Could propane be the saving grace for homeowners who want to save energy and money? “Heating water is about 20% [of a home's] annual energy cost. Switching to propane or gas can save homeowners money,” says Jim Hitzemann, chairman of the Propane Education & Research Council's Homebuilder Subcommittee. “Remodelers can show substantial savings to their customer over electricity.”

Such savings can be a great selling point for remodelers when pitching jobs to clients. Two hot remodeling items edging their way into the market now can be used with propane to be more efficient and economical.

Tankless water heaters heat water only when it's needed. When a faucet is opened, the water flow activates the heater, which raises the temperature of water as it flows through the unit. Once the faucet is shut off, the heaters stop. As an added benefit, the faucet water is instantly hot.

Tankless or “demand” water heaters can lower water heating bills by as much as 10% to 20%, according to some sources. Though both electric and gas-powered tankless water heaters will save homeowners money on their energy bills (compared with conventional storage heaters), those fueled by propane cost less to operate than their electric counterparts. “The beauty of using gas is that the recovery time is much faster,” says Kyle Murray, vice president of marketing for Controlled Energy Corp. “You get more hot water for less cost.”

courtesy State Industries

There are some drawbacks to tankless units. Smaller models aren't capable of supplying enough hot water for simultaneous applications, like running a dishwasher and washing machine at the same time, so consumers have to be willing to “organize” their hot water needs. Larger models, however, can meet this demand.

Propane is also ideal fuel for radiant floor heating. These under-the-floor tubing systems heat evenly from the bottom up. It's often possible for homeowners to turn their thermostats down when using radiant floor heating, because, according to the DOE, “the entire surface of the floor radiates about the same amount of heat as the human body does, making the occupant feel warm even though the air temperature might be only 65 degrees.”

Using propane in radiant heat applications is an excellent choice, says Martin Cumpston of Consolidated Plumbing Industries. “Propane can provide the BTUs, in a tank-type or instantaneous-type water heater, to run a radiant heating system for any remodeling project in any climate. Propane, coupled with the complete and easy-to-install products now available, makes radiant heat a viable and affordable option.”

A tankless water heater or a radiant floor heating system might not be as pretty as a deck or set of new kitchen cabinets, but the benefits for the homeowner are definitely attractive.

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