For builders and their customers, the appeal of natural gas starts with quality of life, but it continues with confidence in the fuel’s future promise.
It’s no secret among builders that many customers prefer the “quality of life” advantages of appliances and heating equipment fueled by natural gas, says C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for Meritage Homes, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“A lot of our consumers really prefer natural gas cooking and the high peak heat of natural gas furnaces in cold climates,” Herro says. And in warm climates, he adds, “People really start wanting those outdoor living environments where you’ve got gas fireplaces and gas spa and pool heaters.”
But while the comfort advantages of natural gas have been apparent to builders for years, what’s becoming increasingly apparent to some building pros is the promise of natural gas as an abundant, homegrown fuel that can meet their homes’ energy needs well into the future.
Herro’s job at Meritage, the ninth largest production builder in the country with 4,500 to 5,000 homes built per year, is to challenge the status quo, finding ways to incorporate different architectural, energy efficiency, or sustainability measures that improve the performance of the company’s homes. And he says natural gas provides an opportunity for builders to make their homes both cost-effective to operate and more sustainable in the long run.
A deconstructed home serves as a learning center for Meritage to help customers better understand their homes’ energy-saving features.
“Big picture, if you look at the sources of energy that are currently being extracted in the United States, natural gas is the preeminent gas source going forward,” Herro says. “The United States is coming up with a very cost-effective, abundant supply that we can leverage to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
A recent report from the American Gas Association, “The Promise of Natural Gas ,” explains just how much the American natural gas marketplace has changed in recent years. Led by growing production of natural gas from unconventional sources such as shale and advances in technology that have made efficient, affordable extraction of natural gas possible, the natural gas market is now seeing abundant supply and significant potential for expanded use in homes.
That market stability is likely to continue for the coming decade, and possibly beyond, according to the report. The natural gas supply should be able to meet demand at a variety of levels at prices well below peak market prices from the past decade.
That’s good news for builders that want to provide their customers with dwellings that are both comfortable and affordable to operate. The American Gas Association has found that households using natural gas appliances for heating, water heating, cooking, and clothes-drying spend an average of $518 less per year than households using electricity for those same applications.
Water heater manufacturer Bradford White, for instance, says its standard gas water heaters recover hot water twice as quickly as comparable nongas versions, and are much less expensive to operate. The company will be displaying two of its gas water heaters at the American Natural Gas & Propane Industries Exhibit at the International Builders’ Show.
One of the water heaters, a 40-gallon Energy Star model with an atmospheric vent, is available with a host of accessories that can offer additional savings or more hot water. A programmable set-back control, for instance, operates like a thermostat, allowing homeowners to set their water heater on idle when they’re away from home, saving energy.
Bradford White’s 40-gallon Energy Star water heater with atmospheric vent is available with a host of accessories to increase the appliance’s energy savings or offer additional hot water.
Appliance manufacturer Thermador will also be at the American Natural Gas & Propane Industries Exhibit to show its natural gas-fueled cooktops and stoves. Customers prefer gas cooking, associating it with high-end, professional chefs and enjoying the physical connection of raising and lowering the flame, says Phil Springer, senior product manager for Professional ranges and gas cooktops for Bosch and Thermador.
But gas cooking also provides higher efficiency, he says. The convection effect from the gas flame transfers heat not just to the bottom of the pot, but all the way up the side. And like Herro, Springer has noted how stable the supply of that natural gas is. “In the past five years, the price of natural gas has come down pretty dramatically,” he says. “It’s stabilized as we’ve discovered more and more sources available in our own country.”
Bradford White, Thermador, and Bosch are just a few of the many manufacturers of natural gas equipment that will be available at the International Builders’ Show to answer questions and offer insight. Visit the booth for a chance to win a Fire Magic Aurora A540 gas grill for your home’s outdoor entertaining area or a Generac LP3250 portable propane generator. Whether you’re looking for ways to boost the comfort and performance of your homes or seeking sustainable energy solutions for the years ahead, you can learn more by visiting the American Natural Gas & Propane Industries Exhibit at Booth C2614, Jan. 22–24 in Las Vegas.