Using Natural Gas in Your Home, Is It Safe & Worth It?

what type of gas is used in homes

Natural gas is a versatile and cost-effective fuel source. No wonder then that its consumption has steadily risen, not only in the country but across the globe. This power source is typically consumed for space and water heating. However, it can also provide energy for other appliances. Some homeowners even extend their gas lines to power more natural gas appliances. 

The increasing access to natural gas reserves has helped boost dependence on this energy source. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the country’s electric power sector accounted for about 38% of the country’s total natural gas consumption. The residential sector accounted for 15% of this total. The use of this gas has overtaken that of conventional fossil fuels, such as oil and crude oil.  

Common Uses of Gas in Homes

Aside from electricity generation, natural gas has other uses. Electricity may remain the primary power source for most American homes, but the gas comes next. In fact, most houses typically have a gas line installed for appliances and equipment that run on this energy source. 

Here are some of the uses of natural gas in a home. 

Cooking

Gas is the preferred power source by avid cooks. Gas stoves using this energy supplier allows better temperature control than one that runs on electricity. Moreover, natural gas stovetops consume less energy than electric models. This comes about because the appliance heats faster. Newer gas stove models have done away with the pilot light and instead use an electric ignition. This results in a 40% reduction in the unit’s gas usage. 

Heating Water

A natural gas water heater is more economical than one that relies on electricity. That’s because natural gas prices are lower than that of electricity. Using the power source for devices that consume a lot of energy can help you save money. Compare your gas bill and electricity bill to see the difference. 

Cooling your Home

Although most AC models run on electric power, a natural gas AC is no longer considered an oddity. However, gas-powered air conditioners cost more upfront. The price factor prevents more homeowners from switching to natural gas for their cooling needs. Still, the lower operating expenses and cheaper gas prices can help you recoup the money you spent on your AC in no time. 

Fireplace

Do you want the ambiance of a warm and cozy fire without dealing with the hassles of cleaning the ashes and watching out for sparks? Then, a natural gas fireplace may be an excellent fit for you. These fireplaces come with a controllable burner for better flame management. You can also quickly turn the flame on and off, a convenience you won’t get with a wood-burning model. 

Clothes Dryer

If you have a gas supply in your home, you can maximize the savings on your utility bills by purchasing a natural gas dryer. Using a gas-powered model to dry your clothes can save you up to 50% on your power expenses. A natural gas dryer produces a large quantity of hot, dry air, eliminating moisture quicker than an electric dryer.  

Pool Heater

You can keep your pool at a comfortable temperature no matter the season by using a pool heater that runs on natural gas. This type of heater turns on only when needed, which reduces your gas usage. As a result, your pool remains inviting all year round without driving up your gas bill. Most models also have self-diagnostic functions that reduce maintenance hassles.   

What Uses the Most Gas in your Home?

Most of the natural gas consumed in typical American households goes to space heating and water heating. How much gas is used partly depends on geography. Areas with warmer weather conditions will naturally consume less gas for space heating. Other factors, such as home size and construction materials, also determine gas usage. 

Does Natural Gas Increase Home Value?

Natural gas is not only cheaper than electricity but is also cleaner than other traditional energy sources. These advantages make it prudent to add a natural gas line when renovating your home. That would be money well spent because, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), homes with facilities for natural gas can sell for 6% more than homes without such facilities.  

Due to the increasing demand for this fuel source, equipping a home with natural gas also increases its marketability. This can help make your home sell faster than those lacking a natural gas supply. 

Natural Gas vs Propane, What is Better?

The term “better” can mean different things to different people. That makes it difficult to say upfront if natural gas is better than propane or vice versa. Let’s look at what areas each fuel source excels in and where they’re found wanting. 

  • Safety: Both fuel sources are highly flammable. However, bureaucratic red tape surrounding the maintenance of natural gas lines makes it difficult to identify and repair leaks. Meanwhile, propane is stored in tanks, which are less likely to explode. But even if they do, the tanks aren’t interconnected, which lessens the extent and impact of an explosion.
  • Cost and efficiency: Computing the price in BTUs and gallons, natural gas costs around $6.23, on average, while propane costs approximately $26.99. 
  • Environmental impact: Natural gas may be classified as a greenhouse gas, but it releases around 50% less harmful emissions than coal. Still, in case of leaks, it’s more toxic to the environment than propane, which has fewer adverse effects on the soil and groundwater. 

Safety Precautions & Hazards

Because natural gas is highly flammable, using it requires caution. Fortunately, this fuel source doesn’t burn or explode on its own. Certain conditions need to be present to ignite natural gas

Here’s some information to help reduce the potential risks of using this gas. 

Gas Smell

By nature, natural gas is odorless. That makes it hard to detect leaks. Thus, it became an industry practice to add a substance to the gas that creates a pungent scent. So if you smell an unpleasant odor, something like sulfur or rotten eggs, check all gas appliances and equipment in your home. Provide adequate ventilation to the area, turn off the gas supply at the gas meter and leave the house.  

