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Rising natural gas prices haven’t slowed Gasmark home market

With the rising cost of natural gas, what’s happening with the all-gas homes that were built to use more gas than electricity?

For a number of years builders have offered Gasmark homes as an energy-saving alternative for homebuyers. GASMARK is a registered trademark of the Atmos Energy Company. The GASMARK Home Program is a builder certified energy-efficient design and construction process. Builders participating in the program follow construction techniques and certain appliance selections to make the best use of natural gas.

Two Mississippi builders and the energy company say there is no decline in the number of Gasmark homes being built.
Charles Porter of Jackson has been building this type of home for 15 years and says the demand is staying about the same. He doesn’t expect that to change.

“I build these homes because they’re more energy efficient, and that’s an extra sales tool,” he said. “The rising cost of gas won’t make any difference because energy costs will get you either way whether it’s all electric or all gas.”

Porter, who’s been in the construction business for 22 years, says there are a lot of different ways the Gasmark homes are more efficient, and it’s not just in the amount of gas used for appliances. “If you build the way they tell you to build, your energy costs will be less,” he said. “It does not take any longer to build this type home.”

A builder certification checklist for these homes specifies energy-saving measures for double-paned windows, attic ventilation, air infiltration, weather stripping and insulation requirements for ducts, pipes, exterior walls, attics and floors. There are also guidelines for fireplaces, furnaces, air conditioners, hot water heaters and cooking units to ensure the most efficient use of gas.

Porter, who builds in Hinds and Rankin counties, says gas appliances have instant heat when they’re turned on and no lingering heat when they’re turned off. “A gas hot water heater recovers a lot quicker, and a gas clothes dryer is 25% to 50% more efficient than electric dryers,” he said. “A gas stove doesn’t keep cooking after it’s turned off either.”

Homeowners like the features

In the Southaven area, John and Carmen Wheeler of Wheeler Homes have been building Gasmark homes since 1997. They build about 100 homes a year and most are this type.

“It’s a feature that people like,” Carmen said. “The homeowners may not use all of the things the home has but they want gas, mostly for stoves, furnaces and fireplaces. We feel it’s more efficient.”

Wheeler has lived in this type of home for three years and says she can tell a difference in energy savings more in the winter than the rest of the year.

“People are drawn to gas, and if they want it, they’ll get it,” she said. “The rise in gas prices is not slowing down the building of these homes.”

Patrick F. Hyde, Atmos’ sales manager for the Northern region, says that since 1997, approximately 3,000 certified Gasmark homes were built in the Southaven, Tupelo, Columbus, Clarksdale, Greenwood, Greenville, Kosciusko, Meridian, Jackson and Natchez areas.

“We sincerely feel the Gasmark concept is unique in that it specifies energy-efficient construction techniques and natural gas appliances to make the best use of available energy sources,” he said. “This is a great thing and really gives our customers who want to save money a way to do it. It provides an option. It’s a good program.”

The homes also feature gaslights outside that give a warm glow and are there if the electricity goes off. Hyde says several subdivisions have committed to go with the program.

“Southaven is one of our biggest growth areas because of the growth going on there, and Jackson is a big market,” Hyde said. “People are more conscious about energy costs and that’s a good thing about Gasmark homes. It’s a win/win for our homeowners.”

Different options

He says the higher gas prices won’t slow down construction of Gasmark homes, noting that there will be more gas production and the gas company offers payment options. “Home energy costs depend on a family’s usage, so it’s difficult to say what the average savings are with a Gasmark home,” he said, “but the great thing about a Gasmark home is that it provides concepts for energy efficiency and brings it more into focus.”

Atmos offers payment options such as levelized billing to make gas bills the same year round. Hyde says they also try to do a good job of informing customers on things they can do to lower costs.

“We realize that home-buying decisions today are generally based on finding a home that offers the highest comfort level at a price that meets the family budget,” he said. “Comfort and efficiency are a major priority of each Gasmark builder.”

To qualify as a Gasmark builder and use the logo in sales promotions, a builder must be approved by Atmos, register each home with the company prior to beginning construction, and complete a builder certification checklist on each home to verify compliance with Gasmark specifications.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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