Propane can help homebuilders out of their slump

January 1, 2009 By and    

National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) President and CEO Ron Howard reports that the current homebuilding slump is the worst the industry has seen in over 50 years. Homebuilders expecting to survive and thrive in a recovered market are looking for new ideas to differentiate themselves from the competition.

One place they will look for those ideas is at The 2009 International Builders’ Show (IBS) on Jan. 20-23 in Las Vegas. There are more than 250 education courses offered and more than 1,700 exhibitors, including the propane industry booth co-located with the American Gas Association. Find out more details about IBS by visiting

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), along with a large group of propane industry volunteers, is heading up propane efforts at the show, including the exhibit booth, media outreach and sponsorship of the Propane Exceptional Energy awards for builders using propane as the primary energy source in the homes they build.

Marketers’ role
The International Builders’ Show is a great kickoff for the building season, but propane industry efforts there will be wasted if individual propane marketers don’t take up where IBS leaves off, by becoming active with homebuilders in their local markets.
In a normal building year, more than 150,000 homes are built with propane as the prime energy source. That doesn’t count all of the remodeling, renovation and appliance upgrades that take place every year, even in a struggling economy. Recent research shows that in this current housing market, propane is picking up market share from other energy sources, particularly electric and heating oil. If you want a piece of that action, the best way is to become knowledgeable about the building process, learn how propane can fit in and then talk with builders. These builder outreach efforts are best served by joining your local chapter of the Home Builders’ Association (HBA).

Influencing decisions
NAHB is a federation of more than 800 state and local associations, including the HBA covering your marketing area. NAHB members build more than 80 percent of the new homes in the United States. You can find contact information about your local HBA at; just select the “Join NAHB” tab.

Joining a local HBA is not enough. You or a designated person from your company needs to become an active member, a familiar face and an energy information resource for your company. You will be able to influence energy-related decisions in the majority of the building, remodeling and heating equipment and appliance replacement work being done in your marketing area.

If air-sourced heat pump and geothermal competition is hammering you, fight back through builder and trade education outreach. Remind builders that homebuyers can cut energy costs and add attractive, comfortable and useful features with propane-fueled heating systems and appliances. Electric heat pumps, air and water source, fall well short of providing the combination of efficiency, comfort and dependability of propane forced-air or radiant in-floor heating systems. Homebuyers look for the latest innovations provided by propane-fueled appliances such as gas fireplaces, Energy Star-rated tankless water heaters, standby generators, commercial-style cooking appliances, gas clothes dryers and outdoor living area applications for propane.

Easy discussion
Propane, not electricity, is the primary energy source of choice for these applications when building beyond the natural gas mains. This is an easy discussion to have with builders and potential trade allies. PERC outreach efforts with builders and consumers will be mirroring, supporting and adding credibility to your discussions.

Your HBA associate membership can be a valuable entry to new propane customers. Remember that builders in these tough times want to be educated, not sold. Other associate members can include heating, ventilation and air conditioning companies, plumbers, equipment distributors and other energy competitors. Potential trade allies and your energy competitors are HBA members. Why aren’t you?

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and president of ATomiK Creative Solutions LLC, a company that provides marketing, consumer education and business development consulting, primarily to the propane industry. He can be reached at 810-252-7855 or


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