Builder Chooses Propane to Meet Goal of Ultra Efficiency

Posted: December 22, 2016

Solar-powered house

The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) recently shared a story about Steve Lefler, a professional homebuilder who designed his own house to get as close as he could to Zero Net Energy. This type of home will produce as much energy as it consumes, usually through a mix of energy-efficient building techniques and onsite power generation.

Lefler’s secret to success was to combine solar power with propane water heating.

Because a propane tankless water heater vastly reduces the home’s electrical demands, solar photovoltaic panels can provide most of the home’s power needs.

“The worst nut to crack in net zero is heating water,” Lefler told PERC. “I have not seen an all-electric house work unless it has $30,000 worth of solar on the roof to run the water heater. You’ve got to build a whole other array just exclusively for the water heater.”

Rather than investing in the huge upfront cost of a larger photovoltaic array to power an electric water heater, Lefler turned to a propane tankless water heater instead. The unit costs him about $90 per year to operate. He said that’s a whole lot better than having to install another 16 panels of solar.

While propane water heating was the key to reaching his efficiency goal, Lefler also added other propane amenities, including two gas fireplaces.

Lefler also installed a luxe Bertazzoni propane range, a popular choice for professional chefs. Lefler explained his decision this way to PERC:

“Do you watch the cooking shows? Do you ever see them cook on electric? Need I say more?”

Lefler said he plans to take his commitment further by installing a large battery system and a propane generator, which will take the house entirely off the grid. The propane generator will charge the batteries in the absence of sunny days for the solar panels.

According to PERC, the results in the first two years of the home’s operation have shown that it likely won’t require a great deal of additional energy. And Lefler’s average annual costs have only been about $600 for electricity and $300 for propane.

Talk about being energy-efficient at home—and taking full advantage of the power of propane!

Read the full article from PERC.