The Five-in-One Energy Solution

The Propane Energy Pod treats a home's five key areas of energy use as parts of an integrated package.

Increasingly, mainstream builders, remodelers, and other construction professionals are beginning to think of the home as a single performance entity, an idea that, before now, was associated only with the specialized (and relatively small) world of green building. Just like the old ditty that teaches us how the "toe bone is connected to the foot bone," real-world measurements of green performance show that a home's energy source, appliances, and level of comfort are all part of a system. That's the concept behind the Propane Energy Pod.

At its most basic level, the Propane Energy Pod is a model for home construction that treats a home's five key areas of energy use—space heating, water heating, cooking, fireplaces, and clothes drying—as parts of an integrated, whole-home energy package. This five-in-one concept reinforces the notion that a home's energy profile should be efficient at all points.

"It's an innovative way to approach the different building systems in a home by centering a number of applications around propane," says James Lyons, P.E., a research engineer with Newport Partners, a Davidsonville, Md., company that performs technical, regulatory, and market research and analysis related to the built environment. Technical information supporting the Propane Energy Pod solution is based in part on energy consumption and carbon emissions modeling and analysis performed by Newport Partners. "It lets builders and contractors tap into a suite of technologies that offers higher performance and energy efficiency as well as user benefits such as comfort and reliability."

There is empirical evidence to back up the notion that a Propane Energy Pod home performs better than a standard home. Comparing a Propane Energy Pod home to a standard home (using a 2,400-square-foot house in a cold climate as the model), Newport Partners found that the "pod" home had annual energy costs of $5,802 (versus $6,053 for a "standard" home); the average HERS Index for the "pod" home was 67 (versus 86); and annual CO2 emissions from the "pod" home measured 11.8 metric tons (versus 14.9 metric tons). Results for homes in other climate zones have also been completed.

"We did what we call an 'E&E,' an energy and environmental analysis, of these pods compared to a 'typical' set of building technologies and overlaid those scenarios in two prototype homes," says Lyons. "We used energy simulation software and different energy estimates from the Department of Energy, energy pricing from the USEIA (United States Energy Information Administration), and did lots of simulations in 16 different locations."

One especially valuable part of Newport's analysis was the generation of a HERS Index. "The HERS Index is almost like an MPG for houses," says Lyons. "Builders are using it more and more on all their homes to really try to get the point across to buyers. It's a way of saying, 'Here's where [a new home] is and here's where existing homes are.'"

Bottom line: A HERS Index score is a simple, concrete way to differentiate the benefits of new, energy-efficient homes over the plentiful re-sale stock.

At some point in the near future, new-home builders won't have much of a choice when it comes to whether they build with energy efficiency in mind or not.

"We do a lot of work with energy codes and they are getting increasingly stringent," says Lyons. "Every time they're updated the bar gets higher. [In the past] a lot of the emphasis has been on the building envelope but we anticipate more focus on mechanical equipment in the near future."

All the more reason for construction professionals to give the Propane Energy Pod a closer look.

To learn how to incorporate propane products into your next project, be sure to check out our free online CEU courses, available at the Propane Training Academy. The categories mentioned in this article are discussed in the following training courses:

Go Green with Propane: An Overview of Propane Gas Systems for Green Residential Construction

And look for a new continuing-education course on the Propane Energy Pod, which will be available at the Propane Training Academy later this summer.

Propane Energy Pod: A Five-in-One Energy Solution
Measuring Whole-Home Energy Efficiency
Propane Energy Pod: Behind the Numbers


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