Request for Proposals to develop an Electronic Ignition System for Propane Orchard Heaters
Posted November 2, 2007

Download Request for Proposals to develop an Electronic Ignition System for Propane Orchard Heaters

General Information

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is a non-profit 501(c) 6 trade organization authorized by the Propane Education and Research Act of 1996 (PERA), Public Law 104-284.  PERC was created “to enhance consumer and employee safety and training, to provide for research and development of clean and efficient propane utilization equipment, and to inform and educate the public about safety and other issues associated with the use of propane.”   This Request for Proposals (RFP) is not subject to any federal or state procurement law or regulation.

A 21-member Board of Directors appointed by the National Propane Gas Association and the Gas Processors Association governs PERC.  Members include propane retail marketers, producers, transporters, and agricultural cooperatives, as well as representatives of allied service and supply industries.


Frost protection of fruit tree buds and vineyards has always been a challenge for the grower. This critical step in fruit production has been accomplished by placing heaters throughout the orchard; typically these heaters when fueled with propane are ignited with a torch by workers one at a time. The ignition process involves turning the propane gas on, thus venting the propane into the heaters and into the atmosphere.  A worker then runs down the line of heaters with a torch lighting each on in turn.  This not only creates a safety hazard for the workers lighting the heaters, but also increases the producer’s labor costs significantly.  The number of workers needed is dependent on the acres and quantity of heaters to be lit. A 100-acre orchard with 25 heaters per acre may need ten workers on standby for those nights when critical temperatures are forecasted. 

There are two major benefits for a safe electronic ignition system.  First, it is far safer than the traditional method described above of lighting heaters with torches.  Second, it greatly improves the producer’s bottom line by reducing the labor costs of having a crew on standby to light and monitor the heaters throughout the night.

Project Overview – Scope of Work

This project involves designing, building, and demonstrating a safe commercially viable electronic ignition system for propane-fired orchard heaters.

The ignition systems should include the following minimal components:

  1. An electronic igniter capable of remotely lighting individual propane-powered orchard heaters such as those produced by Ag Heat Inc. (
  2. A control module used to light and monitor the ignition status of each heater from the head of each row.
  3. A safety valve capable of shutting off the propane gas supply line to a row of heaters should a heater in that row fail to light.

The system should be modular in nature allowing producers to add as many additional rows as needed to meet the needs of large orchards.  Rows in production orchards can contain 100 heaters or more, however a smaller scale control module may be more practical for prototype development and testing. 

The demonstration program should include installation of a prototype system in an existing or simulated orchard environment to monitor system performance over multiple cycles, under realistic operating conditions.

PERC feels it’s necessary for the contractor to utilize the input of end-users throughout this project. Thus we strongly encourage the contractor to assemble and manage a task force of orchard operators to gather feedback from producers familiar with this type of frost protection.  Growers can provide input toward the design, operation, and most of all the economics of such a system to make sure the system designed is both practical and affordable.  Contractors should consider costs associated with arranging meetings or conference calls with such a group.

Upon completion of the project, a final report shall be submitted to PERC. The final report should include:

  1. A detailed system design and sample prototype equipment
  2. Complete performance data and analysis, including anticipated economic payback to grower
  3. Commercialization plan


The successful contractor will have a demonstrated ability to develop equipment similar to the needs described above.  Furthermore, the contractor shall be familiar with the LP Gas industry, its codes, regulations, and common practices used throughout the industry.   Primary qualifications include expertise and significant experience in developing similar systems, agriculture equipment, or propane appliances.  Applicants should demonstrate the ability to develop plans for such systems and develop technical reports.  Project completion dates will be an important factor in selecting a contractor. 

Participation from a manufacturer able to commercialize the design will strengthen a proposal.

Matching funds and in-kind contributions are not required however they may strengthen the proposal by providing additional value.

PERC anticipates that proposals will be prescreened in February 2008, with a contract expected to be awarded in April 2008.  Time of completion is expected to be one year or less.


Other Requirements

Responding proposals must include the following administrative specifications:

  1. The contractor will submit a proposed budget covering the entire project period on a separate budget page.  The proposed budget will provide a cost breakdown in sufficient detail by the following cost categories, where applicable:
    • Personnel
      • Wage rates, salaried rates, hourly rates, etc.
      • Briefly specify the duties of the professionals to be compensated under this project.
      • State the total amount of compensation for each position for the total project.
    • Fringe Benefits
      • Explain how the fringe benefit rate is computed and what base (i.e., labor costs or labor hours, or other) it is applied to.
    • Administrative
      • General and administrative overhead, facilities capital cost of money, etc.
    • Travel
    • Supplies
      • Itemize supplies as to the types, quantities, unit price, and total price. 
    •  Contractual
      • Describe the purpose of each sub-recipient/subcontractor and why they are required.
    • Other (must detail)
  2. The contractor will include a description of the background and qualifications of all subject matter experts and individuals that would be performing the work.
  3. The contractor will provide a client list and completed project list.  Documented experience in producing and supporting a similar project is highly desired.


  1. Given the various skill sets and requirements surrounding this RFP, PERC may divide the work between more than one vendor.  In so doing, PERC may elect to designate one offeror as the general contractor and other(s) as sub-contractor(s).
  2. PERC, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to not award to any contract on the proposals received.
  3. PERC may request additional information from any offeror.
  4. Neither this RFP nor the submission of any proposal creates any contract or obligation on the part of PERC.
  5. Should PERC identify a proposal(s) suitable for award, the offeror(s) will be required to sign a written agreement for the services sought.  This contract will be an indefinite quantity contract which will permit PERC to order the successful offeror(s)’ review of as few as one program.  The quantity ordered beyond the minimum set forth in any resulting contract shall be at the discretion of PERC.
  6. PERC will not accept any information in any proposal that is designated confidential or proprietary or contains confidential or proprietary information.  PERC cannot and will not guarantee that should such information be submitted that it would be maintained as confidential.  Should an offeror’s desire to submit proprietary or confidential information, it should contact PERC in advance to discuss whether and how such information may be effectively submitted.


Additional Information

Please send all questions regarding this request for proposals in writing via email to Mark Leitman at

For copies of the following PERC documents, please visit our web site at

  1. Propane Education and Research Act
  2. Fact sheets
  3. Propane Agriculture Roadmap
  4. Docket 11116 - Environmentally Safe Orchard Heating for Frost and Freeze Protection FINAL REPORT


Submitting Proposals

Proposals are required to be contained in a single file and must be sent in electronic Microsoft Word format to or by physical delivery.  Proposals are due to Mark Leitman to PERC’s office no later than noon EST January 25, 2008.   A disk may be express mailed to:

Mark Leitman, Director of Agriculture Programs
Propane Education & Research Council
1140 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1075
Washington, DC 20036
202-452-8975 (phone)