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Hearth & Home January 2020

Closer to Home

By Mark Brock

Hearth, Barbecue, and Patio companies respond to climate change issues.

The women and men of the hearth, barbecue, and patio companies are, first and foremost, residents of Planet Earth, so there is no escaping the effects of Climate Change on them and their families. With a focus on products for use outdoors, and on products that consume energy, the impact on professionals in these industries becomes increasingly important. Will Climate Change be a positive or negative experience for these three industry segments? How will these industries adapt? What can be done now and in the future?

Climate Assessment Report Paints a Challenging Scenario

One of the most comprehensive assessments of the state of Climate Change is provided at least every four years as a result of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The National Climate Assessment (NCA) assesses the science of Climate Change and the variability and its impacts across the U.S. now and throughout this century. The most recent report from 2017 examines the impact of Climate Change on communities and the economy along with actions to reduce these risks. The following are extracts from this report:

In terms of the current outlook, consumer demand for outdoor living products has grown steadily over the past few decades and remains strong today. A recent survey underwritten by the International Casual Furnishings Association found that nearly 50% of consumers want outdoor living spaces included in their homes. These outdoor spaces come fully equipped with shade products, durable patio furnishings, and fabrics, fully functioning kitchens, and a variety of fire features such as fire pits fueled mainly by wood, natural gas, or propane.

Inside the home, fireplaces have become not just heat utilities, but also design features. Fans of home makeover programs on HGTV, ranging from “Property Brothers” to “Fixer Upper,” can attest to the fact that interior designers are still focused on fireplaces as focal points for the décor in virtually any room. (That is not the case with the lower-cost Builder Boxes that go into tract homes.)

Given the popularity of outdoor living and fire-based appliances, are members of the hearth, barbecue, and patio industries concerned about Climate Change? Is Climate Change affecting sales? What is the outlook for the future among those on the front lines of manufacturing and retail sales? We recently posed these questions to the readers of Hearth & Home through an email survey.

Communities – Climate Change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth. The impacts of Climate Change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities.

Economy – Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, Climate Change is expected to cause increasing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century. Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.

Hearth & Home Email Survey

Overall, survey respondents indicated that Climate Change is having little to no effect on recent or current sales. The majority of readers responding also indicated that they see Climate Change as a natural process and not directly linked to human activity.

Nearly 80% of hearth, barbecue, and patio specialists report that Climate Change never comes up when working with customers, and more than 80% of survey respondents said that Climate Change has had no effect on recent or current sales. Hearth & Home readers said that consumers are motivated by a desire to secure products that add comfort and style to their outdoor spaces, and that the Green features of a product are highly motivational with consumers only about 4% of the time.

More than 60% of respondents said they don’t think that Climate Change will have any effect on hearth, barbecue, and patio products, and more than half of the respondents said they believe that weather and Climate Change are simply natural processes, and that the issue is being overblown by the news media and some politicians.

While readers downplayed the effects of Climate Change on their businesses, there was somewhat of a divergence when asked how Climate Change might affect them and their families. While 30% said they are not concerned at all over the impact of Climate Change on themselves and their families, 40% said they are slightly concerned and 30% reported being very worried for current and future generations. (Click here to see survey results.)

Home destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Ramrod Key, Florida, in 2017. Hurricane Irma was an extremely powerful and catastrophic hurricane, and the most intense observed in the Atlantic since 2007.

Hearth and Barbecue Manufacturers Respond to Climate Concerns

Manufacturers of gas-fired products are feeling the effects of global warming and Climate Change as the fuels used for those products are coming under increased scrutiny and regulation. Wood products have been a focus of environmentalists and regulators for several years, now pellet products are coming under scrutiny, and natural gas is being viewed increasingly as a source of greenhouse gases.

The good news is that manufacturers, such as Twin Eagles, a leader in fine outdoor kitchen equipment based in Cerritos, California, are well aware of the issues and taking positive steps that are designed not only to address environmental concerns, but also to help ensure that consumer demand for more and better performing appliances are met.

“As a manufacturer, the environment is top of mind for us at Twin Eagles and has been for a very long time,” said Brian Eskew, director of Marketing. “We are doing everything we can do to reduce waste and any impact on the environment. We’re a family-owned business, and being good stewards of the environment is important to us in all that we do.”

Twin Eagles’ concern for the environment is reflected in the design and engineering of its gas grills which feature both direct and radiant heat. Hot air from the burners and radiant heat reflected from grill components result in grills that heat up and cook faster, reducing the amount of fuel needed.

“We would love to think that people just wake up one morning and think they want a new and sophisticated gas grill,” Eskew said. “What the customers for our grills really want is a better backyard, and a great grill is part of that better backyard.

