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TRANSFORM YOUR BACKYARD INTO A HOLIDAY OASIS

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A TWIST ON HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

For many folks the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes ushers in the fall season. In Southern Arizona, the Pecan Classic / Fun Run is the official start of fall. In Central Arizona, it’s the Arizona State Fair and in Northern Arizona, it’s the changing of the leaves.

For much of the state, this is the time of year when we can finally enjoy our backyards and front porches without dripping in sweat. Consider holding your holiday festivities outside with these accents that will create a festive mood.

Kiss the Cook

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.

Make your outdoor kitchen as safe as your indoor one. Buy appliances that the manufacturer has rated for outdoor use rather than transplanting indoor appliances to your patio.

A small refrigerator will keep you outside with your guests instead of running back to the kitchen to refill drinks. Look for refrigerators, freezers, wine chillers, keg tappers and ice makers with a safety stamp from Underwriters Laboratories or another rating agency that ensures the appliance is safe to use outdoors. Choose stainless steel appliances. They’re corrosion-resistant and may be easier to clean.

Replace old free-standing barbeques 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. Install a pre-fab version that looks just as nice as custom-built. Add a pizza oven and make wood-fired pizza. The kids will love it!

For a smaller budget, consider a portable, store-bought barbecue instead of a built-in version. There are hundreds of choices; from traditional, charcoal-fired to a top-of-the-line gas grill with an infrared burner and double side burners. Scale back the number of cabinets, drawers and cooking options, for a model that fits your budget.

What’s S’more Fun Than a Fire Pit?

Forget the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Roast marshmallows and s’mores at your fire pit (you can buy pumpkin-spice marshmallows). Gather guests around the warm flames and make the traditional campfire treat. 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.

Because of the occasional no-burn restrictions, particularly in Maricopa County, fire features are a great alternative outdoor accent because they are generally powered by natural gas or propane.

Go Team!

Get your game on Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day with a weatherproof television designed for patio use. A tough weatherproof set could run around $4,000. Or, just take your old indoor set outside and use it until it conks out. 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. Connect the TV to external stereo speakers for an at-the game experience. Your neighbors will love it! You may want to invite them over to keep the peace. Cover the TV when it’s not in use with a weatherproof wrap. Store it indoors in June through August.

Lawns

If watching the big game inspires your group to hit the gridiron, a natural lawn may the way to go. It can be softer and more forgiving on tackles and sacks than artificial turf. For rounds of mini golf or croquet during the holidays, an artificial lawn may be best because a natural lawn grows quickly.

If you choose the artificial turf route, do not install it around fire tables or fire pits. Do not put a glass table on it, because the glass can magnify the heat of the sun shining overhead and damage the turf under the table.

Swimming Pools & Spas

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. Solar panels can be unglazed, which are cheaper but cannot be used year-round like the glazed panels.

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. If your gas heater is old, consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model.

Heat pump heaters use electricity to capture heat from outside, making them more energy-efficient than gas heaters. They are most efficient in climates that don’t drop below 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes them ideal for use in our climate. 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.

Call a Rosie on the House Certified Partner to evaluate your pool to determine the type of systems that that is best for you.

Whatever system you choose, your winter visitors from the cold-weather states (anyplace below 70 degrees for us natives) will go (pecan) nuts swimming on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Lighting

Path lights leading to the front and back doors are more inviting for family and friends. They are also an important safety measure. Light up the bottom of steps to points in the yard or patio where there’s a change in direction and around any trip hazards.

For ambiance after dark, mix solar fixtures in with low-voltage outdoor lamps on the patio and in the garden. Avoid placing all of the lights in a row. It can give your yard the look of an airport runway.

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 (LEDs) are the best way to save energy on holiday lighting because they…

  • use only about two percent 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.

Enjoy these twists to your holiday traditions. And, if you really must have pumpkin somethin’ this season, check out the recipes at www.fillyourplate.org.

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