What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Natural Gas Meter

Union Gas informed us last week that they would like to change out our natural gas meter. My only thought was it was about time! They changed it out yesterday and I even managed to pick the brains of the installers. I'm always on the look-out for making our home a little more energy efficient. Natural gas appliances in our home include hot water tank, furnace, gas fireplace and gas dryer. We also have an outdoor natural gas grill.

Natural gas leaks can be very dangerous to the point of causing homes to blow-up. For that reason natural gas which is odourless and colourless is scented with mercaptans to serve as a warning of a gas leak. If you smell a natural gas leak, cut off the main gas and electricity to the house, get out of the house and call the emergency gas leak line for your natural gas provider. If the gas leak is bad enough something as simple as flicking on a light switch is enough of a spark to cause a problem so be safe and cut the electricity as well. Gas meters should be kept clear of vegetation and snow as well. Not only does this prevent errors reading the meter it also helps prevent potential leaks.

Old Meter

We bought this house almost two years ago and from the get go I was not pleased with the gas meter pictured. First, the meter itself looked quite old and there were signs of rust. I also suspected there might be a small gas leak but despite several checks never smelled enough natural gas to call them. I called them asking to have the meter checked which they did as well as a bit of basic maintenance on the meter. Union Gas paints the meters, checks for leaks and replaces if necessary or as part of their maintence schedule. I was very pleased to hear they were going to finally replace the meter!

There were two large shrubs on both sides of the meter virutally hiding most of it, obstructing not only reading the meter but also trouble shooting. We cut the shrubs down last summer leaving about a 1' high trunk on each side, planning to dig them out when we were sure they were dead. The service technicians said we maid a good choice to remove the shrubs. Apparently roots from both trees and shrubs can cause the gas pipe underground to shift that can ultimately cause leakage problems. They also recommended not digging out the roots of those shrubs but rather cut them off just below the ground level and let them rot so as to not risk hitting or shifting the gas line.

New Meter

Pictured is the new gas meter. Two things are quite apparent aside of aesthetics even though I only indicated one major change (red arrow). There is also a little round upside down (I think) vent that wasn't on the old meter. The meter now shows our gas used in cubic meters making it a lot easier to track. All utility meters should be tracked to catch any problems before they become major problems. For example if you track your natural gas usage at the same time every day and you find you are averaging 10 m3 daily, a reading that indicates you used 15 m3 would be abnormal so start trouble shooting right then before it costs you a lot more.

Our gas was off for about 40 minutes during the installation process. Once the meter was installed the service technicians came inside to make sure each of our gas appliances lit properly and were working. Both our furnace and dryer have electronic ignition so there is no pilot light burning all the time. The gas fireplace and gas grill have manual electronic ignition. However, the technicians said we should light the gas fireplace and leave the pilot light on for the entire heating season. They said this will save wear on the thermocoupler and even though this part is about $10 to replace they said it is better to leave the pilot light on. To me that doesn't make sense to have a pilot light running for an appliance we use a couple of times a month. We don't leave a pilot light on the gas grill either just light it when we need it. So I do think this is a bit of bad advice for out particular gas fireplace. We are planning on updating to a newer model that may possibly need to have the pilot light left on but hopefully not. A gas pilot light is using fantum energy and even though it is not a lot there is no point using that energy unless the appliance is in use.

Ok, so the really great news is they thought our furnace looked very, very good. The one technician has the same model at home and said he was amazed there was no rust on ours! His recommendation was very consistently with those of everyone we have talked to about our furnace. Leave it alone until it goes! This is great new to some degree even though we were hoping to go to a smaller sized (physically not BTU) furnace that along with going to a tankless hotwater heater would free up a considerable amount of room to extend the lower bathroom. It would appear we will be focusing on other improvements this year and that won't be such a bad thing.
Garden Gnome


Frank Schulte-Ladbeck said...

Thermocouplers can wear out, but only if you are constantly turning them on and off. For my heating system, I turn the pilot light off when not heating the home. It is an incredible waste of gas to leave it on. As for the water heater, do have an inline system from Bosch or Noritz (this is the tankless system)? They can save a great deal of gas.

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Garden Gnome said...

Frank, that's good to know about the thermocouplers. We were only turning on the gas fireplace as we needed it because like you I felt leaving a pilot light on was a waste of gas. However, I followed their advice and left the pilot light on with the fireplace set as low as it will go. First I noticed the fireplace will not go low enough to pilot light only. This low level heat was a good thing on the very cold days and for stopping the furnace from coming on the mild days. We are going to redo the backing behind the fireplace or install a newer model to eliminate having to have it or the pilot light on when not needed.

Garden Gnome said...

Our water heater is a tank one but old. It's on our to do list for this spring. We are replacing with an electric tankless under the kitchen sink to eliminate a long run for hot water to the kitchen. This run has to be a goof 40 ft if it were straight but the previous owner had all the pipes hooked to an individual shut off system so that adds at least another 20 ft of pipe. The two bathrooms will be serviced with a tankless natural gas water heater.