Just like fireplaces can completely change the way you see and interact with the interior of your home, fire pits can be a revolutionary addition to your backyard.
From providing warmth to cooking up something good barbecue style or to just boosting a cozy aesthetic, fire pits can do everything fireplaces can do (and maybe even better!).
Of course, as with anything else, a fire pit should be carefully considered as an investment. The sheer amount of options available can overwhelm the most seasoned of home designers, but fear not!
Before you start shopping around for fire pits, come to a rough agreement with your family about the size, style, and function you are looking for in a fire pit. Here are the most vital choices you will have to make in your search for the perfect artisan fire pit.
To determine the best size for your fire pit, you will first need to identify its intended purpose. Are you a party animal that hosts the entire neighborhood for a weekly barbecue? Or maybe it is just you and your spouse that are looking to cozy up and relax.
Your intended use of the fire pit should inform the size you purchase. Some materials and designs will be bulkier than others. An elliptical fire pit will naturally be slimmer than something built into the structure of your patio or porch, like a stone fire pit might be.
There is a fire pit style to fit the aesthetic of every backyard imaginable—you just need to find it! When considering a fire pit, imagine it sitting squarely in the middle of your backyard or patio. Does it look out of place in your mind’s eye? Does it look right at home, or will it require some rearranging?
If you have a traditional mid-century patio, a stone facade would be perfect. Brass coloring or metal can be a great accent in a setup that boasts rustic, woodsy vibes.
Also consider the type of statement you want your fire pit to make. Is it a center piece or just an accent? Busy designs like stone, masonry, or patterns will be more eye catching than sleek, monochrome metal.
Before taking the plunge into outdoor fireplace arena, carefully consider the placement of your fire pit, available seating arrangements, and fuel sources.
If you opt to fuel your outdoor fireplace with wood, then it stands to reason you will need a place to store all that lumber! You will want to choose a place that is easily accessible while also aesthetically appealing, while remaining far enough away from the fire that it is not liable to catch flame via errant sparks.
The shape of the firepit yourself is equally important. A circular firepit will generally accommodate less people sitting around it, but heat will be distributed amongst your guests more easily.
On the other hand, a square or rectangular firepit is a less common shape in wood burning pits, so you will likely have to opt for a gas sourced fire pit. These shapes also tend to take up more space, so this is something to consider when dreaming up your perfect pit.
The most popular options for fueling an outdoor fireplace are gel canisters, gas, and wood burning. Each have their own merits and demerits, so consider carefully which is right for you.
Gel canisters and gas both provide exceptional flame control, which is just not possible when dealing with burning wood. Therefore, gas and gel canisters are generally considered safer options. Over time, gas and gel canisters are more expensive than lumber.
If you are ready to get down and dirty with your fire pit and hope to make some good ol’ fashioned barbecue, skip the gel canisters and gas as potential fuel sources which are not considered food safe.
Those looking for a fire pit as a source of warmth should opt for a wood burning fire pit. Gel and canisters cannot compete with the heat generated by burning wood.
If you opt to burn wood as your fuel source, you should factor in the cost of sourcing good quality, dry wood when purchasing your firepit (or you will just have a useless, pretty planter sitting in the center of your patio!).
Stay away from soft woods, such as cedar and pine, which tend to carry more moisture. Moisture in firewood can lead to errant sparks as well as build up on the inner walls of your pit. As an extra precaution, make sure that your lumber has been “seasoned” for at least a year before burning, so that you have more control over the duration and strength of the fire and sparks.
Diesel generators are different from gasoline generators, though they’re often thought to be interchangeable by those who don’t know the difference. What are the pros and cons of diesel generators?
The Points in Favor of Diesel Generators
Diesel generators need far less maintenance than gas generators. They don’t have spark plugs or carburetors. Then you’re left with minor, low-skill tasks like replacing the air filters and changing the oil. The lack of components like this also results in very long-lasting generators. They can last three times as long as gas generators. Diesel generators also need a fraction of the maintenance natural gas generators do.
Diesel generators are on average safer than gasoline powered generators. The lack of spark plugs and carburetors eliminates the biggest ignition risks. If you need to stock up on fuel, the fact that there is less of it around reduces the risk of explosions or toxic spills.
