Natural gas has been an important energy source used in construction for decades. Nowadays, you might notice that many new builds aren’t allowing gas hookups. It’s an issue with many important players and a lot of debate between them. Here are a few things you should know about natural gas and its future in construction.
Although there have been many efforts to make natural gas clean-burning and produce fewer emissions, it is not a renewable resource. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, which means that it comes from a rapidly-depleting source of petroleum. While prices for natural gas tend to be significantly lower than the current local rate for electricity, costs may change over time as the supply continues to drop. Many proponents of the switch from natural gas to electricity say that it’s better to get in the habit of using renewable energy because eventually, natural gas will cease to be a resource.
Natural gas usage in a building requires ventilation, as a way of preventing a deadly accumulation of carbon monoxide. Unfortunately, most buildings aren’t designed to provide that level of ventilation. It’s common to have a furnace with a sealed combustion chamber, one that safely directs all the exhaust to a vent pipe leading directly outside. But in the kitchen, concentrations of harmful toxins like nitrogen dioxide or carbon monoxide might be much higher in homes that run on natural gas. Ventilation isn’t complete and if people don’t use it effectively, the concentrations continue to build. These toxins can cause headaches, nausea, asthma-related symptoms, and even death in high concentrations.
The efficiency of natural gas compared to electricity is a matter of hot debate. On the one hand, someone who uses natural gas to heat a home or to run appliances for cooking will need less energy for the process than they would for electricity. Someone who uses electricity will ultimately use more energy for every task. However, for pure efficiency comparisons on similar appliances, electricity is generally better. An electric furnace might have efficiency at or around 100, compared to 80 to 90 for one that runs on natural gas. On a larger scale, the debate between natural gas and electricity depends on the efficiency of the mechanism used to produce electricity. Natural gas may not be as efficient at the end of the process, but it could be much more efficient at the beginning.
Government Bans on New Installation
Municipal and state governments have mixed opinions on the best way to move forward on this issue. Many cities in California have passed bans on natural gas for new construction, although property owners may decide to retrofit those systems after the fact. New York City has also passed a ban, starting with smaller buildings in 2024 and expanding the ban to taller buildings in 2027.
On the opposite side of the debate, about 20 states have signed into law guidelines preventing cities from passing bans on natural gas in new construction. Although these states tend to lean more conservative and the cities passing bans are generally more liberal, it’s not simply a partisan issue. The preference for cooking with natural gas is strong, and many organizations are unwilling to back bans that pass extra costs along to the consumer. This weighs against the concerns about sustainability and long-term health effects.
Is natural gas on its way out of the construction industry? Probably, although it may be decades before the switch is complete. For more guidance on the best way to start your contracting business, contact CSLS today.