Building Communities for Performance and Functionality
How one builder used propane to warm an active-adult community in chilly Rutland, Vt.
When Wynnmere, a 36-unit active-adult community in Rutland, Vt., was in the planning stages, the developer knew that gas fireplaces would be a featured amenity. DCF Development, an offshoot of Rutland-based Dean Davis Builders, had used them in previous projects and had a good relationship with Jim Taranovich, owner of Proctor Gas in Proctor, Vt.
"On all those gas fireplaces we used him for the propane and the product," says Rod Cioffi, managing partner for Dean Davis Builders. "That developed into gas heat, which is where he helped us a lot. With Wynnmere we were somewhat predisposed to go with propane, but talking further with Jim really sealed the deal." Back in 2004, when these discussions first took place, the price of fuel wasn't the driving issue. "Performance and functionality is what we were looking for."
Propane supplies gas energy for the homes' radiant heating systems, fireplaces, tankless water heaters, and appliances. "These homes are real tight, built to Efficiency Vermont's 5-Star energy standards," says Cioffi. "Radiant heat was part of the package so that's where it all started. Propane is the best energy source for heating water."
The 36 traditional, New England-style homes, both single-family styles and duplexes, range in size from 1,500 square feet to 2,500 square feet. Each duplex is supplied by an underground 1,000-gallon tank (with separate meters); single-family homes have 500-gallon tanks. "Landscaping around the [exposed part of] the tank was no problem," says Cioffi.
Part of the decision to go with propane had to do with space considerations and not wanting to burden homeowners with the task of maintaining masonry chimneys. (After all, the 55+ crowd was attracted to Wynnmere for its promise of "carefree" living. No shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, or calling in a chimney sweep.) "We were tired of two things," Cioffi adds. "Accommodating the oil storage tanks in the basement and putting in a flue stack. Plus, when you use radiant heat you need the modulating part of the boiler and that's difficult to do with an oil-fired system."
Interestingly, buyers had few issues with the cost or type of energy their heating systems and other features utilized. "We would give them a little preview of the heating system and how it worked and they seemed satisfied to take our judgment on that," says Cioffi. "We had really no resistance to propane at all. Once we explained its benefits it was more like, 'Gee, thank you for thinking about that.'" They were also pleased about the efficiency of propane combined with a modulating boiler. "That's a much less costly heat source for your home," Cioffi adds.
By using spray-in insulation and a high-efficiency heating system, homeowners at Wynnmere save up to 40% in energy costs when compared to conventional insulation and heating systems.
Of course, not everything using propane has to be a major application. Cioffi has found another use for propane at Wynnridge, a luxury community DCF is developing near Killington, Vt. "A house I'm doing right now will have propane gas lights on the exterior porch and along the driveway."
For more information and free online training courses on how to incorporate propane as a primary energy source in planned communities, go to the "training" section of our Web site. The topics mentioned in this article are explored in the following courses: