As in life, so with outdoor fireplaces and fire pits - we all have so many options.
Most people can spot the quality or simplicity of a great design or the clever use of materials, but who can say they have the experience or knowledge to delve into the technicalities of the all-important outdoor gas or bioethanol burner that provides the ambiance and the warmth?
The firepit burners available today are not all created equal. At Urban Fires, we've been in the outdoor fireplace market for more than 10 years and have been designing gas fireplace burners since 1978, so we hope you'll agree that puts us into a unique position to explain why we believe it's best to trust spending some additional cash on a clever, more sophisticated design.
What do you want from a fire pit, apart from looking good? Warmth, a great flame, convenience and reliability? Of course you do, so how should you choose?
First, you need to know if a particular gas burner is burning neat gas, or is the gas perhaps fully aerated before combustion? This simply means mixing air with the gas before it burns. If such a burner is operating from a gas cylinder this might be the most important question you'll ever ask of a supplier. A non-aerated burner can create carbon (soot) which can stain its surroundings, can leave particulates in the air and also make the ignition sequence unreliable. It will almost certainly require more regular servicing.
A good designer can create a realistic flame whilst combining the aeration combustion process with a hotter flame and lower running costs - and less servicing.
We all prefer convenience. Do you want to light the burner with a match or lighter, are you happy with a push-button manual ignition like a gas hob, or would you prefer remote control or even connection to your home automation system? The more sophisticated offerings on the European market will offer the last two options. Do you want to be able to adjust the flame picture, not just have ON/OFF control?
And then, there's reliability. There's nothing worse than wanting to use your outdoor fireplace but then maybe it won't start when you need it, or it may keep going out. These appliances have to operate in the UK climate. It rains, it's often cold, it can be windy and there's also garden debris flying around in winter which can cause other issues. So, what to look for? Most outside gas burners will have a pilot light just like your central heating boiler or indoor fireplace. The pilot flame itself should not be located above the burner surface, but preferably below it. A good burner won't need a glass screen to stop the pilot light blowing out in windy conditions.
If the burner you're looking at has electronic ignition, does it work on batteries, or mains electricity? Batteries can go flat and often lose some performance when it's cold. Choose a burner with a transformer that will safely use a 240v supply outdoors.
Can you adjust the flames? Up and down? A quality burner will have a motorised gas valve offering a variable gas supply. Are all these electronic circuits and the motorised gas valve properly protected? It's best to choose a burner where all the controls are encased in an IP-rated enclosure, so you can be sure they're the as protected as possible, given all the necessary connections to gas and the electric supply. Always use a weathercover when the fireplace is not in use.
Finally, does the burner you're considering have a CE mark representing quality of design, performance and manufacture? Some burners imported from North America are made in the Far East. Some are purchased directly from the Far East. North American burners operate on a different type of natural gas and at a difference pressure to the UK, so a registered installer in the UK will require a burner to be CE marked before he can legally install it. Ideally, purchase a burner or firepit which has been CE-approved in Europe and preferably made in Great Britain or a country that you can safely put your trust in.
You can ask your supplier for a copy of the manufacturer's installation instructions before purchasing. These should give you all the information you require to make an informed decision.
For info on the products that use our Signature gas burners, visit our website.