The South African Department of Energy has no doubt made gains in powering homes around the country.
Roughly 93% of households in urban areas are connected to the power grid to date, and this figure is expected to rise in the coming years.
Two things seem to spoil an otherwise commendable job; the ever-rising cost of electricity and the annoyance of load shedding.
It is no wonder that homeowners are looking for alternative energy sources to power their homes.
Gas is one such option that is worth considering, and we will take you through gas installations for your home as well as everything you need to know about supplementing your energy needs using LPG or bottled gas.
Gas An Alternative Source Of Energy
You may not be able to power your entire home with gas, but you can go a long way in reducing your reliance on electricity.
Gas has long since been an alternative energy source and is most notably found in kitchens and backyard braais.
More homeowners are waking up to the possibilities of gas appliances and the many benefits they present.
Gas is extracted from crude oil and is placed under pressure in gas cylinders for various uses in and outside the home.
Just in case you are wondering how you can power your home with your kitchen cabinet gas, these cylinders are also available in 9kg, 48kg, 90kg, and 210kg cylinders.
What Appliances In Your Home Run On Gas?
You may be surprised at how much you can do without electricity in your home.
Cooking is undoubtedly the most common use of gas in the home.
Gas cookers offer instant heat, unlike electric cooker elements that first have to heat up.
The heat is also much easier to control on these cookers, and these appliances use significantly less energy than their electric counterparts.
The thought of how much it costs to run an electric fireplace is enough to dissuade anyone from installing this convenient appliance.
Wood can be smoky and cumbersome to deal with before you can even mention the mess they create.
Gas fireplaces offer as much warmth as a traditional wood-burning alternative but with better temperature control.
You can also light and extinguish a gas fireplace in an instant.
Heaters & Air Conditioners
Electric heaters are a common sight during the cold months but have you ever considered a gas heater?
These units heat up faster and provide a more powerful blast of heat, even on especially cold nights.
Similarly, gas air conditioners continue to keep you cool in a power outage. They also require less energy to run long-term.
Electric geysers are an incredible convenience, but they have their limitations.
You have to wait for the water to heat in the mornings if you turn your unit off at night. You can also run out of hot water mid-shower.
Gas water heaters provide hot water instantly and for as long as you like. You also don't need space for a water tank since these units are tankless.
You can read our full comparison of electric vs. gas geysers to find out which would suit you best.
Gas dryers haven't quite hit the mainstream South African appliance market, but they are available.
A gas dryer can save you up to 50% in energy costs compared to their electric counterparts.
These units are also more powerful, drying your clothes quicker.
Equipment & Materials Used For Gas Installations
There are a few things that you will need for a gas installation to run correctly:
Gas Cylinder – This is an obvious component of gas appliance installation. The gas cylinder contains the gas that you need to power your appliances.
Valve Assembly – Is located at the top or the shoulder of the cylinder and serves several functions. This is where the gas leaves the cylinder and is also used for refilling. The valve also closes the cylinder so that the gas doesn't leave when you turn off the gas.
Regulator – Without a regulator, the gas would leave the cylinder at too high pressure for the appliance to handle. The regulator is tasked with reducing the gas pressure to the required level for the appliance. The regulator has internal springs, a gas pressure vent, a flexible rubber disc called a diaphragm, among other parts.
Hand Wheel – This part is typically attached to the regulator. It is used to turn the gas on and off manually. Some designs have a simple switch rather than a wheel.
Pigtail – Pigtail connects the valve to the regulator. It has a narrow opening to restrict the amount of gas flowing to the regulator.
Gas Hose – This pipe carries gas from the gas cylinder to the appliance. The hose may be made from reinforced rubber, copper, brass, steel, corrugated stainless steel (CSST), or galvanized steel.
Changeover Valve – When using two or more gas cylinders, a change over valve switches between both cylinders. Most setups use one gas cylinder at a time. The system switches to another cylinder when the first runs out. Changeover switches are either manual or automatic.
Level Pressure Gauge – This equipment tells you the amount of gas left in the cylinder.
Venting – Some appliances such as gas water heaters require a vent to the outside of the house to release the gasses created during combustion.
8 Important Points About Gas Installation Safety & Regulations?
Many homeowners are proud of their DIY skills, but gas and/or gas appliance installations must be performed by a certified technician.
