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Four considerations for remodeling with propane

Don't let proximity to the gas grid determine the comfort and efficiency upgrades you can offer your clients.

By Hallie Busta

Remodeling spending is on the rise as more baby boomers look to age in place and millennials upgrade fixer-uppers to meet their first-home needs. For both these groups and other homeowners remodeling today, efficiency and economy are key.

Propane can help. In our new continuing education course, "Adding Value and Innovation to Remodeling Projects With Propane," we explore today's most common home remodeling trends and ways propane can be used to manage costs and enhance performance. In this article, we share a few takeaways from that course to help with your next propane remodel.

Aging in place doesn't get old

According to a survey of remodelers in early 2018, more clients are seeking remodeling services to make their homes better-suited to aging in place. Those accessibility-minded upgrades include adding more clearance in hallways and around corners, increasing lighting, and eliminating ground clearances in showers and doorframes. It also involves reducing maintenance needs inside and outside the home.

In areas where winter precipitation is a risk, snow and ice removal can be a useful feature. In these systems, PEX tubing laid beneath the surface is flushed with hot water to keep the ground warm. This can happen when freezing rain or snow is expected, keeping walkways safe and eliminating the need for snow removal. A propane-fueled tankless water heater can heat water on demand, ensuring homeowners still have hot water for other uses or aren't wasting money keeping a large tank warm.

"[These] systems have some really elegant controls available," said Jamie Lyons, a senior consultant at research firm Newport Partners, in a webinar covering the course. "It will only run when it makes sense and there's need for ice and snowmelt to occur."

Propane can also fuel standby generators, which can be attractive to older homeowners as well as those concerned more generally with resilience. For homeowners looking to age in place, knowing they'll have power for refrigerators where they may store medication as well as for medical devices is critical.

"There's a seamless transition," Lyons says. "Once the grid power goes down, within a few seconds, the entirety of the home is powered by the backup generators."

Neither do gas cooktops

Kitchens are "one of the most common remodeling projects," Lyons says. Appliances are a frequent upgrade. And while avid home cooks crave a gas cooktop, many aren't aware that such a feature is available off the natural gas grid. "It's important to reinforce the notion that nearly all natural gas cooking equipment can be set up to run on propane," he said. "For people in the industry, that's an obvious thing. For those not in the industry, sometimes they might miss that fact and think there's a real lack of propane-based cooking appliances available to their projects."

Propane stoves, like their natural gas counterparts, offer greater heat control than do electric options, including instant on and off functionality and the ability to turn burners up and down.

Outdoor living can be a year-round event

A new deck or patio is a major investment, especially if your homeowner wants to incorporate an outdoor kitchen or eye-catching fire pit. Propane heaters can extend the life of those spaces as the weather cools by warming the air roughly 30 degrees, Lyons says. "For a small investment in patio heaters, they're earning a greater return on investment in creating that outdoor space," he says.

Most standing heaters use typical 20-lb. propane tanks, which are easy to move and replace. Controls let users set variable rates to respond to outdoor temperatures.

Other outdoor features like fire pits and fire tables can add a bit of warmth and ambiance. For pool owners, propane-fueled pool heaters are more efficient than electric alternatives and have a higher heating rate, allowing homeowners to get more use out of their pools as well.

Line-in propane grills are also attractive. "We like to think ahead and say we can put gas in the kitchen and we can put gas out back so [customers] don't have that ‘we would like to have had,' moment," says remodeler Rick Maurer, a partner with Canyon Creek Properties in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania.

Don't hold out on hot water

The majority of remodeling projects occur in the kitchen and bathroom, where water rules. Add to that the potential for in-floor radiant heating, outdoor snow and ice melt systems, and other water-related value-adds, and the upgrades your customers are investing in could run them out of hot water.

Tankless water heaters warm water as it's needed, offering a virtually unlimited supply of hot water. "From a remodeling standpoint, one of the most important benefits of a tankless system is the high flow rate," Lyons says. In the case of a bathroom remodel, "The system can be sized to deliver a high flow rate, which can power the new shower and new tub [for example] and help deliver on the value for that bathroom."

He recommends asking homeowners about their current hot water supply before the remodel begins.

If their hot water runs out quickly and their renovation calls for the addition of the soaker tub, consider going tankless.

Tankless units are small – "picture a medium-sized suitcase," Lyons says – and can be wall mounted throughout the home. "This type of flexibility in location offers a lot of opportunities in a remodeling project."

Learn more about how propane can improve comfort and efficiency in your remodels by taking our Propane Training Academy course, "Adding Value and Innovation to Remodeling Projects With Propane."

Published July 20, 2018

 

 

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