In Connecticut, an "Attainable Sustainable" Home Wins Big

Propane plays a prominent role in making the Greenbrier a high-performance prototype.

When Connecticut developer James Pepitone, founder of Ark Ventures LLC, set out to build the first of 14 "attainable sustainable" homes in Oakdale, Conn., he had expert technical advisers, encouragement from the Department of Energy's Building America program, and a rich variety of energy-efficient systems and appliances to choose from. He is most proud that this "special house," only the second home in the country to earn Emerald certification from the NAHB's green building program and a Building America prototype, eschewed a complicated—and expensive—heating plan in favor of a simple yet efficient dual-fuel system.

"I'm really proud of the fact that we did not go geothermal," says Pepitone. "Betsy Pettit, president of Building Science Corp., our partner in this project, and I really believe that in a northern cold climate the most energy efficient and reliable system is a dual-fuel air source heat pump (ASHP). Heat pumps are efficient down to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets colder we have a great York 98-percent efficient propane furnace that kicks in. It's a wonderful, simple piece of equipment."

Propane factors prominently throughout the 2,700-square-foot model for the Homes at Greenbrier in Oakdale, an area that's within commuting distance of Manhattan. In addition to the dual-fuel heating system, propane is the energy source for a 92-percent efficient, 21,000 Btu condensing fireplace that can heat the entire home if necessary. Other propane applications include a Rinnai on-demand tankless water heater, a gas cooktop, and a propane line that runs to the deck so a homeowner can later install everything from a built-in gas grill to a fire pit.

Pepitone has some good advice for anyone wanting to build a super energy-efficient home. "Don't put the renewables first," he says. "If you build an energy-efficient, reasonably sized home you'll find that your need for expensive renewables isn't there. Don't start with the fact that you're going to spend a lot of money on geothermal or photovoltaics. Put the money into the house with triple-glazed windows, insulation, and air sealing."

For more information and free online training courses on how to incorporate propane into building and remodeling projects, check out the new Propane Training Academy. The topics mentioned in this article are explored in the following courses:

Go Green with Propane A Comparative Analysis of Residential Heating Systems

Condensing Tankless Water Heaters

Expanding Outdoor Living


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