Diesel generators are more efficient than gas generators. They’ll get up to 50 percent more power out of a gallon of diesel fuel than a gasoline generator. This typically results in a smaller gas tank, and you don’t need to take up as much space with gas cans or tanks to hold reserve fuel.
The Downsides of Diesel Generators
Diesel generators tend to cost more than gasoline generators. That makes them the better choice for long-term use over infrequent emergency use.
Diesel generators are not as environmentally friendly as natural gas or petrol generators, assuming you avoid fuel spills. Tier four generators do better in this regard, since they have additional features to reduce particulate and nitrous oxide emissions.
Diesel generators tend to come with higher installation costs unless you’re buying one to be carried around on a trailer.
Observations about Diesel Generators
Diesel fuel is as easy to find as gasoline. This is invaluable when you’re trying to power your home or business after a power outage. Natural gas may still flow through natural gas lines, but it is harder to stock up on if the gas is shut down or prices spike. Propane is even harder to find in an emergency, and it is difficult to stock up on. Conversely, diesel generators will require a constant stream of fuel from a storage container, whereas backup generators connected to a gas line will draw from the gas line. Then there’s no refueling required on your part.
Note that natural gas supplies are likely to be interrupted if you live in an earthquake zone, and that makes diesel generators far better than natural gas powered generators. In these cases, diesel beats natural gas. Conversely, if you live in hurricane country, natural gas should continue flowing though the roads are blocked. Natural gas generators win out in these cases unless you have a massive stock of fuel. And remember that stored fuel can go bad.
Diesel generators tend to be louder than the alternatives. You can fit it with a sound-proof casing, but that adds to the already high cost. Diesel generators are rugged and durable, but that’s because they use big, solid parts. Expect a diesel generator to be heavier than the gas-powered alternative. This can add to its shipping and transportation costs. However, the unit may be smaller than the equivalent gas-powered model. Diesel generators are always much smaller than natural gas powered generators.
Diesel generators may be flex-fuel or flexible in the sources of fuel they can use, but this requires using corrosion resistant materials in the fuel tank and tubing. That means a flex-fuel diesel generator could burn ethanol if you run out of gas, but don’t pour alternative or biofuels into the average diesel generator unless you want expensive repair bills down the line.
Perhaps your home energy bills are depressingly high, and the energy audit says the problem is due to your windows. Maybe the issue is that your windows are fogging up. Cracks in the glass, leaks around the seals and who knows what else is causing them to let in moisture and interfere in your vision. Or you may find that your home appears dated and aged despite having been repainted. The solution in many cases is a new set of windows. But what factors should you look for in your new windows?
Heating and air conditioning are anywhere from a quarter to two fifths of the average home’s energy usage. Opening a window to let in fresh air obviously costs you money, but windows that slowly leak air out through gaps in the frame do the same in a way you might ignore except for the higher energy bills. Your windows also let heat escape in the winter and enter in the summer, undermining your attempts to maintain a stable indoor temperature. The solution is choosing energy efficient windows. Double panes beat single pane windows. Triple pane windows dramatically reduce heat loss, but there are double pane windows that are almost as good thanks to neutral gases between the two window panes or films applied to the window.
How Light Passes Through
Windows have always let light in, and you’ve always had the option to choose glass with waves, distortion or patterns to protect your privacy. The most obvious example is bathroom windows that let natural light stream in but prevent peeping toms from seeing you in the shower. There are actually many more variations of this today. You can choose windows that let you look out but prevent others from seeing in. There are window treatments that can let sunlight in but reflect the heat out. In more expensive and highly engineered arrangements, morning light may be admitted but hot afternoon sun is reflected back. Or you may let sunlight in but reflect back artificial light in the evening.
How Well It Fits the Existing Infrastructure
Too many people make this mistake, and it will show. For example, choosing windows that are the wrong size for the existing window openings means you’re either adding extra joists to make it fit or cutting into the walls to try to make them large enough for the windows. Choosing window frames with material that clash with the existing home’s design creates other problems. PVC windows that come in the same color as the existing home siding or wood windows you can paint aren’t an issue. However, bright metal frames on a classic home or old-fashioned window frames in a modern home will clash.
Cost is going to be a factor in any purchase, but we consider it lower on the priority list because it can be offset in so many ways. For example, more expensive energy efficient windows may repay the difference in a few years in the form of lower energy bills. Windows that can be snapped inside your existing window frames will lower the overall cost of installation.