Livable space may be traditionally confined to a home's interior, but the growing popularity of outdoor living design suggests that homeowners are broadening the definition to make the most of a home's total footprint.

An outdoor patio is a natural extension of the home, offering additional seating and, with the right amenities, a way to enjoy meals and entertainment al fresco. After the sunlight fades, features powered by propane -- like full outdoor kitchens, patio heaters, fire pits, flame lighting and more -- can keep the fun going well into the night.

What constitutes the perfect outdoor living space is as varied as homeowners' personal tastes. A simple seating arrangement with a fire pit or water feature may be ideal for one, while expansive hardscaping and a fully equipped outdoor kitchen can best meet the needs of another.

Stop dreaming and start planning with these ideas for the features that can transform your plain backyard into the envy of the neighborhood.

Lighting

There's dim mood lighting and there's darkness. Ensure adequate light for activities like meal preparation and safe travel from one area of the yard to another with well-placed lighting. Strings of twinkling lights set a festive tone, but you'll also want to consider lighting walkways and other high-activity areas. An option with a gas-powered flame creates an unforgettable effect and works anywhere from walkways to patios. An added bonus, real flame lights are totally odorless and function even during power outages for added security and safety.

Patio Heaters

If you're itching to get outside before the season has fully arrived, or if you find yourself not wanting to head indoors even after the warm sun is gone, you can extend hours of enjoyment by heating the patio. A propane patio heater is a clean, safe and reliable way to raise the temperature by up to 30 degrees, so a chill won't stop you from enjoying your backyard retreat.

Fireplaces and Fire Pits

There's something soothing about the crackle and pop of flames dancing in the night sky, no matter what time of year it is. On a chilly evening, they add the functional benefit of delivering warmth, but year-round, there's an ambiance that almost can't be beat. If you prefer to skip the messy soot or ash and fuss of burning logs, instead opt for a gas-powered setup that lends the flicker of real flames with no cleanup and no firewood to store. It may feel a little like cheating to have instant fire at the flip of a switch, but you'll quickly discover the flame and heat are very real.

Outdoor Kitchens

The ultimate entertaining experience centers around the kitchen, so when the party is outside, a kitchen must be, as well. With all the resources of a typical indoor kitchen, a fully equipped outdoor kitchen makes it possible to prepare a meal while enjoying the ambiance of the outdoors. A basic kitchen may include a preparation surface and grill. A propane powered grill is a popular choice because it heats up fast, so you spend less time preparing food and more time enjoying it. Just like an indoor gas range, propane grills give you instant on-off convenience and precision temperature control for perfectly done meals.

More elaborate kitchen designs incorporate features like an outdoor rotisserie, refrigerator, sink, ice trough and weather-proof cabinetry for storage. Don't forget comfort and convenience by adding fans, lighting and a sound system. Home chefs may even delight in planting a garden adjacent to the kitchen, where they can pluck ingredients and herbs for a garden-fresh culinary masterpiece.

Pool and Spa Heaters

A cold dip may be refreshing for a moment, but most homeowners enjoy the ability to control the water temperature in their hot tubs and pools. A gas-powered heater can keep water at the desired temperature more efficiently and effectively compared with electric heaters.

Stay Safe

When it comes to gas amenities, safety is a top priority. If you smell gas in or near your home, follow these tips from the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council:

1. No flames or sparks. Immediately put out all smoking materials and other open flames. Do not operate lights, appliances, telephones or cellphones. Flames or sparks from these sources can trigger an explosion or fire.

2. Leave the area immediately. Get everyone out of the area where you suspect gas is leaking.

3. Shut off the gas. Turn off the main gas supply valve on your propane tank

if it is safe to do so. To close the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise). It's typically a good idea to turn off the gas supply valves located near individual indoor appliances.

4. Report the leak. From a neighbor's home or other nearby location away from the gas leak, call 911 or your local fire department.

5. Get your system checked. Before you attempt to use any of your propane appliances, a propane supplier or qualified service technician should check for leaks or other damage.

6. Do not return to the area until a propane supplier, emergency responder or qualified service technician determines that it is safe to do so.

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