Homebuilders were propane buyers at International Builders’ Show

March 1, 2012 By    

The 2012 International Builders’ Show (IBS), held last month in Orlando, Fla., showed a modest increase in attendance. More than 50,000 attendees and 900 exhibits still make this one of the largest trade events in the country, in spite of the downturn in the building industry.

Propane was well represented in the gas industries exhibit, with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) partnering with the American Gas Association and more than a dozen gas product manufacturers. These equipment manufacturers included Generac and Marathon Engine Systems showing off new generator and combined heat and power (CHP) technology developed through PERC grants.

The gas exhibit had lots of traffic, with nearly 1,500 builders visiting the exhibit and registering for more information about propane and related products. Total builder leads from PERC activities at IBS should total more than 18,000. Expect to see them posted on the Propane MaRC.

All of the builders stopping by seemed favorable toward propane and had great questions regarding a project or two of which they were working and how propane could fit into them.

Two brothers who are HVAC contractors in propane country near Louisville spent more than an hour with the Marathon representatives, discussing how CHP could fit into their projects instead of geothermal.

I talked with Jim from Arkansas who wanted to know if propane, rather than electricity, could fulfill his energy needs in his soon-to-be-constructed, 2,800-square-foot hunting “cabin.” By the time we were done talking, he was picking out his gas range in the Thermador section of the exhibit.

And there was Bill from Idaho who wanted to know about propane tankless water heaters for a ski lodge project on which he is bidding. Don from Ohio was interested in learning about propane tanks that can be installed underground on some of his custom home projects. Matt from Pennsylvania has been building about 15 homes a year on propane and wanted to know more about being able to offer standby generators as an option for his clients.

There were four builders or developers looking for more information on community propane systems for projects they will start in the spring.

Robert stopped by and was having problems getting a propane company to perform a site visit to determine tank location and piping needs for a custom home he is building for a client in southern Florida. The 18,000-square-foot home will have five propane tankless water heaters and numerous other propane applications throughout the home and backyard.

And then there was the woman from New Mexico who attended a PERC-sponsored “Meet the Experts” session and planned to purchase four propane standby generators for building projects on which she is working.

It helped to have the high-quality handout materials that PERC provided, such as the new Propane Technical Pocket Guide that gives comparisons between propane, natural gas, heating oil and electricity. The pocket guide provides container location information, pipe sizing charts and other technical information for builders.

Another popular part on the propane exhibit was a big-screen monitor that had the PERC construction professional website (www.buildwithpropane.com) online so builders could try several online tools.

Builders at IBS were guardedly optimistic about building activity in 2012 based on the positive response they are getting from prospective homebuyers. Custom homebuyers seem to be leading the shift in sentiment and direction, and that is good news for the propane industry. Large custom homes in propane country have always been our sweet spot for new business. Don’t expect dramatic changes this year, but it is definitely time to connect with builders and remodelers in your area.

If you want to interact with trade professionals, you should volunteer to work at the JLC Live residential construction show on March 21-24 in Providence, R.I. PERC will share exhibit space with the Propane Gas Association of New England and several product manufacturers. Visit newengland.jlclive.com.

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