“At this point, I can’t say that Climate Change is having an effect on our business because demand remains strong for our products and people love cooking with natural gas,” he continued. “Longer term, it’s hard to say how all of this will play out. As a manufacturer I can tell you that we are always trying to do the right thing; we’re improving our products and making them more efficient with less environmental impact.”

Actions to Reduce Risks – Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with Climate Change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades. Future risks from Climate Change depend primarily on decisions made today.

Hearth and Barbecue Products Are More Efficient

RH Peterson, a manufacturer of outdoor kitchen appliances based in City of Industry, California, is also working to make its products more energy efficient with reduced environmental impact. The company is concerned about how changes in climate and regulatory action will affect their business outlook, which is currently positive.

“Our products are extremely weather dependent,” said Jerry Scott, senior vice president of Sales for RH Peterson. “A late spring or summer season can affect the sales of outdoor products, as can extreme weather events, such as storms and heavy rains.”

Changing regulatory oversight concerns RH Peterson, along with other companies in the barbecue and hearth industries. While federal environmental regulators have been reviewing and rolling back environmental regulations, state agencies have taken on a more proactive role. Increased regulatory activities at state levels are particularly evident in RH Peterson’s backyard of California and Washington state.

“One of the greatest concerns of manufacturers is the possibility of multiple standards that vary by state and country,” Scott said. “With a federal standard at least there would be some consistency. If regulations vary by each state, and are also different in Canada and other export markets, manufacturers could be faced with a situation of having to modify products for each individual market.”

Scott says the industry wants to work with regulators, both at the federal and state levels, in the best interest of consumers.

“Our industry has been working to create more efficient fire products for many years, which is in our own best interest and in the best interests of our customers,” he said. “We want regulators to understand that we want more efficient and cleaner-burning products and that we are in no way anti-environment. Our industry is trying to work with regulatory agencies in a way that consumers continue to have choices in the products they buy – products that they need and can enjoy.”

While regulators debate environmental standards, demand for products such as those from RH Peterson continues to increase each year, all based on the use of natural gas.

“Outdoor living has been a huge consumer trend for many years,” Scott said. “People don’t want just a grill outside, but an outdoor kitchen that is by all intents and purposes an extension of their indoor living spaces. For homebuilders, one of the top features that consumers are looking for are outdoor spaces.”

Fire features inside the home are equally popular, with fireplaces evolving from heat appliances to central interior design features. RH Peterson provides gas inserts that are incorporated into these features with a movement away from wood-burning to natural gas, which consumers see as cleaner-burning and easier to manage than cutting firewood. Some regulators are also discouraging new wood-burning appliances.

“Fireplaces bring people together in social settings,” Scott said. “There are a lot of intrinsic human values associated with fire products. It’s a place and time where two-career parents and their kids can share a moment together.”

Interconnected Impacts – Climate Change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the nation’s borders. The full extent of Climate Change risks to interconnected systems, many of which span regional and national boundaries, is often greater than the sum of risks to individual sectors.

Water – The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by Climate Change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment. Rising air and water temperatures and changes in precipitation are intensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, reducing snowpack, and causing declines in surface water quality, with varying impacts across regions. Future warming will add to the stress on water supplies and adversely impact the availability of water in parts of the United States.

Manufacturers Are Challenged by Fragmented Climate Change Response

Glen Spinelli, president of Regency Fireplace Products in Delta, British Columbia, is concerned by the fragmented approach that is occurring within regulatory oversight of the hearth industry, yet he remains optimistic for how manufacturers and retailers can continue in leadership roles in meeting the needs of homeowners within a changing global climate.

“Each level of government – state, provincial, municipal – is aiming to tackle global warming and pollution,” he said. “Legislative reforms are projected to continue and are impacting how manufacturers design their products in a rapidly evolving and fragmented regulatory environment. We welcome opportunities to work alongside legislators in following an informed process for creating progressive environmental laws.”

Spinelli believes that the hearth industry has a responsibility to develop highly-efficient zone heating appliances that contribute to the increased efficiency and insulation of homes, reducing both the impact on the environment and on homeowners’ wallets. In his view, the industry has been a leader in adopting environmentally-friendly processes and designing appliances for maximum heating efficiency.

“Regency is a proud proponent of the environment and strives to ensure that our manufacturing processes are as environmentally responsible as they can be,” he said. “With all of our products manufactured in North America, we adhere to some of the most stringent environmental laws in the world. Our company is also seeking to reduce waste from manufacturing facilities and corporate offices. We are making great strides with moving toward paperless manufacturing and have a full recycling program in place for any waste from manufacturing.

“Regency is creating the cleanest-burning stoves it has ever created, not only meeting, but in most cases exceeding, government requirements,” he continued. “Our units are available with electronic ignitions as well as seven-day pilot-light timers to reduce gas consumption during periods when the fireplace is not in use. We are also promoting environmental stewardship by encouraging our employees to volunteer for shoreline clean-ups with the company donating the time for employees to take on this initiative.”

