Right-size your standby generators by combining with propane heat
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Jeremy Mirto has a straightforward business plan.
“We try and stick to the things we are very good at,” says Mirto, owner of Reliable Energy Solutions in Kerhonkson, New York. Those services are in high demand in his Hudson Valley market: heating systems, propane systems, and ductless heating and cooling. But about half of his business is attributed to standby generators, a product that’s an ideal complement to his other offerings.
Standby generators work in tandem with propane heating systems both from a business perspective and in terms of optimizing a generator’s performance and upfront cost. On the business side, Mirto frequently sees propane generator projects open the door to other upgrade opportunities in the home and vice versa.
That was the case at the Boyd residence, a project in rural Gardiner, New York, where Mirto was hired by the contractor to install a propane radiant heating system that also provides domestic hot water. During the installation, Mirto had the home prepped with propane lines for a future standby generator installation, and a year later, the customer returned to complete the installation. Check out the video below to see how the home’s sophisticated propane heating system makes it easier to optimize cost savings by installing a right-size propane generator.
Generators keep the heat and the internet on
The Boyd family was a great candidate for a propane standby generator both because of the frequency of outages in their area and the needs of their home. “This particular customer I would estimate to lose power at least 10 times a year,” Mirto says. “He’s on top of a mountain. The wind blows quite frequently here. Lots of storms, lots of snow. So the need for a standby generator in this particular area is a lot higher than the average person that’s on the beaten path.”
Furthermore, the client has been working from home during the pandemic, adding power for his computer and Wi-Fi to the list of necessities in need of protection. “His heating system runs on propane, but it also requires electricity to operate,” Mirto says. “The standby generator keeps the heat, the hot water, and the well pump online during a power failure, as well as his internet service for his work.”
Designing the home’s heating and hot-water systems around propane does make it easier to save on installation costs by installing a smaller generator than would be needed for a home with electric heat. Propane boilers, for example, use around 3 amps, depending on how many pumps they have. Gas ovens use only a tiny amount of electricity for the ignition sequence.
“If we have a customer with an electric heating system he pumps through the entire home, an electric oven, an electric water heater, electric well pump, we will probably size them on a larger generator at 22 or 24 kW,” Mirto says. “If we have a customer like this with a gas-fired boiler, gas-fired oven, the hot water is derived off of propane, we can size them with a smaller generator to accommodate their needs.”
The result is that not only can standby generators be more affordable than clients might think, they’re also less expensive to operate. When homeowners go to a generator manufacturer’s website and read the fuel consumption at a rated load, they assume their generator will consume that much propane all the time. But in reality, an energy-efficient home with LED lighting that uses propane for major home systems like heating and water heating won’t run at full capacity very often. “The fuel consumption is extremely low — lower than what people perceive it to be,” Mirto says.
What makes radiant heat comfortable and efficient
While the Boyd residence demonstrates the complementary benefits of standby generators and propane heating systems, it also showcases the energy-efficiency and comfort benefits of well-designed propane radiant heating. The system is run by an intelligent and high-efficiency condensing propane boiler, which measures incoming and outgoing water temperature and adjusts the boiler’s firing rate to maintain the ideal comfort level. So on the coldest day, the system might run with 120-degree water, but on a warmer day, the system can run at a mere 90 degrees to minimize fuel consumption.
“That outdoor reset gives us that extra 5 percent boost to bring our annual efficiency rating up to 95 percent,” Mirto says. The boiler also supplies a 40-gallon storage tank for domestic hot water, so no additional water heater is needed.
Another unique feature of the home is the propane lanterns on the exterior, inspired by the original gas lanterns used in the French Quarter of New Orleans. “They’re all around the home, and at night it really does make the home pop in the neighborhood,” Mirto says.
Overall, the project demonstrates the value pros can provide by assessing the needs of their clients and offering opportunities to make upgrades that improve a home’s comfort and performance. Prepping a home with the infrastructure to handle a standby generator in the future can lead to ongoing business opportunities, while homes that use only a propane standby generator may be prime candidates to upgrade to propane fireplaces, cooking, or a radiant heating system that will truly thrill the client.
“When you walk barefoot through the home, you notice that the floors are very warm,” Mirto says. “It makes my customers comfortable, and it also gives them the maximum efficiency, the best bang for their buck to know that every dollar they spend on heating, 95 cents of that dollar is going towards heating the home.”