Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks has had a growing full-time population for several years, but the pandemic has put that trend into overdrive. With the ability to work remotely from the shores of the largest man-made lake in the United States, families are moving into their vacation homes full time and snapping up both lakefront and off-water homes at an astounding rate. Lakefront sales were up 109 percent year over year this summer, according to data reported by Nathan Bechtold in Lake Expo.
As the region’s new families put down roots by constructing an unprecedented wave of new homes, it’s likely that many will be influenced by this year’s Residential Propane Project of the Year, the Lake of the Ozarks Propane Inspiration Home.
The project is the latest in a series of Inspiration Homes developed by Dave Leathers, president of Showcase Publishing, to promote his Second Home Living magazine, generate proceeds for a local nonprofit, and demonstrate the possibilities for vacation homebuyers considering moving to the area full time. This home, which benefited the Share the Harvest Food Pantry, was built in partnership with the Missouri Propane Education and Research Council (MOPERC) to show how a propane home’s energy efficiency, independence, and low maintenance are attractive features for the area’s new full-time residents.
“The interest on this particular home was so great that we probably could have sold 10 of them if we had 10 of them there,” Leathers says.
Propane is a particularly good fit for the Lake of the Ozarks area because natural gas connections have become increasingly difficult and costly for builders, Leathers says. The other alternative for heating, electric heat, “is absolutely one of the most expensive propositions usage-wise,” he adds. That’s especially true for those new full-time residents planning to stay through the winter months. “If you’re there in the winter, you need a propane furnace, not an electric furnace,” he says.
So the Propane Inspiration Home, built by high-end custom homebuilder Doug Ross of RC Homes, makes the most of propane as a high-performance heating source. Two Rheem high-efficiency propane furnaces, rated at 95 percent AFUE, provide warm, comfortable heat in addition to significant heating bill savings. The home’s Navien propane tankless water heater will save the owner about $150 per year in energy costs compared with an electric unit while reducing the home’s carbon footprint and providing a continuous supply of hot water on demand.
But it was the luxury indoor and outdoor gas cooking amenities that truly set the home apart for its eventual buyer, Leathers says. The kitchen features a Wolf 48″ propane cooking range with six burners, an infrared griddle, and a convection oven. “In a home of this caliber, it is standard equipment,” he says. “You need to have a gas range.”
The outdoor living space was built to accentuate the home’s most appealing feature, its gorgeous view of the lake. “When we decided where the living room and the upstairs balcony were going to be, we specifically faced them directly where we had the view of the main channel of the Lake of the Ozarks,” Leathers says. The stamped concrete patio features a custom-built outdoor kitchen with a 42″ propane Coyote grill. Indoors, a Napoleon 42″ Ascent propane fireplace provides another cozy gathering space.
Another feature that was very important to the home’s buyer was the Champion propane standby generator. Leathers has been building homes with standby generators for a long time, dating back to several homes he built and owned with his family in Kansas City. “Every winter, it would be necessary for that to come on,” he says. “I would say it was six or seven days out of the year that we ended up using that because we lost power.” Today’s propane generators, he says, are half the size and twice as good as they used to be, and they’re critical for protecting homes against power outages through the Lake of the Ozarks winters.
The Propane Inspiration Home received the highest score from this year’s Propane Project of the Year judges, who were impressed by the home’s overall efficiency efforts. “This home truly adopted propane as its go-to fuel to create an efficient and energy-saving combination,” says Matt Evans, a building systems analyst with Newport Ventures. “The high-efficiency furnace and tankless water heater are upper level for efficiency, and that will show a very favorable payback period over the coming years. Overall, this home utilizes propane to the fullest extent possible, with energy efficiency and security in mind in case the power goes out.”
Builders around the Lake of the Ozarks have taken note of the home, Leathers says, and homebuyers are increasingly educated about the lifestyle benefits of propane, thanks in large part to the efforts of MOPERC and its partnership program with homebuilders, called Propane HomePro. The Propane Inspiration Home is now the first in a series of homes across Missouri that showcase the performance, efficiency, and comfort benefits of propane amenities.
Leathers says he counts himself as a convert as he undertakes his next construction project, a smaller 2,000-square-foot home on a golf course near Lake of the Ozarks. “I’m going to be incorporating as much propane into this house as I can.”