Outdoor Oasis

Are you a Backyard Beginner, content to stick to the basics of grilling? Or have you progressed to Outdoor Enthusiast, ready to expand your outdoor living space? Perhaps you’re a Patio Pro known for your entertaining prowess. Or maybe you’re the Backyard Beast with the ultimate backyard setup.

The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) identifies the above four backyard personalities based on a seven-question quiz that also provides tips on the next steps for getting the most out of your outdoor living space.

Regardless of which backyard personality type fits you best, natural gas is the ideal fuel for outdoor living spaces, providing the comfort and convenience of a reliable, clean fuel source. Natural gas is both affordable and environmentally friendly.

Backyard upgrades can be as simple as adding a gas grill or a firepit. Or, you can create your own outdoor room – converting your patio into a family oasis or the ultimate man (or woman) cave.

An outdoor living space can become almost an extension of your home with an outdoor kitchen, seating areas for relaxation and conversation, and outdoor fireplaces or firepits to add both warmth and ambiance. The different areas can be set apart with decorative stone walkways or through creative placement of furniture and appliances. Lounge chairs, patio swings and chaise lounges can provide comfortable seating areas.

“Making backyard upgrades can be simple and fun – whether it’s adding a few new tools for your barbecue or converting it into a full outdoor living room experience,” said Jack Goldman, president and CEO of HPBA. “The return on investment is not just added value for your home, but memories with your family, friends and neighbors that can last a lifetime.”

Perhaps that’s why a recent Houzz, Inc. report indicates that 18 percent of homeowners plan a patio or landscape addition in the next two years.

Grills are one of the most popular outdoor appliances. According to a 2017 consumer survey commissioned by HPBA, 70 percent of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker. About 10 percent of grill owners have a complete outdoor kitchen, including mini-fridge, outdoor sink, seating and entertainment systems.

And use of grills is expanding beyond the summer months, with the HPBA survey indicating that 29 percent of consumers plan to use their grill or smoker more often in the coming year. HPBA reports that gas grills are the most popular with 64 percent of consumers choosing gas over other fuel sources.

Whether modestly sized and freestanding or large permanent structures, natural gas grills provide an always-ready cooking appliance. With more precise temperature controls than propane or charcoal grills, natural gas grills help produce more consistent cooking results and take the guess work out of outdoor cooking.

Gas grills ignite quickly without the long warmup time required for charcoal grills, and the fuel supply is always available. Unlike propane grills, there’s no chance of a tank being low or running out during a cookout. Because natural gas grills connect directly to your home’s existing natural gas line, the fuel is always available and ready to go.

Adding fireplaces and heaters to outdoor spaces is a growing trend, with a third of those renovating backyard areas opting for an outdoor heating source, according to a 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends study.

Just as an indoor fireplace serves as both décor and heat source, outdoor fireplaces provide warmth, add flair and set the mood for outdoor living spaces. Outdoor fireplaces can be surrounded by granite, tile, stone or other material to fit the style of your home and landscaping.

Some homeowners opt for firepits to provide outdoor ambiance. Offering a focal point for outdoor gatherings, firepits are an ideal place to gather for casual conversation, roasting marshmallows or just enjoying the outdoors. Some firepits even feature grills for cooking.

While the heat doesn’t always radiate as far as a patio heater, fireplaces and firepits combine the timeless appeal of a crackling fire with the convenience and safety of the latest natural gas technology. Because there are no sparks or hot embers flying about, gas fire pits and fireplaces are safer and can be located almost anywhere – even close to patio furniture or wood decks.

There is also no hassle of gathering or buying wood or trying to start the fire. And, no need to clean out ashes after enjoying a cozy evening fire.

Many outdoor living spaces feature a sitting area for entertaining or just relaxing. If you’re looking to increase the number of months you’re able to enjoy your outdoor space, outdoor heaters are essential. Patio heaters can generally warm a 12- to 20-foot area, helping to take the chill out of early spring or crisp fall nights. They are most effective when outdoor temperatures are between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit and can be placed almost anywhere.

Heaters can be permanently installed in-ground, deck-mounted or hung from a roofline. Other heaters are freestanding and portable to allow for greater flexibility in use.

Gas-fueled lights and tiki torches add the finishing touches to outdoor living spaces. Whether enclosed or with open flames, outdoor lighting fueled by natural gas offers a reliable light source, even during a power outage. And, while bugs flock to electric lighting, natural gas lighting does not tend to attract insects.

From casual tiki torches to elegant brass or copper lamps, natural gas lighting can complement any outdoor space. Lights can be mounted on exterior walls, porch ceilings or on lamp posts. Light sensors and timers can help reduce fuel use by ensuring that lights are only on when you need them.

Regardless of your backyard personality, you can create outdoor living spaces that enhance the enjoyment of your home. Whether you have a small patio with a grill or a larger outdoor living space, you can count on natural gas to bring comfort, convenience and ambiance to all your outdoor gatherings.

Outdoor Oasis was written by Tonya McMurray for Natural Living, a publication distributed by Southeast Gas and published by Energy Solutions Center.

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