Manufacturers and retailers have opportunities to promote environmental stewardship, Spinelli said.

“Consumer education is extremely important to ensure that homeowners are knowledgeable about how to load, light, and maintain a wood fire to both improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions,” he said. “As with every other appliance, getting the maximum efficiency relies upon ensuring that the unit is in good working order through a program of routine maintenance and service. Retailers are in a great position to offer such services to ensure homeowners are getting optimal heating and emissions performance from their units.”

While fragmented regulatory oversight is presenting a challenge to the industry, Spinelli is optimistic for the future given market demand.

“Hearth products remain a highly sought-after feature and continue to increase both the value and aesthetic of a home with one of the highest returns on investment of any home improvement,” he said. “As homeowners update and improve the heating efficiency of their homes, new gas and wood fireplaces create an opportunity to lower heating costs with zone heating and the potential to reduce reliance on more costly heating sources such as oil or electric heating.”

Prolonged hot, dry weather results in poorly developed cornstalks on a farm in Wisconsin.

Regulators Target Wood-Burning; Is Natural Gas Next?

Driven by concerns for Climate Change, the regulatory landscape for fireplaces is fragmented and confusing, with considerable activity, but little consensus. Wood-burning fireplaces have been a flash point of regulators, and there is also growing concern that natural gas could be ostracized as greenhouse gas emitting.

“The New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) coming into effect May 15, 2020 has generated a lot of confusion, concern, and uncertainty especially at the retail level,” said Dana Moroz, Technical Support manager for Napoleon.

The NSPS has already changed the purchasing strategies of retailers and distributors, resulting in manufacturers carrying the majority of the hearth season inventory rather than it being spread out through booking programs, according to Moroz.

“There are good arguments to support wood-burning as being carbon neutral, so this new rule should have little impact,” he said. “We have yet to see what impact the Climate Change issue will have on gas hearth and barbecue appliances.”

While wood-burning fireplaces have been the focus of regulators, there are also efforts underway to address natural gas as a greenhouse gas emission. Moroz is concerned that regulators fail to understand that gas fireplaces are often aesthetic rather than heat generating, which makes their approach focused on heating efficiency misguided.

“Without natural gas, the future of fireplaces and barbecues is pretty bleak, but here again, regulators haven’t thought this through,” he said. “The ultimate question is whether consumers will accept living in an area where they are prohibited from enjoying a gas hearth or barbecue appliance. Certainly the transition of consumers from gasoline to electric vehicles is making slow progress, with many consumers still favoring larger-sized gasoline engines. Consumers may simply choose not to live in areas where these products (natural gas) are unavailable.”

Health – Impacts from Climate Change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable. Populations including older adults, children, low-income communities, and some communities of color are often disproportionately affected by, and less resilient to, the health impacts of Climate Change.

Napoleon is taking numerous steps to make its product offerings more energy efficient, including phasing out standing or continuously-burning pilot lights. Other climate-based strategies by Napoleon include providing information to regulatory agencies and continual product innovation.

“With today’s technology, phasing out the continuous pilot is a natural solution. To support our dealer network in the transition from standing pilots we have intensified our dealer training program,” he said. “We also work closely with regulators to ensure that they understand the hearth category before they implement requirements. At the same time, we continue to update and broaden the number of our electric hearth products with innovations that support the push away from fossil fuels. Finally, we are developing some exciting new product innovations to address these concerns, but it’s too early to unveil them.”

Everyone involved in the fireplace and barbecue industries has a stake in the outcome of regulatory responses to global warming and Climate Change. Moroz encourages all segments of the industry, particularly consumer-facing retailers, to remain informed and proactive.

“We encourage retailers to understand the issues and be able to provide consumers with the facts,” he said. “With all of the media coverage, there are bound to be misconceptions and the retailers who can help to dispel these misconceptions will be the ones who make the sale. It’s also essential for retailers to embrace technological changes such as the transition from standing pilots to electronic ignition systems.”

Despite regulatory uncertainty, Moroz remains optimistic for the outlook in fireplace and barbecue products given consumer demand.

“We are concerned with the environmental legacy that we will leave for our children, and support initiatives that make sense in reducing greenhouse gases,” he said. “We also recognize the political motivations that regulators are driven by, and we hope our industry can continue to help the regulators navigate this issue so that it continues to flourish with consumers enjoying the benefits of gas hearth products and barbecues for many generations to come.”

Moroz adds: “The market for hearth and barbecue products will continue to be robust. While the aesthetic values and product expectations of the younger generation have and will continue to change, our products will evolve with them to satisfy their values and exceed their expectations.”

A marine biologist surveys a coral reef bleached by global warming.

Due to ongoing and potential loss of their habitat, polar bears are a threatened species.

