Propane by the NumbersA new survey from Harris Interactive shows increased builder interest in propane applications for the home.
Every year since 2007, the Propane Education & Research Council has partnered with Harris Interactive to come up with trends associated with the use of propane by residential builders. This year's survey, carried out at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, suggests increased facility with and preference for propane as a primary energy source for numerous residential applications.
In 2009, for example, 65 percent of builders polled said they were familiar with propane as an energy source. The 2011 survey showed an increase to 70 percent.
Some of the more interesting findings revolve around green building. In 2009, 53 percent of those surveyed said they had built to meet green standards. By 2011, that number had increased to 60 percent. Those who consider propane a green option increased from 13 percent to 21 percent.
But there was a big shift in what homeowners are stressing to their builders when the subject of green comes up. In 2009, 84 percent of residential builders said choosing environmentally friendly/green energy options had become more important than it was before. By early 2011, however, that number had dropped to 75 percent. What accounted for this change?
Don Ferrier, president of Ferrier Cos., in Fort Worth, Texas, has been building sustainable homes, many of which use propane, for more than 25 years. He thinks any indication of an apparent decline in the interest in building green can be directly traced to the rocky economy.
"Three years ago, some people had $400,000 to put into a $500,000 house," says Ferrier, whose company built the first LEED Platinum home in Texas. "But their mutual funds went down and they were left with just $200,000. So instead of spending $7,000 on a solar hot water system with a $2,000 [energy-efficient] tankless backup, they'll go with the [standard-efficiency] electric backup that comes with the system. In a sense, what they're doing is still green, it just not as dark green as it would have been before."
Ferrier agrees heartily with some of the other Harris Interactive findings, namely those that have to do with outdoor living products and tankless water heaters. The survey showed that using propane is most popular for outdoor living products, with 71 percent of builders saying that this is what they consider installing most. (That's followed by cooktops at 53 percent and fireplaces at 49 percent.)
"In the last five years we've built more outdoor kitchens that are fueled with propane than we ever did before," says Ferrier.
The Harris survey also showed a steady growth in tankless water heater installations. In 2008, the figure was 38 percent; in 2009, 40 percent; and in 2011, 42 percent. Those are numbers that resonate with Ferrier. "Tankless water heaters have gotten very common," he says. "A lot of people think of them as a new technology, but we installed our first one back in 1986."
Ferrier represents the brand of forward-thinking construction professional that can combine years of experience with direct training to build homes that stand out in a tough market. To find out how to incorporate propane solutions into your next construction project, be sure to check out our free online CEU courses, available at the Propane Training Academy. The product categories mentioned in this article are discussed in the following courses: