A Five-Step Plan for Lower HERS Scores

An owner and builder team up to achieve remarkable energy performance with spray-foam insulation and a suite of propane appliances.

When John Cadenhead, president of Gas-Tex Energy, set out with Mishler Builders to construct his home in Hunt County, Texas, he was resolute about two things.

"We wanted to be energy-efficient, and we wanted everything to be gas," Cadenhead says. Propane met his needs on both counts, and it also helped him reach a remarkable achievement: a projected rating of 51 on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index.

The 3,500-square-foot home, located 35 miles east of Dallas, follows the five-point model provided by the Propane Energy Pod by using propane to fuel the home's five key areas of energy use — space heating, water heating, cooking, fireplaces, and clothes drying. And it even surpasses that model by employing two Pod PLUS outdoor propane applications: an outdoor grill and a standby generator. (To learn about Propane Energy Pod homes in more depth, check out An Energy and Environmental Analysis of Propane Energy Pod Homes at the Propane Training Academy.)


Cadenhead's home is projected to be 49 percent more efficient than a standard new home built to code.

Building the home to the Pod model allows Cadenhead to maximize the home's efficiency, performance, and comfort while reducing carbon emissions. And propane heating and appliances were just part of the home's sophisticated energy-saving strategy. Cadenhead, who also owns a spray-foam insulation business, fully sealed the home's interior and exterior walls and roof deck with foam insulation to reduce both energy costs and the amount of equipment needed to heat and cool the home. With the insulation in place, the home requires only one heating and air-conditioning system with a floor plan that normally would have required three units.

"Even though it's more expensive, we're going to have a better-sealed home, and we're saving the cost of two additional HVAC units," says Mike Mishler of Mishler Builders. "The home's energy costs will be approximately half what they would have been if we had used conventional insulation."

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The Propane Interactive Training Module allows you to:

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The projected HERS Index rating of 51 provides evidence to justify Cadenhead and Mishler's strategy. The energy-efficiency score, which is administered by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a market for home energy ratings, measures the home's energy performance against a reference home. A home built to the specifications of the HERS Reference Home gets a HERS Index score of 100, while a net-zero-energy home gets a HERS Index score of 0. Each one-point decrease in the HERS Index score corresponds to a 1 percent reduction in energy consumption: A score of 51 indicates the home is 49 percent more efficient than a standard new home built to code.

Though the home was still undergoing some finishing touches as of this writing, the report from energy rater Eric L. Davis Engineering projects that its energy-saving features will save the owner $1,154 and 8.1 tons of CO2 annually compared with a standard home.


Cadenhead is protecting his home from power outages with a propane-fueled standby generator.

Beyond just enjoying cost savings on their utility bill, using propane allowed Cadenhead and his wife to achieve several of the custom and convenient features they desired in their home. His wife, for instance, prefers the instant-on convenience of a large, propane-fueled stovetop, and Cadenhead prefers the real flame of a gas fireplace to electric alternatives. The warm heat of a gas furnace was also an important advantage over using a heat pump, Cadenhead says. In fact, many of his Texas customers who have heat pumps utilize propane backup heat for when the weather drops below 40 degrees.

Building professionals like Mike Mishler are successfully applying the Propane Energy Pod concepts in homes and developments across the country to improve the performance and comfort of their projects. Check out our Propane Energy Pod brochure to see more real-world success stories from builders who are integrating Pod principles into their projects and getting the energy performance to prove it.


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