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Guest Column: Residential Construction Trends to Follow in 2023

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Guest Column: Residential Construction Trends to Follow in 2023

PERC shares homeowner trends to keep on your radar in the New Year.

By Bryan Cordill, PERC March 9, 2023
Residential Construction Trends in Propane to Follow in 2023
Image courtesy PERC

The New Year often inspires homeowners to tackle new projects around the house. Industry trends can drive a lot of these decisions, making it mission critical for builders and remodelers to be well-versed in the latest trends and how they can best meet client demands.

Over the past few years, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has taken note of a few growing trends—ones which we see continuing into 2023 and beyond.

Notably, the growing demand for energy efficiency and affordability; the prioritization of resiliency and backup power; and the preference of Zero Net Energy builds. Builders and remodelers in-the-know on customer preferences—and the energy sources, appliances, and systems that can best serve them—will set themselves up for success not only in the New Year, but for years to come. 

Continued Evolution of How We Live and Build

The last two years have shifted priorities for homeowners. There is a growing need for flex spaces where families can work from home, provide a virtual classroom or become a multigenerational space. At the same time we need the ability to entertain friends and family outdoors.

Propane can deliver many solutions that homeowners are looking for, including energy efficient appliances and, subsequently, reduced energy bills—all without sacrificing environmental impact. And these capabilities extend to several major systems throughout a home including heating, water heating, cooking, clothes dryers, and more. The installation of tankless water heaters continues to be especially popular among homeowners thanks to their installed and operating cost savings and long service life.

Maximizing outdoor living spaces has gone from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have for homeowners across the country during the last two years—and this trend is expected to continue. In fact, 90 percent of Americans say outdoor living spaces are more valuable than ever before, according to data from the International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA) 2021 Outdoor Trend Report.

Propane is a clean, safe, and reliable way to help customers create the backyard of their dreams—and its versatility extends far beyond grills. Builders and remodelers can set their projects apart with the unbeatable performance of propane.

As beneficial as propane is to homeowners outdoors, it’s benefits indoors are even greater. As indoor air quality concerns grow, propane is a clean, environmentally friendly, and excellent way to reduce emissions. Propane produces significantly fewer carbon emissions compared to electricity for key residential applications, including water heating and cooking. 

Electric Grid Instability is Causing More People to Think About Resiliency

Rolling blackouts, hurricanes, and dangerous winter storms over the last few years have decreased Americans’ desire to be tied to a single energy source, or to rely entirely on our aging electric grid.

Power outages can impact a variety of systems in the home, Wi-Fi connectivity, refrigerators and freezers, heating, and cooling systems, not to mention health and safety equipment. Helping customers select reliable backup power allows them to avoid unplanned power outages, continue operating appliances in their home, and ultimately save money and stress. This is especially important for customers who rely on electricity to power medical equipment or to work from home and need uninterrupted electrical power.

When it comes to selecting a backup power fuel, propane offers benefits that other energy sources simply can’t meet. For example, propane has an indefinite shelf life and can be stored for extremely long periods without degrading, whereas diesel degrades over time when costly maintenance isn’t performed. Propane tanks can provide scalable on-site storage for backup power systems of any size. On-site fuel storage is an important consideration and can help ensure that the generator is ready to operate and won’t be subject to upstream fuel reliability issues. It truly is the original energy storage device.

And because of propane’s energy versatility, it can power many other major energy systems and appliances throughout a home or building, too. In fact, residential customers can attain whole-home resiliency at an affordable price by combining a propane generator with a suite of propane appliances that operate full time. Plus, having propane appliances throughout a building can reduce its reliance on standby power, oftentimes allowing customers to downsize to a smaller, more affordable generator. 

Zero Net Energy Construction Growth

Whether driven by rigorous state and local regulatory mandates, or simply the desire to live more sustainably, the demand for zero net energy (ZNE) and zero net energy ready (ZNE Ready) builds will continue to grow in 2023.

As defined by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a ZNE build consumes only as much energy as can be produced on-site through renewable resources over a specified period. Achieving success in ZNE projects is all in the details—including the energy sources used on-site. And while a misconception remains that ZNE means all-electric, homes that use a mix of energy sources, like propane, actually offer stronger results.

Propane is a clean, low-emissions energy option that offers an efficient solution, especially for energy-intensive systems like space heating and water heating working in concert with on-site renewables to reach ZNE and ZNE ready status. According to data from PERC, on average propane produces 43 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than using an equivalent amount of electricity generated from the grid.

While propane is already clean today, the energy source is only getting cleaner. Soon, more and more of the propane we use will be made from renewable sources. Renewable propane is a byproduct of a production process that converts plant and vegetable oils, waste greases, animal fats, and even weeds into energy. Because it’s produced from renewable, raw materials, renewable propane has an even lower carbon intensity than conventional propane—and is far cleaner than other energy sources you could choose to power your build. Considering its chemical structure and physical properties are the same as traditional propane, renewable propane can be used for all the same applications.

The truth is, no single energy source can solve the long-term challenges we face. The electric grid cannot keep up with demand and is subject to frequent outages. Intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, are low carbon sources, but they have difficulty providing all the electrical power needed to sustain energy intensive home systems, like water heating.

In combination with other energy sources, propane can provide the low-carbon energy builders and homeowners want, while also providing comfort that ultimately turns a house into a home.

To learn more about the benefits of propane and determine if it’s a good fit for projects in 2023, visit Propane.com.

Bryan Cordill is director of residential business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at bryan.cordill@propane.com.

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