How is propane used in commercial buildings? How is propane used in commercial buildings?
In commercial construction, propane is used much like natural gas. It provides fuel for energy-efficient gas space heating, water heating, cooking, fireplaces, and clothes drying, though it can also fuel a variety of other building needs. The primary difference is that propane is stored on site in tanks that are regularly filled by bobtail trucks or highway transport vehicles. Propane brings all of the advantages of gas to buildings at a cost that’s competitive with other energy sources.
Propane is versatile, and it’s easy to incorporate in a construction project. With propane, you’re not at the mercy of a public utility. And with the option of aboveground or underground storage tanks, propane professionals can install and connect building systems and other applications on your schedule. Propane also provides jobsite flexibility by providing gas energy for portable generators and temporary construction heaters.
Propane is quickly expanding into commercial construction markets through innovations in commercial tank manufacturing and commercial distribution networks. Propane can now be used for any gas commercial building application that does not have easy access to natural gas, including new construction, interior construction for new tenants, major renovations, and building efficiency upgrades.
There are three components to a commercial building’s propane infrastructure:
- Storage (tank)
- Distribution system (piping network)
- Optional components
Propane tanks can provide on-site propane storage for commercial building projects of any size, from the smallest commercial building to a sprawling resort or retail complex. Sizes range from 125-gallon tanks for spot energy needs to 120,000-gallon storage tanks. One tank can be sized to serve all of a building’s gas energy needs based on its total maximum load, measured in British thermal units (Btu), or multiple smaller tanks can be manifolded together.
Propane storage can be underground or aboveground. Tanks can be placed at multiple sites throughout a project, or one central tank can be used with gas piping running throughout the complex of commercial buildings.
Placement of the propane storage is easily addressed, even in complicated efficiency upgrade scenarios. Your propane supplier will work with you and your client to determine the proper size and number of tanks to meet the building’s propane needs and site plan. Tanks can be fenced, buried, or landscaped to enhance security, safety, and aesthetics.
DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM (PIPING NETWORK)
Propane distribution systems are designed to be similar to natural gas systems. Underground gas mains deliver the propane to individual service points on buildings. Outside gas piping is buried according to locally applied codes and standards.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards govern the use of propane and gas in buildings. NFPA 58 (Standard for the Storage and Handling of Liquefied Petroleum Gases) is the main resource for tank and underground gas line installation, and NFPA 54 (National Fuel Gas Code) governs inside gas piping installation. Visit nfpa.org for more information.
COMMUNITY PROPANE SYSTEMS
For mixed-use developments or large commercial projects with many individual fuel users, such as a resort or mall, a community propane system may be the best option.
Community propane systems are centralized gas systems that provide a scalable and flexible energy solution. The systems distribute propane gas through a network of underground pipes that connect to homes or buildings with individual gas meters. This makes them virtually identical to natural gas systems, but with the advantage of being available almost anywhere in the United States.
In addition to homes and businesses, community systems can also power other amenities such as standby generators, pools, clubhouses, and gas lamps. Providing gas energy in large developments is much easier with this type of versatility.
A propane provider will work with you to design and install the central tank (or tanks) and piping system. These professionals know the federal and state regulations you must meet to ensure your community system is up to code. They will typically monitor and refuel the central tank, as well as perform ongoing maintenance of the system. For construction pros, homeowners, and tenants, maintaining a community propane system is hands-off and worry-free.
OPTIONAL COMPONENTS: REMOTE TANK MONITORING
Propane tanks for commercial use are typically remotely monitored by your propane supplier to ensure that the propane supply is reliable and uninterrupted. These smart monitoring devices allow propane companies to track their customers’ propane levels and average usage so they can schedule propane deliveries when needed. Some of today’s advanced monitoring systems also integrate with building management systems and allow owners or facility managers to also track their propane usage.
OPTIONAL COMPONENTS: METERED SERVICE
Propane metering is a hassle-free way of providing sub-metered propane service to retail tenants, even if they draw from the same propane storage. Just as with electric or natural gas service, your propane company can install individual unit meters so tenants can be billed for the propane they use each month. With meters, you won’t have to devise a way to divvy up the costs of unequal use among the tenants or simply attempt to recoup the cost with higher rent. Meters provide an accepted way to bill the exact cost of propane to the individual tenants who use it.