This is the time of year when we can finally enjoy our backyards without dripping in sweat. Consider holding your holiday festivities outside with these accents that will create a festive mood.
Q: The weather is beautiful in November. How can I move my Thanksgiving festivities outside?
A: Create an entertainment island. Counters with bar stools sheltered under umbrellas or ramadas make for a relaxing party atmosphere that the cook can be a part of. Replace old, free-standing barbecues with a permanent grill structure powered with propane or natural gas from a line. Be sure to hire a licensed contractor to install the line.
Refrigerators, freezers, wine chillers, keg tappers and ice makers will keep you outside with your guests instead of running back to the kitchen. Be sure to look for the safety stamp from Underwriters Laboratories or another rating agency that ensures the appliance is safe to use outdoors.
Gather guests around a fire pit to enjoy dessert, coffee and hot cocoa. Relaxing on cozy outdoor furniture that is easy to reconfigure and over-sized cushions for less-formal occasions are the perfect way to wind down while the tryptophan settles in.
No need to miss the bowl games. Set up your old indoor TV outside. Install it in a shady spot on a metal, heavy duty-wall mount that can pivot. You’ll need a cable or satellite connection on the patio. Cover the TV when it’s not in use with a weatherproof wrap.
Q: How can I easily add ambiance to my backyard?
A: For ambiance after dark, mix solar fixtures with low-voltage outdoor lamps on the patio and in the garden.
Vary the intensity of the lighting. Creating shadows and dark areas in your landscape is just as important as creating light. Err on the side of too few lights.
Outdoor lighting should be subtle, not harsh, so it creates a mood.
Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are the best way to save energy on holiday lighting because they:
- Use only about 2% of the electricity that is needed to power regular painted or ceramic-coated colored holiday lights
- Are harder to break than traditional glass bulbs because they’re encased in plastic
- Last up to 10 years
- Generate much less heat than traditional incandescent holiday lights, which produce more heat than light
Lighting is also an important safety measure. Be sure to light pathways and steps.
Q: How can I enjoy my swimming pool during the colder months without having to wear a wetsuit?
A: There are several options to heat your pool for year-round use.
Solar water heaters are the least costly and most energy-efficient. They can last 10 to 20 years. They operate using a system of solar panels, a pump, a filter and a flow control valve.
Gas heaters use gas or propane to produce heat and are great for heating water quickly or for a short period of time. They are efficient for pools that aren’t used often, and unlike other heaters, they can maintain heat in any weather or climate.
Heat pump heaters use electricity to capture heat from outside, making them more energy-efficient than gas heaters. They can cost more than gas heaters, but they typically cost less to operate and last longer.
A solar cover will help keep heat collected from the sun in your pool. In the fall, the cover will keep your pool at 80 degrees for several more weeks – without using a heater.