Disaster with Gas Company

wolfe15136March 25, 2008

The gas company was just here this morning. They said that they were doing a survey of the lines outside that they do every 3 years. They said the line to my house was leaking out by the street, and they had to come in to check. They checked the inside lines too. They said the inside lines were leaking too, and shut off the gas to my house. There has never been any smell of gas anywhere.

They won't turn it back on until I replace all of the inside and outside lines and move the meter outside. So now, I have no heat, no hot water, and no way to cook.

I live in Pennsylvania, in a 100 year old house. I've been paying about $240 a month for gas this winter. A little more sometimes. The appliances I'm using date to the 70s and 80s.

So, my question is: do I pay to replace all of the gas lines (estimate from plumber who was just here $4500) or do I go all electric and replace the appliances?

If I replace all of the gas appliances, what do you recommend for heating? The current furnace is forced air, and the cooling is connected to it.

Also, what do you think of those tankless water heaters?

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Good news is you're spending a lot less on gas right now!

(it's funnier when it's not you! :O )

Seriously, that does suck wind. I would, however, get some more estimates. You might be able to get the job done for less, though I don't know how far you need to run the lines.

I'm not all that smitten with the notion of electrical heating systems in general, though in the next decade it may be a value. Somehow, though, I think that high oil will beget more exploration which will pick up more natural gas by product, thus driving the price back down.

I have heard that the 'instant on' electric water heaters aren't all that. Not ready for prime time and not as much savings as advertised.

I think you'll want to have the flexibility of electric and gas. JMHO. Good luck on this.


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    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 12:51PM
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The newest electric generating plants are going to natural gas fired, so your electric rates are going to be gas dependent anyway in many areas of the country. I am curious as to how they came to the conclusion the lines need replaced......the obvious places for failure and leakage seem to be the joint where the lines are connected. But, then again, they were there and I wasn't. When we had natural gas lines run that was where the failure occurred until we could tweek them for leaks.

Gas fired heat is typically cheaper than electric and likely will stay that way, in my area at least. I have had electric heat and also gas heat and electric resistant heating is about the most expensive heat you can use. I can run my gas furnace with very little draw on a generator in cases of power failure lasting days and I also have two gas fired auxilliary heat sources not even needing electric....but I don't think I'd want to invest in the generator needed to fire electric resistant heat. If you switch to electric heat, you'll bear the cost of a new furnace and new appliances right off the get-go and that's going to run you about the same cost as new gas lines. But, you will get new appliances out of it.

As for the tankless systems? I already have my one electric appliance (ceramic-clad, off peak highly energy efficient hot water heater) and it's staying. I might, however, go to a smaller tankless unit for the kitchen I could locate immediately beside the dishwasher and sink. The energy loss with those units are running the water to the point of use. I've used them at my kids' house in England and I really like them only don't get a unit firing on the torque of the water running. They are touchy. These units are going to be a hard-sell to Americans who are used to getting energy at a relatively cheap cost. But, the good news is the tax credits have been extended so you can still buy energy efficient appliances and use it.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 2:52PM
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I do agree with the other folks that it'll probably cost you just as much, if not more, to replace all your appliances and have the necessary electrical rewiring done: water heaters, furnaces, dryers and stoves are very high-drain items and you probably don't have the wiring there already... daaaaaaamn does that add up, especially if you need the panel expanded. Just upgrading a panel from 100amp to 200amp can run you $1500-2000! (That's on our to-do list, yuck-o.) Electric heat really, really blows big hairy wet dog IME except as supplemental heating. We now have oil heat and electric appliances and MAN do I miss my natural gas everything because it was all so much cheaper to run, even with a house a third bigger! Sadly, it would be something in the area of $25k to connect this house back up to the gas lines out in the street (since we'd have to tear up part of the street, which the city does NOT like)... not going to happen unless we win the lottery.

A good gas stove will keep chugging along for a long time as long as you keep it cleaned and properly adjusted. Ditto for a natural gas dryer, which is generally a good bit cheaper to operate than an electric one - I actually see quite a few gas dryers go by on Freecycle and Craigslist as people get the fancy new sets, so if you want a replacement at minimum cost keep an eye out there. However, replacing a refrigerator that is more than 15 years old WILL lower your electric bill - tax credits are available for Energy Star models from many states, and many utility companies offer rebates (either cash or credit against your power bill). If you get a clearance or scratch-and-dent model, unless you go for mega bells and whistles, you probably won't have to spend much at all! A friend of mine recently got a nice fridge for about $250 after the rebates and credits because she accepted a discontinued model that had a great big scrape down the side - but it was the side that was going to face the wall so who cared? If the plumber is already there doing other work it will cost little more in labor to add hooking up a new water heater, which is probably a good thing to think about. You might even be able to get the WH itself at a good discount (like very close to wholesale) through the plumber if you're giving him a nice big job like repiping a house, and the gas company may offer credits or rebates as well.

Our plumber is also fairly unimpressed with the tankless water heaters at this point. One thing he and I both find rather bothersome, rarely mentioned by the rah-rah sorts, is the many gallons of water that go down the drain while you're waiting for the hot water to get going - it's just not very practical to have buckets everywhere to catch all that cold and lukewarm water before it's wasted. Depending on the model and where the unit is located in relation to the points of use, it can take up to two minutes to get hot-enough water, so if you're waiting for your shower that's 5 gallons wasted with a standard 2.5gpm shower - over 1800 gallons per person per year. Potable water is precious stuff!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 6:59PM
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How did the gas company check the inside lines? Did they pressurize the lines and check for leaks or did they just check for the presence of gas inside the house? Maybe you could get a plumber in to find and fix just the leaks rather than replace all the pipes. Unfortunately you will probably have to replace the pipe connecting to the street, which is going to cost the most.

I live in W.PA and a few weeks ago a house blew up after a natural gas leak in the line at the road leaked gas through the soil into the people's basement. The gas company might be a little leary and erring on the safe side.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 11:58AM
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Most gas companies have a 'sniffer' that can detect very small leaks.
It uses an electronic sensor that is designed for finding gas.
All you have to do is slowly sweep it around the pipes and fittings.
Most make a slow ticking sound that increases in frequency as the concentration of gas increases.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 1:24PM
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Is it possible to just get a propane tank hooked up and find the leak and get that fixed too? I would think that would be cheaper than replacing everything, and then you wouldn't have to deal with the Big Brother gas company any more.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 7:25PM
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Every NG appliance will have to be changed over and will produce less heat.
Propane is also a lot more expansive than NG.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 5:41PM
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I also live in W PA near Pittsburgh. I think that house that blew up was out near where I used to live if it's the same one.

Just to let you all know, Dominion Peoples Gas in my area has an insurance program for something lik 3.00 a month. If the lines to your house need replacing, they eat the cost from the street to the house.

Knowing my lines are close to the end of their service life, 3.00 a month was worth it added to my 300.00 a month winter gas bill. I can even call to get on a list of replacements too if I wanted.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 9:25PM
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