Welcome Homes plans to revolutionize the way people purchase homes.

Much like how car buyers can now shop and customize their vehicle online, Welcome Homes aims to simplify the process of building a custom home online. Buyers can select land, choose from a carefully curated list of interior and exterior design options, and get a guaranteed all-in price to construct their new home.

“Basically we’re trying to productize the home so that people can make their choices without being overwhelmed,” says Anthony Carrino, vice president of design for Welcome Homes, which operates in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, with more locations expected in 2022. “They get really good design and have their home built for them within six months.”

On the Welcome Homes website, clients can select interior and exterior options from a carefully curated list.

In his role, Carrino is looking to spec building products that will not only stand the test of time for his clients but that also fit functionally and aesthetically. That’s why many of the products he selects are ones he’s used in his own home — after using them day in and day out, he knows he can trust their quality. And so his experience renovating his own vacation home in the Catskills region of New York has given him the confidence to specify propane systems for the vast majority of Welcome Homes’ projects.

Energy for homes on rural lots

To give clients a selection of lots to choose from if they don’t own their own land, Welcome Homes uses technology to vet potential lots and display them on the website’s parcel viewer. Most of these land parcels don’t already have services such as sewer, water, and natural gas, so the builder’s designs often include septic, well drilling, and propane tanks.

Carrino, a self-taught designer, builder, and project manager with 25 years of experience in residential and restaurant design, gained plenty of experience with propane while renovating his Catskills vacation home. The 1960s stone farmhouse had been gutted but left unfinished by a previous owner. “Where most people see a problem in a house, I see value because of my skill set,” he says. “I basically finished the demolition on my own and then put absolutely everything back together again.”

It was clear that the basement had once contained a heating oil tank, leaving a stain on the concrete and an old, rusted oil furnace. “There was no world where I was going to be burning oil in that house,” Carrino says. “It’s expensive. It’s dirty. And it’s just not as efficient as a propane home. From the moment we closed on the property, I knew I was putting propane in the ground.”

Carrino had a 1,000-gallon propane tank buried in his yard to fuel the new systems and appliances he installed throughout the house. The house is now heated by a hybrid system with an electric heat pump and a propane furnace. “As the temperatures drop and the electric heat becomes more expensive to run, the propane kicks in and does your heavy lifting for you,” he says. “So it really utilizes your utilities at the most efficient time with the most efficient fuel for your needs.”

Vacation home amenities

Efficiency was also the driver for the home’s propane tankless water heater and clothes dryer, which are less expensive to operate than electric alternatives. But using propane also allowed Carrino to select a variety of amenities that are ideal for a vacation home setting.

Anthony Carrino’s Catskills vacation home includes luxury gas amenities such as a 48-inch gas cooktop in the kitchen.

In the kitchen, Carrino’s wife loves to cook on the home’s 48-inch gas cooktop, which she prefers for its easily controlled heat level. In the outdoor kitchen, Carrino entertains family and friends while cooking on a 48-inch grill and 24-inch power burner. The party can also move to an 8-by-20-foot shipping container swimming pool that Carrino installed in the yard along with a propane pool heater.

But as much as he enjoys the indoor and outdoor kitchens, Carrino is perhaps most excited about the 20-kW propane standby generator from Kohler that protects the home from power outages in an area where, he says, the power grid is “finicky.” “There’s a lot of tree limbs, and all the power’s above ground,” he says. “So you lose power consistently once a month. And then with natural disasters or hurricane season or heavy snowfalls, you could lose it for a couple of days at a time.”

Because Carrino doesn’t live in the home full time, the generator is critical to avoid frozen pipes and protect his investment in the home. And when he is in the home and the power goes out — as it recently did during a birthday gathering with a half dozen friends — life can proceed as normal. “You can host the party and have friends over, and you never have to worry about what’s going on with the grid,” he says. “And that’s really nice peace of mind.”

So it’s no coincidence that buyers selecting options on the Welcome Homes website can select full-home standby generators as an option for their projects. Carrino says he sees the propane amenities offered in these homes as a smart way to reduce his clients’ carbon footprints by reducing emissions compared with gasoline and diesel, and generating electricity more efficiently than the utility. “It’s a pretty great fuel while we’re on our way to getting completely net zero,” he says.