Heated or Unheated
Outdoor faux fireplaces often use electricity or infrared to generate heat. This allows the user to carefully control the temperature, usually with an included remote control. Naturally, this also makes faux fireplaces much safer than their gas or wood counterparts.
Faux fireplaces with heating elements that can be turned on and off are the most common option. However, the heating element may be unnecessary if you live in a climate that is warm year-round and only want the fireplace for light and aesthetics. Purely decorative fake fireplaces are also much less expensive than ones with heating elements.
Enclosed or Unenclosed Spaces
If your patio is at least partly covered, your faux fireplace won't need to put out as much heat to keep people nearby warm. You'll also have to worry a little less about weatherproofing and general wear and tear from the elements.
However, unenclosed patios make it much easier to ventilate the fireplace appropriately. Although ventilation is more of a concern with gas fireplaces than with electric ones, you'll still need to make sure your system's intake and output vents remain unobstructed in accordance with manufacturer directions.
Whatever you decide, make sure to look for a fireplace that is UL certified or has a similarly high certification. Also, make sure it's rated for outdoor use if your patio is completely unenclosed, and consider bringing standalone models inside when not in use.
Outdoor faux fireplaces are not available in quite as many finishes as indoor ones, in large part because of the weatherproofing and safety requirements for outdoor fireplaces. However, families can still choose from an assortment of styles to fit with their overall decor.
Brick and stone are very popular options for fake fireplaces both indoors and outdoors. These natural finishes pair well with wood furniture in traditional styles. Faux wood also pairs well with wood furniture, but you'll want to choose a darker color for the fireplace to provide some contrast.
Metal fireplaces are usually painted black or gray, which makes them a great choice for pairing with contemporary furniture. However, some metal faux fireplaces are designed to look like rustic ironwork, which allows them to pair better with traditional furniture.
Some fireplaces also have much more glass than others. This enhances the fireplace's modern look, and can help make your patio feel much larger. Although glass requires more frequent cleaning than other materials, it looks beautiful when properly maintained.