
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    You're probably right, @Mr.Boy - people will probably think they're warmer from the psychological effect of seeing the fire rather than a physical effect of the heat coming from either the open fire or stove. Neither will be particularly "efficient" unless you erect some sort of cover over the patio area. TBH, though, there is quite a lot of heat to be thrown off horizontally from a good ol' fashioned bonfire! – FreeMan Jun 18 '20 at 12:52

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