Hearth Industry Advocates “Common Sense” Climate Change Solutions

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) is the North American industry association for all types of fireplaces, stoves, heaters, barbecues, and outdoor living appliances and accessories. It provides professional member services and industry support in government relations, including issues related to the environment, such as Climate Change and global warming.

“Right now we are seeing an increase in state-level regulation of gas hearth appliances,” said Jack Goldman, president and CEO of the HPBA. “This is due to the decision by the current administration to not move forward with regulating, so some states and cities are deciding to do that on their own. This is a concern for us because we certainly don’t want our industry to face multiple different regulations from different regions.

“We are doing everything we can to be a part of the discussion at the state levels in the U.S. – and at the provincial level in Canada – to encourage the use of common sense, whether it’s in the decision to regulate at all or at least to be sensible with regulations,” Goldman said. “We also are encouraging these different state and provincial regulatory authorities to always take into consideration what is already being done in other regions. And finally, our role is to simply call attention to the true cost of these regulations. Sometimes something might be proposed that seems relatively benign to the average person, but it could actually change their lifestyle or incur costs far more than they realize.”

In terms of responses to environmental concerns, the HPBA has been supportive of a movement to replace wood-burning products with cleaner-burning models that have less of an environmental impact.

“We’ve been strong proponents of wood stove change-outs for decades and think that those programs should be expanded even further. These efforts have long preceded a serious Climate Change discussion,” Goldman said. “Changing out an old wood stove for an EPA-certified version can sharply reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of a household. This leads to cleaner air for everyone while still allowing consumers to enjoy the benefits of wood-burning in their homes. We’ve also been encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be smart about its coming new NSPS and give the industry time to adapt, design, and test so that consumers will still have plenty of environmentally-positive choices at many price points.”

Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services – Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by Climate Change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes. Many benefits provided by ecosystems and the environment, such as clean air and water, protection from coastal flooding, wood and fiber, crop pollination, hunting and fishing, tourism, cultural identities, and more will continue to be degraded by the impacts of Climate Change.

Infrastructure – Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, Climate Change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being. Climate Change and extreme weather events are expected to increasingly disrupt our nation’s energy and transportation systems, threatening more frequent and longer-lasting power outages, fuel shortages, and service disruptions, with cascading impacts on other critical sectors.

While the debate over global warming and Climate Change continues as a central focus in political debates, the HPBA is focused on helping ensure the continued success of its members, including manufacturers and retailers, in addressing changing requirements.

“We don’t take a position on the policy and politics of Climate Change, so our actions are mostly related to defending the ability of our members to manufacture and sell the types of appliances that consumers would like to use in their homes, while always working to improve the technology that makes these products work even better,” Goldman said.

“In addition, we are joining an interesting conversation with players in the gas industry about the use of renewable natural gas as a bridge fuel,” he continued. “Currently, this only refers to methane from landfills and dairies, but some large gas utilities are conserving and creating hydrogen with excess solar energy and then mixing it into the gas supply to lower the total carbon content. This is only in the discussion stage but we will continue to monitor developments.”

With the HPBA in a leadership role as an industry spokesperson, Goldman sees an important role for each of its members concerning all environmental issues, including those related to Climate Change.

“Manufacturers and retailers can respond by emphasizing the benefits of their products,” he said. “All of our member manufacturers remain very nimble and very committed to creating innovative products. As an example, only a few years ago many assumed that electric fireplaces and electric barbecues would never be optimized enough to grab any market share. In the last 10 years we’ve seen good progress in both of those areas, driven by small, aggressive, results-focused companies. The gas- and wood-burning appliance manufacturers are also always innovating and creating. HPBExpo tends to be the place where those innovations first appear.”

Goldman is optimistic for the future of the hearth, barbecue, and patio markets, and anticipates products for those markets will continue to evolve over coming years.

“There will always be a market for hearth products, but we have to be smart about planning for the future. That market may look very different,” he said. “Natural gas appliances are an important bridge technology that can help ease us to a future with less carbon, and wood-burning appliances fill an important need in many regions of the country. It’s in everybody’s interest to keep these appliances available and make them as clean-burning as possible.”

Indigenous Peoples – Climate Change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems. Many Indigenous peoples are reliant on natural resources for their economic, cultural, and physical well-being and are often uniquely affected by Climate Change. The impacts of Climate Change on water, land, coastal areas, and other natural resources, as well as infrastructure and related services, are expected to increasingly disrupt Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies, including agriculture and agroforestry, fishing, recreation, and tourism.

Agriculture – Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability. While some regions (such as the Northern Great Plains) may see conditions conducive to expanded or alternative crop productivity over the next few decades, overall, yields from major U.S. crops are expected to decline as a consequence of increases in temperatures and possibly changes in water availability, soil erosion, and disease and pest outbreaks.

