How to take holidays gatherings outside-- even in cold weather

Health experts warn to limit gatherings and take them outside

This year the expression “home for the holidays” is actually about staying home for the holidays.

This year the expression “home for the holidays” is actually about staying home for the holidays.

Health experts say that if you’re planning to gather this season, keep it small and do it outside, however, Mother Nature can make that a challenge.

Consumer Reports can help with ways to keep your loved ones warm and safe with fire pits, patio heaters, and more.

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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.

CR 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.

CR says another option is a well-ventilated garage, although it’s not as charming as bundling up outdoors. You should keep the doors open, wear masks, and stay at least 6 feet apart.