Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some things need to be left behind

I just finished reading an article written by Marni Jameson in my local newspaper the Marin IJ .

She admits that she has 3 brain cells and I agree.

Marni Jameson wrote in her January 9, 2010 article about DIY design trends from the last past decade and proudly placed a color photograph of a wood burning fire pit showing how fantastic this source of pollution is.

If wood burning fire pits were the trend for the last decade then the new trend for the next coming decade and beyond should be all about adopting clean burning gas and eco fuels that do not pollute the air and send thousands of children and adults to the hospital with asthma and respiratory disease complications.

Burning wood for out door decoration and ambience is down right environmentally irresponsible.

*Particulate pollution is the most important contaminant in our air. ...we know that when particle levels go up, people die 1. " Indeed, wood smoke is chemically active in the body 40 times longer than tobacco 2.

It is no coincidence that we have Spare the Air days here in Northern California.

Does Marni Jameson think this is because we have fantastically clean air free from wood smoke pollution ?

Or that there is a strong presence of The American Lung Association because there is no asthma problems from our poor air quality ?

Regenerate some brain cells Ms. Jameson, and do us a favor and do not advocate and promote products that send thousands to the hospitals and pollutes the air that we breath.

* 1 + 2 - Burning Issues web site : - american lung association

OUT - 19th century heavy polluting technology -

From random photos

IN - 21 st century clean burning , no polluting technologies.

From random photos


Christine said...

I'm glad you think this is important, Michelle. Even as a purely design-based decision, wood loses the battle over gas or propane. Constantly finding fuel to feed the fire, coming back inside smelling like a chimney, having to deal with the build-up of ashes- it just doesn't make sense to go that route in the garden.

danger garden said...

Last summer I had a couple of friends over one evening for light dinner and drinks on the patio. One asked if we had a fire pit so she could bring smores ingredients. I am afraid my intense reaction was out of line with her innocent inquiry. While I personally have no health issues that are effected by smoke I do completely understand that many do. I just think it stinks and is as rude as a constantly barking dog in a close in urban neighborhood. Great, you want a fire...go camping! Don't start one feet from where I am enjoying a glass of wine on a summers evening!

Unknown said...

I had the same reaction to a similar article in today's (1/9/10) San Jose Mercury News by Mi-Ling Stone Poole. Big picture of a HUGE back yard fireplace with a roaring fire and kids sitting around in shorts & tee shirts. Now, I'm not the biggest greeny around, but that sure didn't make sense to me. As you point out, this is 2010 and there are better ways to accomplish the same objective.

house things said...


What are some good sources for clean-burning outdoor fires? Is the gel burning stuff okay?


Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

I hear ya, What were they not thinking.

House things,
Good sources for clean burning outdoor fires are 1. propane, natural gas and de natured alcohol.

I believe the gel burning stuff is a form of de natured alcohol.

It is incredibly easy and fairly inexpensive to convert a wood burning fire pit to a propane fire pit.
You can buy the propane tank at any hardware store and the fire coil element at any fire place supply shop or on line.
No special tools required. Just a couple of wrenches and some plumbers tape.
Or you can make it really super easy and just use de natured alcohol . simply inset the container in the fire pit and light.
If you decide to go in early just cover the flame and it extinguishes immediately.
No reason to wait around to safely know the fire logs are cooled down and inactive.
And you don't smell like a camp fire and you haven't sent heavy pollution into your neighborhood.

Unknown said...

Hello Michelle,
I have been following your blog for a while but have yet to leave a comment. I've really enjoyed your post but this post was very helpful to me.

What resources do you use for designing and constructing these eco-friendly fire pits? I saw that you mentioned using a tank. In your experience, do most of your clients want the gas line tapped or would they rather use a tank? The problem with a tank is that I would think it may be difficult to conceal.


Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Hi Jared,
In most cases we use a plumbed gas line and custom build a stone fire pit.
This is usually cost effective because we are also installing/ constructing an outdoor gas operated grill in the same general area ( and sometimes even a heated pool )

In instances where we are not installing any other outdoor gas appliances then a simple portable propane gas tank fire pit is installed.
To conceal the propane tank we have crafted a stucco and slate coffee table like box. It has a hinged door on one side so that the tank can easily be removed.
I’ve also designed a core ten base but it was not built due to budget cut backs.

The plumbing element can be found at masonry and fire place supply shops or on the web :

Toward the end of last season I noticed several pre-fabricated propane operated firepits at places like Smith and Hawkins and Target.
They were pretty inexpensive, light weight and easy to transport.

Here is a link to a built in custom fire pit that is connected to a large propane tank at a home in Tahoe. The tank also is the heat source for the house and the built in bbq as well as the heat hydronic systems set into the stone work to melt the snow on the patio.

danger garden said...

Was I too "ranty"? Is that why my comment never showed up? :)

Phrago said...

Hey Michelle, Let me start by saying I completely agree with you on the subject of Burning and particle polution. Absolutely 100%! But, I think perhaps you may be going too hard on Marni, and that she is a victum of someone else's picture layout choice for the article you saw. I googled the article and found it had also been printed in the Denver Post, which didn't have a picture of a fire pit included with the text. After reading her article, which is pretty mundane and only mentions the fire pit once, in fairly casual and innocent manor, I concluded that she didn't really promote burning wood in fire places and outside fire pits. She wrote:
"We blurred the line between inside and out. Indoor and outdoor living fused. We opened our homes to let the outside in and the inside out. Interior accents more often feature materials straight from nature: branches, rocks, feathers, bonsai trees, potted herbs, shells and fish swimming among coral. We brought furnishings once thought only for indoor use outside, extending our living space. Better outdoor products — Sunbrella fabric, heat lamps, polypropylene rugs, awnings, fire pits and outdoor kitchens — made this possible and led to the decade's second biggest home-design shift."

Read more:

I don't think this qualifies as a an endorsement. This doesn't mean I am defending Marni either as I haven't spent any time researching her other written contributions to news papers, media, etc. But I bet if you pushed this information in her direction, she might be willing to take up the cause. After all she is a journalist and jounalists always need new things to write about. Perhaps you could put this subject on the National page by enlisting her voice...

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Hi Patrick , Thanks for your comment and perspective.
The photo that was on the front page of the living section that accompanied Marni J. article was a half page size colored photograph of a wood polluting fire pit .
It screamed " look at how fantastic this idea of polluting is !

This was the second article that I read of Marni's and found her uniformed. I since cancelled my subscription to the paper because she is so embarrassing dumb to read.
In her first article she recommended that women use the heel of their shoe as a tool to set solar lights with.
How's that for setting up an image of the capable woman ? NOT.

Not a fan.

Unknown said...

Thanks very much Michelle. That was very helpful!

christie said...

We just cancelled our subscription to the same newspaper for the same reasons...
We just put a gas fireplace in the living room, to enjoy fire without the guilt.

I agree with you!

Christie Colla
( We might be neighbors soon, looking at a house in Novato!)

RobinAlyse said...

Hi Michelle,
Is there a difference in the amount of heat given off in fires based on the fuel used? In other words, do the gas and gel fire places create the same warmth of a wood fire or is it merely decorative?

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

There is definitely a difference in the amount of heat that is put off by the various different types of fires.
The gel fires are not a heat source.
They are pure artifice.
Propane and natural gas can put out HUGE Btu's depending on the element that you are using , size of pipe and a few other considerations, it is also cleaner and consistent in output so long as you don't run out of fuel.
Heat generated from wood can be very hot , but it is inconsistent, and relies on a person to continuously stoke the fire with wood and it causes all kinds of environmental pollution, which leads to a variety of health problems.