Transforming Manure and Food Wastes into Renewable Energy

A covered lagoon manure digester on Van Warmerdam Dairy in Galt, California.

One of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy are manure and food wastes that create methane for pumping directly into natural gas pipelines, according to a recent article in “Yale E360,” an online publication from Yale University dedicated to environmental reporting.

“Biogas has been around for a long time in the United States, mainly in the form of rudimentary systems that either capture methane from landfills and sewage treatment plants and use it to produce small amounts of electricity, or aging digesters at dairy operations that might power a local farm and send some surplus power to the grid,” according to an article by Jonathan Mingle, a freelance journalist who focuses on the environment, climate, and development issues.

“But those (rudimentary systems) are fast becoming outdated and out-produced by a new wave of large-scale renewable natural gas (RNG) projects that are springing up around the country. These ventures are tapping into heretofore unexploited sources of energy: Some are capturing the vast amounts of methane generated by manure from some of the 2,300 hog farms that dot eastern North Carolina; some are building biodigesters to turn clusters of large California dairy farms into energy hubs; and some are seeking to divert food waste from landfills and transform it into vehicle and heating fuels.”

A growing number of private companies are driving the increased development of renewable natural gas, relieving farmers, landfills, and others of this highly technical area that is evolving with new forms of technology. Rather than focusing on using gas to generate electricity, these new facilities are creating methane that can be added to natural gas pipelines.

“The untapped potential – especially of the billions of gallons of animal manure and millions of tons of food waste generated each year in the U.S. – is immense,” Mingle reports.

“According to a 2014 ‘Biogas Opportunities Roadmap’ report produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy, the U.S. could support at least 13,000 biogas facilities, fed by manure, landfill gas, and biosolids from sewage treatment plants. Those new systems could produce 654 billion cu. ft. of biogas per year – enough renewable energy to power 3 million homes. A study by the World Resources Institute estimated that the 50 million tons of organic waste sent to landfills or incinerated every year in the U.S has the energy content of 6 billion gallons of diesel fuel, 15% of all diesel consumed by heavy-duty trucks and buses.”

In addition to the entry of private companies into renewable natural gas, several other factors are in play.

“Some states, including California, are passing laws requiring the development of renewable natural gas,” Mingle writes, “and utilities across the country are starting to support these new initiatives…For proponents, the ultimate goal is to replace a significant portion of the fossil-derived natural gas streaming through U.S. pipelines with pure methane generated by human garbage, and animal and agricultural waste.”

According to the article in “Yale E360,” efforts to create renewable natural gas are much further advanced in Europe than in the U.S.

“In the field of renewable natural gas, the U.S. is playing catch up with Europe, which has more than 17,400 biogas plants and accounts for two-thirds of the world’s 15 gigawatts of biogas electricity capacity.

Denmark alone, a country of 5.8 million people, has more than 160 biogas systems. For a period last summer, 18% of the gas consumed in Denmark came from RNG produced by its anaerobic digesters. Flush with their success, Danish bioenergy firms estimate it will be feasible to fully replace the country’s natural gas with renewable natural gas within 20 years.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Water fills the fields after a levee breaks in Pacific Junction, Iowa, causing a grain silo to burst.

Climate Change Is Double-Edged for Shade Products

For manufacturers and retailers of shade products, global warming is currently a positive. With higher temperatures, people are seeking ways to stay cooler while enjoying outdoor spaces. At the same time, there is increasing recognition that shade frames, fabrics, furnishings, and other components of outdoor living must be even more rigorously designed and manufactured given extreme weather events. This recognition bodes well for value-added products featured by specialty retailers.

But as with many aspects of Climate Change, there is a double-edged sword in the works, according to Marc Kaufer, president of Frankford Umbrellas of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.

“Although Frankford could certainly comment that global Climate Change has helped us due to higher temps which sometimes result in more sunny days and the need for more shade, that is only part of the story,” Kaufer said. “Global Climate Change has also resulted in more severe weather around the country, which has resulted in more unpredictability with the weather which has not helped sales. I don’t believe we’ve had a normal summer or spring in the Northeast in the last several years. Temperature and weather have been all over the place.”

Frankford has continued to enjoy strong demand for its products from hotels and resorts, long the core of the business. The company is also growing in residential markets with sales to consumers increasing by 40% annually. Because of its emphasis on performance fabrics and engineered frames that can withstand extreme weather, Frankford sees its products as part of the solution to challenges brought on by Climate Change.

“We feel that manufacturing high-quality umbrellas with fabrics that don’t fade and disintegrate results in keeping fewer low-cost commodity umbrellas out of landfills,” he said. “We have recently been working with a giant beverage manufacturer and several restaurant chains that used to purchase thousands of low-quality umbrellas each year, but now purchase only a few hundred from us because they don’t have to replace them year-after-year.”