Things You Should Avoid Doing

If you smell gas, acting sensibly can save you from danger. First and foremost, never enter a house or building if you detect a scent that could indicate a gas leak. Under no circumstances should you light a cigarette or spark a flame near the area. Don’t use your mobile or cordless phone. Also, avoid turning on light switches or electrical appliances.  

Is Natural Gas a Toxic Substance?

Natural gas is considered the cleanest fossil fuel. It releases only water vapor, carbon dioxide, and some nitrogen oxide when burned. With the many uses of natural gas for the home, you may wonder if it’s a toxic substance, especially when inhaled. 

In general, breathing in a small amount of this gas won’t kill you or send you to the hospital. Still, it can have some effects on some people. These effects include headaches, dizziness, nausea, irregular breathing, and fatigue. 

Inhaling a large amount is another story. Natural gas can cause suffocation if too much of it gets in the air in an enclosed space. That’s why gas leaks in homes pose a great risk to you and your family. Minor symptoms of natural gas inhalation typically subside when you go out of your home or apartment building.  

How to Detect a Gas Leak?

You can detect gas leaks using three methods. Using them in tandem increases your chances of determining if there is indeed a leak in the premises. 

  • Smell: As mentioned, a chemical added to natural gas gives off a rotten egg scent. Suspect a gas leak if you catch a whiff of this smell with no discernible source. 
  • Look: Bubbling in puddles or dead plants in areas where they once thrived can signify a gas leak outdoors. On the other hand, a yellow flame instead of a blue one in gas-powered cooking equipment can signal an indoor gas leak. 
  • Listen: Any hissing sound around pipes in areas with gas lines can indicate a leak. 

Does Gas Turn into Carbon Monoxide?

Like natural gas, carbon monoxide (CO) is also colorless and odorless. However, CO is toxic. Natural gas usually produces only water and carbon dioxide when adequately burned. The problem is that improperly burned natural gas can lead to an imbalance in its composition, creating CO.  

Gas Meters

Gas meters look almost the same as electric meters. They also perform the same function of reading your energy consumption. An electric meter records your electricity usage, while a gas meter registers how much natural gas your home consumes per month. 

What is a Gas Meter?

Unlike propane that comes in tanks, natural gas gets to your home through pipes. Gas meters measure the gas usage of a house or apartment unit. This measurement becomes the basis of your utility bill.  

Gas Meter Number

The gas meter number is a unique numeric combination that identifies each customer. The numbers are usually found on the meter, and the exact numbers are reflected on your utility bill. It is the utility company’s way of connecting the right meter data with the account holder. 

Installation & Maintenance

You can install the gas meter before your supplier connects the supply to your home. Another option is for the gas supplier to install the meter. However, upon installation, the responsibility for maintaining the gas meter rests on the consumer or homeowner. 

On & Off Position

A valve controls the flow of gas that enters your home. The said valve is connected right after the meter. By law, it should move from the fully on to entirely off position by a quarter turn from an easy to operate the handle. Both the on and off positions are clearly indicated. 

The handle points up on the on position, and it points at a right angle away from the meter on the offsetting. 

Tips on Lowering Your Gas Bills

Natural gas may be cheaper than electricity, but you can save more money on your bill if you follow some conservation tips. 

  1. Make sure your home has proper insulation: Check for leaks to help your HVAC system maintain the correct temperature in your living space without consuming too much energy. 
  2. Use the right setting on your thermostat: Programmable thermostats can help reduce your energy bills by almost 23%. 
  3. Use less hot water: Water heaters consume a significant amount of energy. You can either lower the water temperature on your heater or wash with cold water whenever possible. 
  4. Upgrade your appliances and equipment: Old and inefficient HVAC systems, for example, consume more energy than newer models. 
  5. Turn to renewable energy: Solar energy is one example of a renewable energy source that can help you reduce your gas bill. 

FAQs

How safe is gas heat?

Modern gas heaters are designed to run with minimal danger. However, you can’t discount the risks posed by gas leaks. Proper maintenance of your equipment can help reduce the dangers of using gas for heat carry.

What is the average gas bill per month?

The typical American household spends a little over $100 on the gas each month. That’s the average figure. However, the amount can vary depending on some factors, such as the time of the year. You’ll naturally spend more to heat your home during winter and less during summer. 

What causes gas bills to go up?

Several factors can hike up your gas payments. These include the size of your home, its age, the number of people who live in it, and the kind of appliances you use. The age of your electronics and devices can also add to the costs. 

What are the disadvantages of natural gas?

Natural gas has the following disadvantages. It’s a fossil fuel, so it has a limited supply. Burning this gas also releases greenhouse gasses, which warms the planet. Moreover, because this energy source is combustible, it requires careful handling. 

Conclusion

More and more homes in the U.S. are using natural gas as an energy source. Because it’s cheaper than electricity, using it to power energy-hungry appliances can lower energy expenses. However, even though natural gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels, it still emits gasses that can accelerate global warming. Using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, would be a better alternative if you want to reduce the amount you spend for your energy needs.

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