One of the top 10 design trends for 2011, as outlined by the judges at Builder magazine’s Builder’s Choice awards (winners will be announced in October), is the growing popularity of outdoor “rooms.” According to Builder, outdoor fireplaces and fire pits-typically run on propane-are becoming more and more prevalent.

Susan Cardamone, President of the Interior Division at Arthur Rutenberg Homes, would certainly agree. “We see the attraction to outdoor living in all the areas we build in, and the majority of the model homes we build have outdoor living rooms,” says Cardamone. Considering that Rutenberg builds in 32 Florida counties, as well as parts of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, that’s a ringing endorsement.

Rutenberg’s customers have a wealth of outdoor options available to them including outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, and firepits. The energy source for these outdoor accessories is propane, where natural gas is unavailable. Cardamone says their customers are equally comfortable with either option. “We don’t get any pushback from customers when we tell them that propane is the only gas option.”

A good portion of Rutenberg’s customers also request generators, which can be cost-effective to install when outdoor spaces are already planned for propane use.

Including a standby generator as part of an outdoor living plan is a good example of how builders can leverage propane beyond just aesthetically appealing outdoor features. A steady source of propane from an underground or well-concealed aboveground tank can:

  • Fuel a tankless water heater for outdoor kitchens and baths.
  • Be used for outdoor lighting and flame features.
  • Heat water for pools and spas twice as fast as electricity.
  • Be the energy source for patio heaters, which can raise the outdoor temperature by as much as 30 degrees in a radius of up to 20 feet.
  • Fuel insect traps with an effective area of up to an acre.

Builders and remodelers interested in expanding the list of features in their outdoor living room plans can find free, online training courses at the Propane Training Academy. Two courses in particular-Expanding Outdoor Living: Using Propane for Efficient and Sustainable Outdoor Living and Innovations with Propane Gas for Outdoor Residential Use-are tailor made for construction pros who want to beef up their technical knowledge, learn about propane’s environmental advantage compared to other fuel sources, and brush up on the latest trends and design tips for outdoor living spaces.