Concerns for the climate are not only reflected in Frankford’s product design and manufacturing, but also in how it manages operations.

“Frankford’s Green initiatives have us recycling all vinyl, paper, and cardboard,” Kaufer said. “In addition, all of our lighting is motion-sensing in our 53,000 sq. ft. facility to cut down on energy usage that has been reduced by more than 30% in the last two years. We are also in negotiations for full solar panels on our building in the coming year. This is our attempt to reduce our carbon footprint, help the environment, and do more to prevent global Climate Change.”

Oceans and Coasts – Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of Climate Change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values. Rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, retreating arctic sea ice, sea level rise, high-tide flooding, coastal erosion, higher storm surge, and heavier precipitation events threaten our oceans and coasts.

Tourism and Recreation – Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of Climate Change in many ways. Climate Change poses risks to seasonal and outdoor economies in communities across the United States, including impacts on economies centered around coral reef-based recreation, winter recreation, and inland water-based recreation. In turn, this affects the well-being of the people who make their living supporting these economies, including rural, coastal, and Indigenous communities.

Click here to read the full report.

Gary Ecoff, president of Bambrella USA of Deerfield Beach, Florida, agrees that global warming and Climate Change are a mixed bag for the makers and retailers of shade products. While people are increasingly aware of the dangers of UV rays and are seeking comfort from extreme heat, there is also the likelihood that “nice days” outdoor will be disrupted by extreme weather events.

“Certainly shade products are becoming more important and are on the radar of our customers (consumers, retailers, and commercial properties),” Ecoff said. “One example is the number of our commercial customers (hotels, resorts and country clubs) with kiddie pools that are asking for solutions to shade these areas because parents are more keenly aware of skin cancer issues and the amount of time their kids spend in these pools.

“We also are receiving more questions regarding SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ratings in general because of shade needs being a more top of mind issue,” Ecoff continued. “While concerns over sun protection are not a direct result of Climate Change, it’s all part and parcel of the same issue. As it gets hotter people want to make sure they have shade options available, especially commercial properties, both for practicality and as an amenity.”

The impact of global warming and Climate Change is varying around the world, which is also having an impact on the demand for shade products, Ecoff said. As an example, Australia has been an epicenter for extreme heat, making it virtually impossible to sit outside without shading when temperatures rise well above 100° F. These extreme heat events have resulted in high demand for shade products from the Bambrella subsidiary located there.

In addition to providing shade solutions, companies such as Bambrella are also emphasizing environmental stewardship in the design and manufacture of their products, which can help to reduce greenhouse gases. The frames for Bambrella umbrellas are manufactured using bamboo as a sustainable material that is also extremely strong and durable, capable of withstanding extremes in weather.

“Bamboo used to produce natural Bambrella collections is some of the most carbon dioxide absorbing plants that exist on the planet,” he said. “This sustainable material is actually a grass not a tree, so when you cut one down six more grow in its place. In effect, bamboo is a self-sustaining material.”

Italian ski resort with artificial snow due to high temperatures and lack of snowfall.

Climate Change and Hearth, Barbecue, and Patio Markets

Global warming and accompanying Climate Change are affecting the hearth, barbecue, and patio markets in a number of different ways. The most immediate and visible impact for the hearth and barbecue industries is increased environmental regulation that is, unfortunately, often fragmented and presents challenges for designing products marketed over broad geographic regions. Individual manufacturers and trade associations, such as the HPBA, are actively involved in encouraging a cohesive and informed process.

On the positive side, consumer demand within hearth, barbecue, and patio markets has never been stronger. Homeowners are investing in elaborate outdoor spaces that are extensions of designs from inside the home, and interior fireplaces are increasingly viewed as both heating appliances and part of elegant décor.

Shade products are seen as essential to enjoying outdoor spaces as average temperatures continue to increase. Each of these industry segments is meeting consumer demand with products that are increasingly efficient and durable, enhancing the enjoyment of time with friends and family. Manufacturing companies have also adopted processes that reduce energy consumption and recycle wastes.

The long-term outlook on Climate Change is a mixed bag. Many local, state, and provincial governments and private industries are at the forefront of taking steps to reduce carbon emissions. While each of these actions is to be applauded, the lack of broader actions against Climate Change, particularly within the current U.S. administration and internationally, does not bode well for reducing greenhouse gases on a level that the scientific community advocates.

It’s essential that the women and men of the hearth, barbecue, and patio industries continue to stay informed concerning Climate Change and advocate for policies, products, and processes that can help sustain the quality of life now enjoyed throughout many parts of the world. Climate Change is inevitable, but through individual action and civic will, humankind can channel its efforts for a sustainable world yet to come.

Hearth & Home Readers Weigh in on Climate Change

As part of our coverage of Climate Change, we conducted a survey of Hearth & Home’s retail readers; we received nearly 200 usable responses. Below is a detailed summary of how the hearth, barbecue, and patio industries view Climate Change.

