Archive for the ‘Home Design’ Category

Trials and tribulations of water heating

January 25, 2007

Just when we think we’ve made a decision, we find out some new information that upsets our thinking totally.

Because we’re out in the country, we don’t have natural gas service. Because my husband is interested in cooking, we will have a dual fuel stove, which necessitates a gas hookup. Our solution to this is propane, but this seemingly simple solution apparently has endless permutations that cause consternation to the average homebuyer.

We have decided that we want to rent, not buy, a propane tank. Apparently, of the three propane suppliers who service our area, only one will rent a propane tank to us. OK – that made our decision to choose our supplier that much easier.

We first asked about possibly having a gas tankless hot water heater, which would fit with our green building motif. However, after hearing about the additional cost (tankless costs $1550, as opposed to $369 for the gas tank heater, and drops to a tankless are an extra $150), we realized that we could not possibly recoup the $1331 difference between these two heaters in the time frame we’re expecting to be in this house.

Propane is more expensive than natural gas, and the propane & natural gas prices tend to fluctuate more than electricity prices. They are also projected to rise at a much higher rate than electricity prices, which prompted us to check out electric hot water heaters. We did so, and discovered that they have an energy factor of .94, as opposed to the gas tank hot water heater’s energy factor of .58. So, sounds good, we will go electric, right?


If we don’t buy the gas hot water heater, the propane supplier will not rent the tank to us. And we don’t want to shell out a few thousand extra to buy a tank, when we could rent one for $96/year. Without a gas hot water heater, our propane cost also rises $.20 per gallon. If we don’t buy the gas hot water heater from the propane supplier, they will not service it for us if it goes out.

Basically, not having natural gas service in your area means that the propane suppliers can have their way with you, as far as charging more for the heaters than if you bought them from someone else, and as far as forcing you to have more appliances that rely on propane.

Our other reason for wanting propane service, besides the stove, is that we plan on having a propane generator in case of hurricanes. They won’t happen more than once or twice a year (hopefully!), but if we do lose power for several days, that would really put us in a bind. We’re out in the country, so, again, have well water, not city water. No power = no water.

The moral of this story is: Try to build your home in a place with access to reasonable utilities. Otherwise, you will end up spending a lot more of your money trying to buy wells, buy propane, buy generators.

Questions? Comments? Post a comment on my blog – I would love to hear from you!



July 18, 2006

Here are some photos I’ve taken of our floorplans. Notice the thickness of the exterior walls, due to ICF construction:

Front elevation:

Rear Elevation:

Rear Elevation

First floor interior plans

First Floor Plans

Second Floor Plans:

Second Floor Plans