For some builders, rebates are a hidden opportunity

In Texas, and across the country, incentives and rebates for energy-efficient propane appliances put cash back in builders' pockets.

Jeffrey Lee
Staff Writer

At Stylecraft Builders' Meadow Creek community, outside of College Station, Texas, including propane dryers as a standard offering earns the company a $1,500 check for each home it sells.

The cash comes courtesy of the Railroad Commission of Texas' Alternative Energy Division, which offers rebates for homes that use propane appliances. The rebates start at $150 for homes with a propane water heater, but builders can earn up to $2,000 for homes that include a full package of propane applications.

While Texas' rebate program is one of the best in the country, builders in every state have access to tax credits, rebates, and incentives from a variety of utilities, propane retailers, government agencies, and manufacturers. By stacking these incentives together, builders can tighten their purchasing budgets while pleasing customers and keeping the ownership costs of their homes to a minimum.

Built around a large community propane system, the Meadow Creek subdivision is an entry-level, first-time homebuyer community, says Brian Estlund, preconstruction manager for Stylecraft, based in College Station. Stylecraft had been building its homes there with propane-fueled furnaces, water heaters, and kitchen ranges until the community's propane retailer gave him a call. "They said, 'You're missing an opportunity here,'" he says.

One of Stylecraft Builders' model homes in College Station, Texas. Homes in Stylecraft's Meadow Creek community follow the Propane Energy Pod model, offering propane furnaces, water heaters, stoves, and clothes dryers standard, along with optional fireplaces.

The Texas Railroad Commission's Propane Star Home program offers a rebate of $1,500 for homes that include a new propane water heater, a new propane furnace, a propane dryer, and one of a list of appliances that included a propane range. The only thing Stylecraft's homes were missing was the dryer, which had been an upgrade option. "We saw an opportunity where we can spend a little bit of money and install a propane dryer and get $1,500 back," he says. "Basically we can net out a good chunk of change by using propane in this subdivision."

The rebate is a win-win for Stylecraft and its customers. Stylecraft buys the dryer and pays for the installation, and the company still has about $800 to $900 left over. That's profit the builder can reinvest in expansion: The company recently opened up a new phase of the Meadow Creek subdivision. "That's where a lot of that money is going, to help us out with our growth," Estlund says.

Stylecraft's story highlights the value in researching all of the available incentives for propane heating and appliances. Checking with your local propane retailer or utility is a great way to discover rebates or credits you might be missing. Our rebates and incentives page also spotlights several of the best incentives programs across the country.

"A lot of our buyers are just coming from renting or they're newlyweds, so every penny to them, and to us, counts."

Propane-fueled space and water heating systems are extremely energy-efficient, with plenty of Energy Star–qualified models available. That means they can often help builders qualify for energy efficiency incentives such as the federal Business Tax Credit for New and Renovated Energy Efficient Residences, a $2,000 credit that was recently renewed in the so-called fiscal cliff relief legislation.

"We are actually looking at that credit right now," Estlund says, adding that the builder's energy rater provided some suggestions on ways their homes could meet the requirements. Achieving those efficiency levels would provide dual benefits, putting more cash toward the builder's bottom line while reducing energy bills for its homeowners. "A lot of our buyers are just coming from renting or they're newlyweds, so every penny to them, and to us, counts."

In addition to third-party and government incentives, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) now provides a new way for building professionals to earn cash back for installing propane technology. The Propane Heat and Power Incentive Program offers financial incentives of up to $10,000 toward the purchase and use of combined heat and power (CHP) systems and premium generator sets. In return, participants agree to share their experiences with PERC. Learn more and apply online at the incentive program page.

Learn more about rebates and incentives for propane with these Propane Energy Update articles:

For some builders, rebates are a hidden opportunity
A lake home with luxury and low-energy aspirations
Make your water heater act like a furnace


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