Every builder’s been through his share of rigorous project approvals. But the complex web of approvals that Scott Jung had to gather for his riverside project was, perhaps, more tangled than most.
The home, a tear-down-and-rebuild job on the banks of Millers River in Winchendon, Massachusetts, had to be blessed by the conservation commission, the health department, the zoning board of appeals (ZBA), the building department, and the inspections department. The property was grandfathered in before rules dictated that no homes could be built within 15 feet of the river, but Jung still had to obtain variances to comply with existing regulations. To appease the sensitive town boards, Jung had to redesign a low-environmental-impact project that would preserve the river, tread lightly on the power grid, and still satisfy the inspector.
With propane and solar, he had just the right tools at his disposal.
Jung, owner of Winchendon-based Rebuild Construction, has developed a niche in rehabbing old properties that have become dilapidated or polluted through foreclosure and neglect. So he prepared a comprehensive plan that included cleaning up the river and fueling the home with clean sources of energy. He gave a presentation using brochures and handouts from buildwithpropane.com.
“Whenever we dug, there were remnants of fuel oil or kerosene,” he says. “I showed them that propane can’t spill, can’t pollute, that it’s American-made, American-delivered. I couldn’t get a building permit if I didn’t use propane.”
Because the home’s relatively inaccessible location makes it difficult to restore power in an outage, Jung designed the home to be self-sustaining without grid power. Solar photovoltaic panels on the roof provide the primary power, and a propane standby generator kicks in when the power grid is out.
A Polaris high-efficiency propane water heater provides nearly endless domestic hot water and heats the home’s four-zone radiant heating system. The radiant heat also provides snowmelt for the home’s walkways and driveway. Jung used ZIP System sheathing and spray foam sealing to maximize the home’s airtightness and reduce energy costs. But using propane instead of electric heat should also ward off soaring winter energy bills, Jung says.
“I’ve seen these electric companies and their pricing structure; it just seems to always be going up,” Jung says. At a different, all-electric house that he recently renovated, Jung saw an electric bill as high as $1,800 for a particularly frigid winter month. When he diversified the energy sources in that home’s remodel, the energy bills dropped to $60 a month.
In addition to the propane boiler, the riverside house uses a propane dryer, a propane grill, and a propane fireplace, the latter of which was also a necessary part of the approval process. “I had to go before the ZBA and promise them I wouldn’t put in any wood-burning, coal-burning, pellet-burning stoves, so I got a propane gas fireplace,” he says.
By building several of his homes with the five applications in the Propane Energy Pod, Jung has qualified for incentives up to $1,500 through the Propane Energy Pod Builder Incentive Program. In some cases, he can share the incentive with the homeowner to bring down costs.
Ultimately, Jung’s use of clean energy sources allowed him to move forward with the riverside home site. It’s desirable land “if you treat it correctly,” Jung says. As part of the renovation, Jung cleaned dumpsters of trash out of the river, making way for the return of a beaver dam that swelled the river to its natural state. He built a large deck with a propane barbecue so the owner could enjoy the scene through all three outdoor seasons. Like the families of geese and ducks that now frequently visit or nest in the site, the owners have found a peaceful retreat to call home.