Propane-powered Outdoor Appliances Support Growing American Trend

Homeowners “Hiving” and Thriving by Building Outdoor Rooms


July 15, 2004

American homeowners are expressing a growing interest in outdoor living areas as they shift from secluded “cocoon” lifestyles to more social “hives.” With more options than traditional patios and decks, outdoor living areas or outdoor rooms incorporate everything from the standard propane grill to more elaborate kitchens, as well as various other outdoor living appliances.

Coined by the Yankelovich research group, “hiving” describes the need for more family and community interaction. Previously, the trend among many Americans was “cocooning,” a behavior whereby families remained close to home to escape the stresses of everyday life. However, after September 11th, Americans started to shift their priorities and, consequently, the way they design their homes. Like bustling beehives, hive homes connect people with family and neighbors in more open, comfortable environments. These homes are designed to foster interaction and are typified by group activity and social gatherings.

Recent research from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) illustrates the hiving trend. For example, the report shows that homeowners prefer family rooms to formal dining areas. This preference for social living space extends to the outdoors as well. According to NAHB, homeowners are “very interested” in exterior features and additions. As a result, spending time in areas such as outdoor rooms, decks, and patios continues to increase.

An increasing number of Americans are making the outdoor room an “integral part of their home,” according to a study by grill producer Weber-Stephen. Although consumers are still deciding what defines a typical outdoor room, they tend to agree on the room’s purpose. Eighty-five percent of outdoor room owners cite informal entertaining, 82 percent cite relaxing, and 79 percent cite family needs as the top reasons they enjoy the space. In fact, less than 1 percent of respondents use their outdoor room for work purposes, reemphasizing the trend towards meaningful interaction and social activity.

Purchasing patterns across the country also demonstrate the outdoor room trend. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association (HBPA), 72 percent of U.S. households have a barbecue grill and 91 percent of grill owners have cooked outdoors in the past year. In addition, more than 1.5 million hearth appliances (e.g., fireplaces) were shipped in 2003 alone. Industry experts attribute this trend to the widespread popularity of the outdoor room.

As homeowners increasingly reconnect with their families, friends, and communities through the use of outdoor rooms, they can choose from a variety of products that best meet their needs. The Propane Education & Research Council offers the following list of convenient outdoor appliances and gadgets that homeowners can consider when constructing their outdoor rooms.

Propane-fueled outdoor appliances can conveniently be fueled from a single propane tank. Examples include:

  • Commercial-style grills – According to HPBA, the grill is a key element of any outdoor room. More than 63 percent of grill owners own a propane grill, and for good reason. Propane grills heat up fast and cool down quickly, making grilling safe and efficient. Also, using propane eliminates the dirty ash and dust caused by charcoal grills.
  • Cook-top stoves - Cooking with gas is becoming more and more popular as chefs realize its many benefits. For example, propane-fueled stoves and ranges give you greater control with precise temperature and heat distribution. Instant flames eliminate the wait for burners to warm up. Propane gas burners also cool quickly and safely. In addition, using propane for cooking can be significantly cheaper than using electricity.
  • Refrigerators, sinks and dishwashers - Millions of American homes use propane to heat water for appliances including washing machines, refrigerators, sinks, and dishwashers. Propane water heaters recover hot water nearly twice as quickly and can cost one-third less to operate than electric water heaters. 
  • Hearths - Hearths include a range of appliances including fireplaces, freestanding stoves, masonry heaters, gas logs, outdoor hearth products, and hearth accessories. Currently, more than 50 percent of new homes contain at least one hearth product, with outdoor hearths selling at record levels.
  • Patio heaters - Propane patio heaters extend the use of an outdoor room into the cooler seasons. The heaters provide up to a 20-foot radius of heat and raise the outdoor air temperature between 10 and 30 degrees. Most models include adjustable temperature controls and safety features, and many are equipped with lights to further extend outdoor time. 
  • Outdoor lighting units - Propane-fueled outdoor lighting fixtures and lamps are available in portable, wall-mounted, and post-mounted styles. Therefore, they are easy to use in remote locations, such as outdoor rooms. Propane lamps can be more energy efficient than electric versions and will continue to function in the event of a power outage.
  • Mosquito eliminators - Mosquito eliminators protect up to an acre of land from this not-so-popular summer pest. The appliances actually turn propane into carbon dioxide, heat, and moisture, which attract the bugs. When mosquitoes fly toward them, they are vacuumed into nets where they dehydrate and die.

“Because propane is safe, environmentally friendly, versatile, and a good value, it makes sense for homeowners in the process of building an outdoor room to consider its use,” said Jim Hitzemann, chairman of the Propane Education & Research Council’s Homebuilder Subcommittee. “In addition, an entire outdoor room can be fueled by a single propane tank, decreasing complications caused by multiple energy sources. Fewer complications mean more time for friends and family, and we are proud to help fuel this trend.”

For additional information about outdoor rooms and appliance options, please visit