Whether driven by rigorous state and local regulatory mandates, or simply the desire to live more sustainably, the demand for a smaller carbon footprint and greater energy efficiency is growing in both the residential and commercial building and renovation markets. As a result, more engineers and contractors are seeking ways to power a home or building’s critical systems and appliances that maximize efficiency and cost savings and reduce its carbon footprint. That’s where propane can help.
Propane offers a low-emissions energy solution, producing about 43% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than using an equivalent amount of electricity generated from the U.S. grid, according to data from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).
Propane’s versatility extends to a wide variety of applications including boilers and furnaces. While there’s been significant hype about the presumed sustainability of electric systems and appliances, it’s important to remind your customers that there are other ways for a building to approach zero net energy levels. Understanding propane’s energy profile as well as the benefits propane-powered systems have to offer, from energy efficiency to performance, will help you become a trusted resource for contractors.
High-efficiency propane boilers provide energy, cost, space and carbon savings in both new and existing homes, as well as commercial spaces.
For residential spaces, propane boilers offer the versatility to provide heating, hot water and even snow melt. This versatility also extends to the heating delivery systems propane boilers serve, including hydronic baseboard systems, in-floor radiant systems, or even forced-air systems where the hot water from the boiler (instead of a furnace) is the heat source.
Propane boilers are available in a wide range of heating capacities with inputs reaching as high as 299,000 Btu per hour. A residential high-efficiency propane boiler also takes up little space in the home, whether it’s mounted on the floor or the wall. The ability of propane boilers to supply domestic hot water makes them ideal candidates for residential installations. Treating these additional applications individually allows homeowners to use them as they see fit, conserving energy while still providing added value.
With space heating capacities of up to 8,660,000 Btu/h, commercial propane boilers can support many larger applications, such as restaurants, retail, hospitality, multifamily buildings and hospitals. Some propane boilers are Energy Star qualified and have AFUE ratings of 90% or higher, making them at least 11% more efficient than minimum-efficiency models.
High-efficiency propane furnaces deliver significant value and a new level of comfort. They’re affordable, efficient, economical to operate, and environmentally friendly.
A high-efficiency propane furnace is rated anywhere between 90% and 98% efficient, according to PERC. Propane furnaces have higher Energy Star efficiency level requirements than heating oil systems.
Over time, propane furnaces also maintain their efficiency better than systems such as electric air-source heat pumps. High-efficiency propane furnaces are very economical to operate, and a recent heating system analysis found them to be more affordable to purchase and install than alternative systems, such as air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps (GSHPs).
Credits and incentives worth hundreds of dollars are available for high-efficiency propane furnaces in both new construction and system replacements.
With capacity from 44,000 Btu/h up to more than 1 million Btu/h and efficiency levels of 80% to 98.5%, propane furnaces can meet very specific commercial demands. Lower-capacity propane furnaces can even qualify for an Energy Star label, which translates to savings of 20% or more on energy costs over a standard furnace. In addition to high-efficiency equipment, properly sized furnaces and RTUs help optimize efficiency by reducing energy costs and increasing the equipment’s longevity.
Propane-powered combi-boiler technology combines an on-demand condensing water heater with a condensing boiler to supply both space heating and domestic hot water. They heat water on demand when the flow switch is activated, so they don’t have to constantly maintain a tank of hot water like a storage tank water heater or traditional boiler installation. Since they’re condensing, which means they can achieve efficiency levels of more than 95% by extracting additional heat energy from the flue gas. In areas with limited access to natural gas, propane-powered water heating is a more cost-effective option than using electricity.
Propane combi-boilers use a heated solution containing water, antifreeze and a corrosion inhibitor in a sealed circuit for space heating. The domestic hot water is heated in a separate heat exchanger. The setup avoids the sediment and calcification buildup on the storage tank heat exchanger typically associated with traditional boiler setups. Propane-powered systems that heat via hydronic baseboard or in-floor heating also eliminate fans and duct systems that can circulate dust, dirt and other allergens, according to PERC.
Tankless Water Heaters
In addition to those appliances, propane-powered tankless water heaters provide efficiency by supplying high volumes of hot water with compact and highly innovative technology.
Their compact size saves roughly 12 square feet of floor space compared with many electric systems — a benefit in tight floor plans, including multi-family projects. Their compact size and direct-vent design make it possible to install these units in tight spaces like closets or outdoors. Using electric heat pump water heaters is even more challenging because of the required room air volume.
Propane tankless systems offer the versatility and scalability to serve any residential building, from smaller 3-gpm systems (~140 kBtu/h) to multi-unit combinations of higher capacity 8-9-gpm systems (199 kBtu/h), according to PERC.
Propane tankless water heaters can benefit commercial buildings of all kinds, especially those with significant water heating demands. They offer efficiency levels of up to 98% and have a lifecycle of up to 20 years, strengthening their value proposition in commercial applications. Despite their higher initial cost, propane tankless water heaters can offer attractive paybacks, better reliability and long-term energy savings.
Propane offers versatility, efficiency and sustainability that’s unmatched by other energy sources. Propane-powered appliances are an ideal solution for homes and businesses.
To learn more about the benefits of propane-powered appliances, visit Propane.com/Propane-Products/Furnaces-Boilers.