Overall View of Climate Change


The weather is constantly changing, which is just part of nature, and Climate Change is nothing new and is being overblown by the news media and some politicians.


Climate Change is being driven by human activities on earth and is an immediate threat to the environment and our way of life.


Climate Change is occurring, but we are not sure why the changes are taking place and, in any case, it won’t be a real issue for another 50 to 75 years.

Climate Change Effects on the Outdoor Products Industries


I don’t think Climate Change will have any effect at all on the hearth, barbecue, and patio markets.


Climate Change will have a negative impact on the outdoor products industries because, with weather extremes, people will spend less time outdoors.


Climate Change will actually be a positive for hearth, barbecue, and patio markets because the weather will be warmer for longer periods of time.

Climate Change Effects on the Purchase of Green Products


Consumers are not motivated at all by the environmental features of the products they purchase; price is the primary factor, followed by design and quality.


All things being equal (price, quality, design) the Green positioning of a product can be a deciding factor in which products a customer purchases.


Consumers are insisting that the products they buy have a minimal impact on the environment and are willing to pay up to 20% more on products that are environmentally friendly.

Customer Perceptions of Climate Change and Their Buying Habits


Climate Change never comes up when I’m working with customers. As always, they simply want to have comfort and style in their outdoor spaces as they extend the seasons.


Customers are aware of Climate Change and are looking more than ever for products, such as shade, hearth, and barbecue, to help them enjoy the outdoors even with weather extremes.


Customers are aware of Climate Change and are more motivated today to purchase shade products because they are aware of new extremes in heat.

Hearth & Home Readers Speak Out on Climate Change

As part of the Retailer Survey on Climate Change, we invited readers to share their opinions, and they certainly didn’t hold anything back.

We received numerous comments that Climate Change is simply part of nature and the issue has been politicized for personal gain. Many others expressed concern over the prospect of increased governmental regulation in the hearth and barbecue categories. Still others expressed concern over how the climate is changing and its effects on humans, but advocated for intelligent and balanced solutions.

Here are some of the comments we received:


Connecticut: “To me, Climate Change is directly affected by the pollution and emissions that humans create. Mother Nature can only absorb so much. When we learn to clean up our mess and start using recyclable products that are carbon neutral, we stand a real chance of surviving another 100+ years as a species. That is, if we can first learn to coexist, which is probably more of an immediate concern than Climate Change.”

Delaware: “Delaware has been one of the highest above-temperature states in the nation, and we definitely have seen sales drop in the hearth business because of it.”

Maine: “Delays due to severe weather have had a significant impact on our work schedule. With nearly 20 inches of rain in four months, weather delays have cost us time and money.”

Pennsylvania: “Climate Change is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the public.”

Pennsylvania: “My only real concern right now is the government stepping in and restricting our product sales for indoor and outdoor products. They could go after our smokers as well as non-EPA outdoor fireplaces.”

Pennsylvania: “Anything you can do to bring awareness to this issue is appreciated. In Lancaster, we have more insects and our summers are becoming too hot, thus my pessimistic view of the potential impact on business. I should also add that some customers seem to like the extended warm weather, so one could argue the customers you lose due to the intense heat you will gain due to the extended season. Whatever you do, do not Green-wash this issue or minimize its significance on generations to come.”

Climate Change Effects on Recent and Current Sales


Climate Change has had no effect on recent or current sales.


Climate Change has had a negative effect on sales.


Climate Change has had a positive effect on sales.

Climate Change Effects on You and Your Family


I’m slightly concerned about Climate Change, but other issues (healthcare, the federal debt, immigration) are likely to have greater impacts on our lives.


I’m not concerned at all about the impact of Climate Change on me and my family; everyone will be just fine, as people have been for millions of years.


I’m very worried about Climate Change because I believe it will affect my generation and generations to come; I support policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gases.


Georgia: “Climate Change…we call it weather.”

Tennessee: “The most concern regarding Climate Change is the impact of the ridiculous regulations we are going to see, including the potential banning of hearth products.”

Texas: “Regardless of the politics of Climate Change, I would think that air pollution and brown haze is bad for us personally and for outdoor living, whether it causes long-term weather changes or not.”


Minnesota: “The question on how Climate Change will affect our business was hard to answer in the multiple choices available. I answered no change to all of them, but it does affect customer choices. These choices sometimes have positive and sometimes negative sales results. Overall they can cancel each other out, but it does pay for us to be on our toes with the product choices we offer and to be able to explain and fit these products into the changing climate.”

Wisconsin: “I believe that Climate Change cannot be addressed by America, Canada and other progressive countries alone. Third World countries need to be on board with this, too. I also believe there is a weather pattern that simply happens.”

