Propane Fuels Builder's Development and 'Dream Home'

John Mostoller uses propane in his own home to provide comfortable heat and upscale cooking amenities, making it easy for him to describe the benefits of propane to his customers.

When builder and developer John Mostoller built his $2.5 million dream home outside of Philadelphia and two miles from Villanova University, he didn't think twice about using propane. After all, it was important for his home to have all of the components of comfort and luxury that his family desired.

"Those livability aspects that I keyed in on, a lot of them required propane," Mostoller, who worked for 22 years at builder NVR and now owns a land-development company, says. In fact, the home utilizes propane in the five key applications of the Propane Energy Pod model, creating a whole-home energy package that maximizes energy efficiency, performance, and comfort.

For instance, the home has three gas fireplaces, two of which are in the master bedroom and study. "The propane fireplace generates the heat in a very expeditious fashion," he says. "When I go into my study, I don't want to look at the flame; I want the heat to come off of it. I'm not going to keep that house at 73 degrees, but if I go into the study in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt in the winter time, I want to be able to flip that thing on and warm it up. Same way in the bedroom. It's nice to warm it up in the evening whenever I want to."

In the kitchen, Mostoller with his wife, an interior designer, selected a gas-fueled, double-oven Wolf range. "We love to cook," he says. "Being in the kitchen's very important to both of us. Being able to have propane for that double-oven stove was a godsend." The entertaining space continues outdoors with a stone-floored patio that looks out on 10 acres of woods and includes a masonry fireplace with a television above it and a built-in GE Monogram gas grill. "In the Mid-Atlantic, we use that grill 12 months a year," he says. "I wanted to be able to go out there and never have to move a tank."


The Mostollers' backyard patio includes a built-in propane grill and a fireplace with a television above it.

Those appliances, as well as a high-efficiency, three-zone furnace; a tankless water heater from Rinnai; and a high-efficiency Asko clothes dryer, are all fueled by a 1,000-gallon propane tank regularly refueled and serviced by the local propane retailer. Having the fuel onsite is especially nice, he says, in an area that sees frequent power outages in the wintertime. "It's nice to be able to turn those fireplaces on to cut the chill if necessary, as well as the stove," he says. "We will always have our own fuel supply there."

Because the Mostollers have spent most of their lives in the construction industry, the 10,000-square-foot house — 7,400 square feet on the top two floors and 2,500 square feet in the basement — is the culmination of decades of experience and expertise. Mostoller paid particular attention to the efficiency of the house, using blown-in insulation in all of the walls. Because of the quick and comfortable performance of the propane heating system, he's able to keep less-used rooms, like the 1,000-square-foot media room above the garage, less heated when not in use.


Mostoller says he had no worries about building his home with a propane fuel source, and that he'd likely build his next home with propane as well.

"In the winter, because of the propane heating system, I can go in there and in five minutes have that room warmed up," he says. "It balances out unbelievably quickly. I have a thermostat in that specific zone, and I keep that at 60 in the winter and 80 in the summer. I can do that because in five minutes, I can get that room acclimatized to where I want it to be."

In addition to saving energy, building the home to use propane for all five applications of the Propane Energy Pod would also improve the home's Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS) Index score and reduce its carbon emissions. According to the Propane Energy Pod Interactive Tool, a larger home in Mostoller's climate built to Pod standards would save $384 in energy costs and 4.6 metric tons of carbon emissions per year compared with a standard home. It would have a HERS score of 68, versus 81 for a standard home, indicating lower energy use. (To learn more about the Propane Energy Pod, check out An Energy and Environmental Analysis of Propane Energy Pod Homes at the Propane Training Academy.)

The Mostollers built the house in their dream location, too. While the 45-home community is centered around a clean, swimmable lake with a beach, it's only two miles from the urban area around Villanova University. The community does not have access to natural gas lines, but Mostoller had no fear of propane. "I had done numerous subdivisions with propane in my past capacity [as a builder]," he says. "I'd always had great experiences with propane, with service, with cleanliness. So building my dream house, we had open arms to accept propane as our fuel."

Propane continues to play an important role in Mostoller's business, Sextant Building and Development Solutions. He's designing a 135-lot community in Downington, Pa., with a large community propane tank system. "Propane gives me the ability to develop ground in areas where there is no natural gas, and maybe there's only electricity," he says. "It gives people the ability to have a desirable fuel to warm their house. In this market, electricity is very undesirable because of the heat pumps. In the Mid-Atlantic, where you get serious cold spells, people feel that heat pumps don't give you the warm heat." (You can learn more about community propane systems in the training course, Community Propane Systems: Economic, Environmentally Responsible Energy without Geographic Limits.)

Both for his own house and his business, Mostoller worked closely with Liberty Propane, the local propane retailer. "As I was getting into my house," he says, "I told Liberty, 'Here are my systems. This is what I want to use.' And then they helped size the tank and helped with anything I needed. If I had any issues — say the cook top gets sent out with an orifice but the plumber didn't put it in — I was able to call up the retailer. They sent a representative out and took care of any additional service."

As he continues development on the Downington community, Mostoller says the propane retailer has put a team together to design the community propane tank system and infrastructure. "That's a pretty comprehensive one-stop shop," Mostoller says, "from changing orifices out to designing a propane system for a 135-lot community."

Mostoller says living with propane will be advantageous when it comes time to sell the community to a national builder. "Because I live with propane, if there are any objections or concerns, I'm much more qualified to represent that as a very desirable fuel of choice."


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