This home improvement must be completed as stipulated by the South African National Standard (SANS: 10087), SAQCC Gas, and the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of South Africa (LPGSA).
Some of the essential regulations you must be aware of include:
- You must have a Certificate of Conformity for your gas installation. Your certified gas installer or a gas inspector can provide you with this document. You need this certificate for gas cookers and braais, gas fires, gas geysers, and other gas equipment.
- Gas installation may only use Class 1 or 2 copper piping. The copper piping must be sleeved if it passes through a partition or wall.
- A flexible hose may be used as long as it is not more than 2m long and doesn't run through any wall or partition or used outside.
- The installer must have an LPG license. The installer should show you their LPG license card before they can begin the installation.
- Every gas appliance in a domestic application must have an isolation valve or shutoff valve.
- All materials used for the installation must be SANAS and SABS approved.
- Outdoor installations must be at least 3m away from the property boundary line. The installation may be next to the boundary line if the boundary has a firewall.
- Gas cylinders must be at least 5m away from switchable electrical points such as pool pumps, power isolators, plug sockets, airconditioning units, etc.
Gas Cost VS Electricity Cost
Gas usable is measured in BTU, while electricity is measured in kilowatts. We'd first have to find some common ground to compare these two energy sources' costs accurately.
1kg of LPG gas is equivalent to 13.6 kilowatts hours (kWh).
You need about 2.4 kWh to power a 100-watt lightbulb for 24 hours.
You would need roughly 180 grams of LPG to power the same 100-watt bulb for 24 hours.
The cost of 180 grams of LPG in SA is roughly R4.30 (R23.89 per kg). So you will pay R4.30 for gas to power the 100-watt lightbulb for 24 hours.
The current price of electricity is roughly R2 per kWh. That means you will pay R4.80 to power the same lightbulb.
This is a rough calculation, but the point is, LPG is slightly cheaper to use than electricity. Given that the price of power rises every year, we expect to see a more significant difference in the future.
Gas Installations: Care & Maintenance
A few care and maintenance pointers should help you get the most out of your gas appliances and ensure your safety.
- Keep your gas cylinder far from possible sources of ignition.
- Use a licensed gas installer for installation and modifications.
- Ensure that your appliances are specifically designed and approved to work with LPG. Avoid retrofitting appliances to convert to gas.
- Turn off the gas and ventilate the room for at least three minutes if your gas burner fails to ignite instantly.
- Have your gas cylinder inspected by an authorized LPG dealer at least once every ten years.
- Turn the gas off immediately if you suspect a leak.
- Ensure adequate ventilation around the gas cylinder.
Gas Installations Pros And Cons
Portability – Gas cylinders are portable and can be installed anywhere as long as you have enough space for the cylinder and adequate ventilation. You can hook up outdoor braais or indoor appliances where you would otherwise have to re-wire your home.
Efficiency – Almost all gas appliances run more efficiently (and powerfully) than electric versions. LPG naturally burns hotter than electricity, giving you more value for money.
Availability – LPG is widely available, and you can price-shop to find an affordable and reliable supplier. You don't have much choice regarding your electricity supplier.
Reliability – As long as your cylinder has gas, you can run your appliances without worrying about unexpected power interruptions.
High Initial Upfront Cost – Converting to gas can be an expensive affair. You will eventually recoup your money from energy saving, but this can take a long time. There are instances where you may not recoup the investment at all.
Potential Hazard – Gas is a potential fire hazard, and gas explosions can cause extensive damage. Gas is generally quite safe to use as long as it has been installed by a licensed professional, but the effects of an accident can be devastating.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) What Is A Gas Compliance Certificate?
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (No 85 of 1993) stipulates that all gas installations must have a Gas Compliance Certificate.
You can usually get this certificate from your gas installer during installation or from a licensed gas inspector.
Only persons registered with the Liquified Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Southern Africa (LPGAS) can issue this certificate.
2) How Long Is A Gas Certificate Valid For in South Africa?
A gas certificate is valid indefinitely as long as you do not modify or alter the installation.
You will require a new gas certificate in situations as mentioned earlier.
You will also need a new gas certificate in case of a change of ownership of the gas installation.
3) How Long Will A Gas Cylinder Last?
A 9kg gas cylinder will last between three and six months, depending on the usage.
The lifespan of the gas depends on usage and the appliance it is connected to.
The cylinder itself can last indefinitely, but you should have it tested for usage every 5-10 years.