Emerging Technologies Fueled by Propane to Help Builders Meet Consumers’ Home Energy Demands


February 8, 2001

Atlanta, GA - With home energy bills on the rise, the propane industry is providing builders with information on emerging technologies fueled by propane that will help homeowners lower their energy use. During the International Builders' Show in Atlanta, GA, on February 9 - 12, 2001, approximately 20 manufacturers will showcase several new energy efficient gas appliances at the gas industry booth co-sponsored by the American Gas Association (AGA), American Public Gas Association (APGA), Gas Appliance Manufacturers' Association (GAMA), Gas Technology Institute (GTI), Southern Gas Association (SGA), the Propane Education & Research Council (the Council) and the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA).

"This year's builders' show takes a closer look at how technology is revolutionizing homebuilding. The propane industry is committed to providing homebuilders with new, energy-efficient technologies which will give them and their customers peace of mind, knowing that gas, most preferred by homeowners, provides optimal efficiency for a variety of energy needs," said Roy Willis, president of the Propane Education & Research Council.


Water Heaters

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that water heating accounts for approximately 20 percent of an average household's annual energy expenditures. To help reduce that number, water heater manufacturers are introducing new technologies and refining existing ones to offer homeowners more energy efficiency models such as A. O. Smith's Conservationist® Residential Gas Water Heater (PGCH-100). The Conservationist cuts energy use by heating a larger storage tank less often while achieving 80 percent thermal efficiency.

Another energy-efficient strategy to reduce gas water-heating costs is to eliminate standby heat loss. The DOE estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of water-heating costs stem from maintaining a heater's storage temperature even if no water is used. Water heater manufacturers are curtailing this cost by eliminating storage tanks. An example of this tankless water heater is the Takagi Industrial Company's Flash Model T-K1. This water heater delivers over 200 gallons of hot water an hour at 140 degrees. Since there is no tank water to deplete, the T-K1 supplies hot water endlessly, only burning gas when hot water is needed.

Manufacturers are also focusing on developing safer water heating appliances. One such gas appliance, American Water Heater's ProLine water heater with Flame Guard uses a patented device to trap burning vapors within the combustion chamber and automatically shut off the gas supply to the burner.

"This is the first effective gas water heater technology that reduces the risk of flammable vapor fires," said Phillip Wallace, director of marketing for American Water Heater Company.


Fuel Cells

The propane industry is currently exploring other homebuilding applications such as fuel cells, which efficiently convert hydrocarbon fuels such as propane directly into electricity. Larry Osgood, a research consultant for the Council, believes that fuel cells can make a significant difference in meeting home energy demands: "These cells will be used in markets affected by deregulation to realize cost savings by taking less from a municipal electricity source. Homes built in areas without electricity will be able to use fuel cells as their sole power source. Finally, the cells can ensure a constant power source as more homes move towards automation and computerization," said Osgood. As more work is done to increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of fuel cells, they may also be used to further reduce energy use by preheating water and air.

Mark Clayton, manager of product engineering development at Reliant Energy Power Systems in Houston, believes that fuel cells utilizing propane are an excellent choice for electric power service in rural communities: "There are over two million miles of wires, poles and transformers supplying electric power to rural communities today. Over one million miles of these facilities are at least forty years old and need to be replaced. Fuel cell power systems can deliver higher reliability and lower cost electricity than traditional rural electric distribution systems. The current propane delivery infrastructure is in a good position to provide fuel for these fuel cell electric systems," said Clayton. Clayton also says residential size fuel cells should be available to builders, developers, and other energy companies in 2002.

At this year's International Builders' Show, a variety of home energy products and appliances will be featured at the gas industry booth (Booth #5440 at the Georgia World Congress Center), as well as other related gas products including fuel cells, gas water heaters, gas lights, home standby generators, and fireplace and patio heaters. *See the attached list of propane-powered home products being displayed at the 2001 International Builders' Show.

The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of the Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source through investments in research, safety, and consumer education initiatives. For more information about the Council, please call 202-452-8975 or visit the Web site at www.propanecouncil.org.

NPGA is the national trade association for the U.S. propane gas industry. With a membership of nearly 3,700 in all 50 states, 38 affiliated state or regional associations, and members in 28 foreign countries, NPGA represents every segment of the propane industry. More than 90 percent of the United States' propane supply is produced domestically, and 60 million Americans choose Propane. Exceptional Energy as their energy source. For more information call (630) 515-0600 or visit the Web site at www.npga.org.