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Growing up in the 1960s, David Templeman and his friends were familiar with the quaint white clapboard church in their community of Collinsville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. With a single tower and a sign reading “Christadelphian Meeting House” above the plain white front door, the church stood on an acre of land with a wooded expanse behind the structure — an ideal hangout for kids in rural Illinois.

Little did Templeman know at the time, that small white church would be his future home.

“When I was looking for properties out here, I saw the church was for sale and started to watch it,” Templeman says. “The property is really serene and peaceful, and I remembered when we used to spend time up here as kids. [When] the price was reduced … I went into contract on it.”

Now Templeman, working with Bailey Contracting and a team of friends and family, is repurposing the building from a church into a residence.

Comfort and sanctuary

In visiting his newly purchased property, Templeman found an existing, older propane tank and tracked down its maintenance to M&M Service Company in Granite City, Illinois. Templeman reached out to M&M to continue propane service, knowing they would be familiar with the area and the property. With that relationship and a new 500-gallon tank in place, Templeman was ready to put propane to use in numerous areas of his soon-to-be home.

The church’s chapel will house most of Templeman’s living area, but a large room with high ceilings requires thoughtful planning when it comes to home comfort. After much research, Templeman discovered that his propane hot water heater could feed a radiant floor heating system that will warm the lofty space from the floor up.

“Being in unincorporated Collinsville, where natural gas is not available to us, I knew I didn’t want to have an electric home, and I’ve had good experiences with gas in the past,” he says. “Propane was the best option because it’s much more economical than electric.”

Cost-effective heating was a primary consideration for the church. In addition to having 1,900 square feet of space to heat, Templeman’s team was contending with 16-foot ceilings in the chapel, which would eventually become the living room, kitchen and dining space, pantry, mudroom, and laundry. “This area will be massive, and with the research I did, I was convinced that radiant floor heat would be the only way to heat the space economically and comfortably,” he says.

One continuous run of radiant heating tubing wouldn’t be sufficient to warm the entire main living space. Instead, Templeman zoned the system into four sections that will be able to heat the space more evenly.

To achieve this, the home’s propane tank feeds a 199,000 Btu water heater with a 10 gpm flow rate. The flow rate allows the system to provide hot water throughout the home while also feeding 1,200 linear feet of in-floor radiant heat tubing — four zones of 300 feet each. “They’re zoned because you can’t heat a room this size with one supply line,” Templeman explains. “By the time you get the hot water from one end of the tube to the other, it won’t be warm anymore. Instead, we’ve split it so each section will get its own hot water supply, but they’ll all be controlled by one thermostat.” Templeman says he’s looking forward to the cozy feeling of always having warm propane radiant heat at his feet as it rises into the living space.

Ever-present power

Propane will feature elsewhere in the home as well. Templeman says he’s always enjoyed cooking with gas, so the property’s propane tank will feed a gas cooktop for the indoor kitchen, as well as a gas grill on the outdoor patio.

The home’s bedrooms will be housed in the former Sunday school space connected to the church. While in-floor radiant heating isn’t possible in two of the bedrooms, a third-bedroom addition will have heat in the floor. Comfort for the rest of the space is controlled by the same propane water heater mentioned above and an air handler with a hydronic coil. Additionally, the master bedroom will feature a propane fireplace.

The home’s propane water heater will play a major role by providing all of the home comfort as well as hot water.

Creature comforts such as fireplaces, cooking appliances, and radiant heating are all part of the fun of building and restoring a home. But Templeman is also putting propane to use in a highly practical way.

“I’m putting in a propane-powered generator,” he says, noting that stormy Midwestern weather and being somewhat removed from the region’s more populated areas make having a standby generator a smart investment.

“Using propane for this renovation made a lot of sense for several reasons,” Templeman says. “There was a little confusion at the beginning to determine who had control over the tank, but once we figured that out, everything came together.”

Templeman and his team are on track to have the renovation completed in time for him to move into the home by October 4, 2018. Interestingly, among several newspapers the crew found in the church when construction began, was one from October 4, 1975. Possibly just a coincidence but made more significant in knowing that October 4 is Templeman’s birthday, and on that day in 1975, he and his friends could easily have been spending time in the woods behind the church. Whether the find is a sign is anyone’s guess, but Templeman is eager to make this propane-powered country church his home this fall.

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Lauren Hunter