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Builders came to the 2013 International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Las Vegas with their hopes buoyed by a persistent recovery in the housing market. They left brimming with inventive ideas, new product opportunities, and innovative practices to implement in their business. The American Natural Gas and Propane Industries Exhibit was filled with efficient and high-performance propane products builders can put to use in their homes right away. Here’s a roundup of the attention-grabbing, luxurious, or just plain practical products we found in the Exhibit and across the show floor.

Burnaby Manufacturing’s Gas Plug isn’t a new product, per se — the manufacturer’s been around for 20 years — but it’s one many builders aren’t aware of. And it makes too much sense to ignore. The Gas Plug is an exterior termination box that makes it a cinch for your customers to connect their gas-fueled backyard appliances to the home’s main propane or natural gas supply. If you’re building your homes with propane tanks to run the furnace and water heater, why force the customer to go to the gas station and refill a portable tank for their grill? Available in 22 models, including double-outlet and deck-mounted versions, the Gas Plug is a clean and simple solution to sell to your backyard-loving customers.

If you’re building your homes with propane tanks to run the furnace and water heater, why force the customer to go to the gas station and refill a portable tank for their grill?

Heat & Glo’s Twilight Modern gas fireplace won the IBS Best of Show Award in the Outdoor Living category with a simple but surprising design idea: It’s an indoor and an outdoor fireplace. The two-sided, see-through design provides sleek, contemporary styling with fireside views from both inside and outside the home. The unit splits the exterior wall of a home and can be installed flush with the inside or outside wall. It’s rated as a fireplace and exterior window and requires no additional flue or vertical venting.

Thermador‘s 48-inch Pro Grand Steam Range is made for serious home cooks. The manufacturer says it’s the first kitchen appliance to offer seven distinct cooking options: steaming, convection baking, burner cooking, simmering, grilling, griddle cooking, and warming. The range top includes six star-shaped burners that allow for both power and control. They reach a high power of 18,000 British thermal units (with one extra-power 22,000-Btu burner), but they also include a unique extra-low feature that allows the flame to cycle on and off for an extremely gentle simmer.

Rinnai debuted several new products and features that make it easier for builders to deliver efficient and high-performance space heating and water heating. The Q Premier boiler combines a heating-only boiler with a 24-gallon indirect tank in a single appliance to provide space heating and high-domestic output water heating. The manufacturer says the system can deliver 211 gallons of domestic hot water within the first hour, and it requires about 70 percent less space than a traditional floor-standing boiler and indirect-tank system. The company also announced a Domestic Priority Switch, designed to allow the partnering of a Rinnai tankless water heater with any third-party air handler, as well as several recirculation accessories for its tankless water heaters that allow homeowners to set recirculation patterns and optimize energy use.

Designated Most Efficient of ENERGY STAR in 2012Lennox‘s SLP98V forced air furnace has an annual fuel utilization efficiency rating of up to 98.2 percent, and it takes that efficiency even further with a variable-speed blower that modulates the air flow to deliver the precise amount of heat needed in the home. The furnace can also be combined with the manufacturer’s programmable icomfort Wi-Fi thermostat to make adjustments as needed to optimize performance and efficiency. The thermostat can be controlled from a homeowner’s laptop or smartphone-even from the bedside on a cold morning.

Bradford White displayed its 40-gallon Energy Star model with an atmospheric vent and a package of accessories that provide additional energy savings or more hot water. For instance, a programmable set-back control operates like a home heating thermostat, allowing homeowners to set their water heater on idle when they’re away from home, saving energy (according to the manufacturer’s studies, those savings would range from 7 percent for a family of four to more than 36 percent for a single adult male). Another accessory, the integrated mixing device, allows the tank to store water at a higher temperature and then temper it down to safer temperatures in hot water fixtures, stretching the tank’s hot water capacity by about 50 percent.

Ideal for off-grid homes or residences that use solar power to back up the utility power, Kohler Power‘s propane-fueled 6VSG generator is specifically designed to provide efficient backup power to battery banks for alternative energy sources such as solar or wind. It provides consistent direct current (DC) output to maintain battery banks directly without inefficient conversions from alternating current. The variable-speed engine runs only as fast as needed to recharge the battery, reducing fuel consumption and costs and extending the life of the engine.

Generac revealed its new Guardian Series of residential backup generators. The systems feature a revamped Evolution controller that is backlit with LEDs to identify the generator’s status at a glance. The two-line LCD display delivers the maintenance log and reminders, as well as new information about the generator’s battery condition, providing assurance about battery health in advance of a power outage. The manufacturer also highlighted the launch of its propane-fueled LP5500 portable generator that incorporates a 20- or 30-pound propane tank within the chassis of the unit. The generator is operated with a simple, three-position PowerDial that integrates the starting and operating controls in a single mechanism.

Generac went even further to give away its propane-fueled LP3250 portable generators to three lucky visitors to the American Natural Gas and Propane Industries Pavilion. Another winner went home with a Fire Magic Aurora A540 gas grill. Check out the winners below.

Fire Magic Grill Winner: Mark, of Montana. (Photos courtesy of AGA.)

Generac Generator, Day 1: Maria, of New Jersey.

Generac Generator, Day 2: Richard, of Michigan.

Generac Generator, Day 3: Elaine, of Texas.

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Jeffrey Lee