Wisconsin: “My feelings are that Earth has been changing since the beginning of time and will continue to do so regardless of what we do as humans. That being said, it would be stupid to keep polluting our atmosphere because (we) don’t believe it will have an adverse effect. I think that keeping our air clean and our oceans free of debris is very necessary and all countries need to respect what we have. Scientific data that has not been paid for by a political party for their gain (with a) pre-specified outcome has shown that we are changing due to natural events in the atmosphere and changes in rotational and meteorological effects on our planet. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and forest fires have a far greater effect on our weather than we do. Again, not saying we should be careless and pollute, but go about taking care of how we live in an intelligent manner.”


California: “Climate Change is real. I’m not a Trumper. Efficiency standards are important. Coal is bad.”

California: “Being from California, I can say that state regulations are having more of an effect on consumer choices than anything else.”

California: “Greenhouse gas reduction policies are the real issue. Our town has a stated goal of 80% reduction in 20 years and 100% reduction (elimination!) of greenhouse gases in 30 years. This will affect our business dramatically (both good and bad).”

Colorado: “Climate Change needs to be addressed. The term “Green” has almost become a dirty word. We need to market Climate Change for what it is, and that our industry is concerned and making progressive changes to reduce our impact on current and future generations – that we are not leaving our descendants a cesspool to live in.”

Idaho: “Humans produce less than half of 1% of the CO2 on the planet. I don’t think we were responsible for the last ice age either.”

Oregon: “While the industry likes to deny it as these sales are very profitable, it is my opinion that outdoor gas heaters, fire pits and other gas display features are contributors to global warming not only by emitting CO2 and the associated gas leaks that occur through their use, but also the plain heat they produce that simply vanishes into the atmosphere. They should all be outlawed. Only regenerative sources should be allowed for these displays. I am aware that that goes against the ‘convenience mentality’ but that is exactly the point. The danger we are facing is for a large part driven by convenience and wants, not the necessity for careful use of energy.”

Washington: “I do believe Climate Change is real, but I don’t think it’s all on humans. I think the earth has gone through these changes for millions of years. I feel the United States is always held more accountable for these problems, but there is a whole world of countries that haven’t done anything to help reduce gases, if it actually has anything to do with Climate Change. In the ’70s they said our ozone was disappearing due to aerosol cans. Aerosol cans are still available and yet they have said the ozone has repaired itself and we hear nothing today.”


New Brunswick: “We need to push our politicians and policy makers to regulate the use of plastics and all oil-based products that are not biodegradable.”

Ontario: “We have delayed our response to Climate Change for too long. The focus has been on quarterly profit as opposed to the long-term viability of our industry. Since we have not been proactive, (we can) expect to see strong oversight that curtails our design freedoms in the next 10 years. Most gas products will be curtailed. No amount of lobbying will get us out of the hole we dug. If our industry does not promote real Climate Change alternatives, we will implode.”

Ontario: “In terms of the effects of Climate Change on sales, I can report no effect. But consumer questions and thought processes are changing a lot. Most people are talking about how heat, rain, storms, and power could change their lives. They are looking to be off-grid more often now, or at least ready for the shutdown of resources.”

Québec: “My biggest concerns are about gas fireplaces because they burn fossil fuels. Most cities are working toward a zero-carbon-emission program by 2050. I fear gas appliances have an expiration date on them. Wood is a product of the future because it is renewable energy.”

Saskatchewan: “It’s my opinion that we should pay attention to the climate and make any improvements that we can. However, we need to keep in mind that at least some of this is likely natural. We would still have dinosaurs running around if Climate Change had not occurred in the past. We’re all aware of the Ice Age. Some of this will be natural cycles while information on others continues to be learned, e.g. the hole in the ozone.”

More Stories in this Issue

Perspective: Shocked!

What a surprise – shocked may be a better word – it was when results came in from a retailer survey we conducted in August of 2019.

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Nothing’s Impossible

By Richard Wright

Laid off in 2009, Ross Morrison and three friends formed a company – Stellar Hearth – and now are doing what they love, and what they do best.

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Its Time Has Come!

By Bill Sendelback

Electric Fireplace sales are now moving well through the specialty hearth retail network, and the market for those products is enormous.

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Modesty, Honor, Integrity

By Richard Wright

As Janet Wansor reluctantly leaves her position at Jensen Leisure Furniture, she reflects on the past 28 years, her successes, and most importantly, the people she has met along the way.

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That First Taste!

By Lisa Readie Mayer

Your customers may begin with gas, but chances are they will graduate to kamados, smokers, or charcoal grills.

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The Family Torch

By Bill Sendelback

A second generation of Shimeks stays mainly with hearth products, but this time it’s primarily for the outdoors.

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2019 November Business Climate

In early December, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare November 2019 sales to November 2018. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 194 usable returns.

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