Utilities

Natural Gas/Propane


Your Natural Gas Service

Image of natural gas cooktop burner blue flames
Gas burner in action

The natural gas service to your home is similar to the water service. The utility gathers up the natural gas from wells in distant places and transfers it to your home via another vast array of pressurized pipelines.

When the gas is first extracted from deep in the earth, it is completely colorless and has no smell at all. In order to detect that gas is present, it is “odorized” at the well before being sent out into the world and eventually to your home. This odorized gas has a very distinctive aroma. If you smell it, you won’t forget it. And if you smell it in, or around your home, you likely have a leak.

Unlike the water system, your gas utility company will usually bring their main lines right up to your house and place a meter there. This eliminates the need for a separate main underground gas line lateral and allows all, or most of the piping from the meter to the various gas appliances in the home to be made by a plumber using above ground piping and connections.

Gas Codes

Building codes for gas piping call for the use of different materials than those used for water. There are mandatory shut-offs on the gas lines near their connection point to each appliance that operates on gas. This is so the gas to each appliance can be safely turned off for service without affecting the rest of the home. A specialized shut off wrench needs to be kept handy in the event you need to shut the gas off to the house in an emergency. For earthquakes, a special valve can be installed on your main gas line that will detect a seismic event and automatically turn off the gas.

Propane

A great alternative when natural gas is not available is Propane. Propane is delivered by a local propane company via trucks. It is stored at your home in an above ground tank. From the tank, it is delivered to the home and distributed just like natural gas. Propane fuel burns slightly cooler than natural gas so your gas fired appliances need to be specifically designated for either propane or natural gas.

Reading Your Natural Gas Meter

By reading your natural gas meter you can tell how much natural gas you’re using. To read your natural gas meter, follow these steps:
Analog Meter
  1. Read the dials left to right.
  2. If the hand is between two numbers, always select the lower number.
  3. When the hand is between “9” and “0,” then “9” is considered the lower number.
  4. When the hand looks as though it is DIRECTLY on the number, look at the dial to the right. If the dial on the right has passed “0,” use the number that the hand is on. If the dial on the right has not passed “0,” use the number less than what the hand is on.
The first dial is turning counter-clockwise. It points between the “0” and the “1.”
  • Read this dial as “0”.
  • The second dial is between “1” and “2.” It might even look as though it is on the “2,” but you can see that the dial is to the left. Read the lower number.
  • Read this dial as “1”.
  • The third dial is turning counter-clockwise and is just after the “5.”
  • Read this dial as “5”.
  • The fourth dial is turning clockwise and is between the “1” and the “2.”
  • Read this dial as “1.”
Image of natural gas analog meter dial
Gas meter analog dial
Remember to record the lower number if the dial is between two numbers. For this example, read from left to right. The correct reading for this meter is 0151.

 

Digital Meter

  1. There are no dials, simply read the digital read out numbers from left to right directly as indicated.
  2. Perform the same calculation exercise as for the analog version to get your daily use.
Digital “smart” meters transfer the information via radio waves, elimination the need for a site reading. You have the option to retain the old analog meter if you wish to eliminate the RF signals radiation from the smart meters.
Image of digital gas meter readout
Gas meter digital dial

To-Do

  • Locate your main gas meter and install a permanent gas shut off wrench at that location for emergency use.
  • Locate and label the individual gas shut offs for each gas appliance in your home. (water heater, furnace, cooktop, fireplaces, BBQ’s etc.).
  • Decide if you need a seismic shut off valve for your area and engage a licensed plumber to install.
  • If you suspect a gas leak inside your home, call your utility immediately.

Maintenance

  • 1x per year: Operate the main gas shut off valve to make certain that it works properly. Be sure to return it to the “on” position when done. If the valve will not move, call the utility company for a repair.
  • 4x per year: Inspect the gas meter area and sniff the air to see if any leaks may be present. The gas company is responsible for leaks up to the meter. You are normally responsible for any leaks associated with any connections you have made to the gas supply in the home.
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