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To gas or not to gas?

raul4817 | Posted in General Questions on

I am close to nailing down my 2nd floor sub floor for good, and hopefully hanging drywall shortly thereafter.

So My question is should I stub in a gas pipe While the walls are still accessible?

the gas appliances that remain are furnace, dryer, and power vent hot water heater in basement, and a stove on the 1st floor.

My second floor Is getting a mini split and an electric dryer.

I have never owned an electric dryer nor has my wife. I was going to stub in a gas line only in the event that in 5-10 years my wife hates the dryer and asks to go back to gas.  I really do not to go backwards by burning gas when I would assume dryer technology and efficiency will only improve.

Eventually the other gas appliances will all get swapped for electric.
I Recently had solar panels installed and have a substantial amount of over production that I would like to take advantage of.

Should I even bother running the gas pipe to the 2nd level.  I can sneak it in now but big pain 5 years from now.

Ill still have a gas dryer in the basement till it dies, which could be a long time from now since going forward it will only be used to for my soiled work wear.

What are some real world comparisons going from gas to electric dryers? Never had one so curious any real difference beyond the dry times?

Raul

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Replies

  1. Expert Member
    Zephyr7 | | #1

    I would run the gas line now while you can. It is better to “have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”. You don’t HAVE to use it, but it’s nice to have it and it’s not super expensive to put it in. Just be sure to pressure test the line and bubble test any fittings before you close up the wall. If you don’t want to actually connect the line to your gas service (and I’d leave it disconnected until you actually have a need for it to supply an appliance), you can use nitrogen to pressurize the line for testing purposes, or even an air compressor. Gas runs around 1/4 PSI or so normally, so you could pressurize the line to 1 or 5 PSI for testing purposes easily enough.

    I’d put in one of the nice in-wall gas valve connection boxes too for a clean install. These are similar to the washing machine connection boxes but they have a yellow handled gas valve inside.

    Bill

    1. raul4817 | | #2

      Thanks Bill I was leaning towards just fishing the pipe through the wall and leaving it disconnected as you stated. I figure i could leave 6" or so with threads in the basement ceiling and easily connect to it if needed. Pipe is dirt cheap. Even though I have zero intention to do so, If for some reason my mini split doesn't work out, Would 1/2" be enough to supply a gas dryer and a gas furnace? It would be reduced off the main in the basement which I believe is 1" line from the meter.

      1. Expert Member
        Zephyr7 | | #6

        It depends on pressure drop in the pipe. You would usually have a 7” WC gas supply pressure, and you size for 0.5” pressure drop. There are distance (feet of pipe) equivalents for all the fittings, so if a 90 fitting is worth 2 feet of pipe and you have three fittings and 30 feet of pipe, you would use 3 fittings x 2 feet equivalent per fitting. + 30 feet of linear pipe = 36 feet of equivalent total pipe length to use for pressure drop sizing.

        1/2” is probably not enough to run everything. You’ll probably need 3/4” or more depending on the load. 1/2” is usually enough to run a dryer alone over a decent distance, but furnaces use a LOT more gas and you have to size for the combined load.

        A note about the “future is electric” idea. I work in one of the most electric intensive industries in the world (telecommunications), and electric cost is usually our biggest operating cost. I have facilities I’m involved with that have six figure electric bills — every month! Obviously we follow the electric cost projections pretty closely. There are good reasons to expect electric rates to increase in the future, renewables generally have NOT reduced electric rates in actual practice.

        That said, think of the gas line as cheap insurance. If I’m wrong, and many other industry watchers are wrong, and electricity gets cheaper or stays the same, you’re only out the cost of that pipe and a little time. If electric costs rise, you have options. It’s always better to keep your options open, especially when the cost to do so is as small as some gas pipe.

        Bill

  2. Expert Member
    Akos | | #3

    Not sure I would rough in a gas line that most likely never be used. Unlike heat pump dryers, there is really no performance difference between electric and gas dryer.

    I can't see why you would go back to a gas furnace. With the low cost of renewable, there is very little chance of large spike in electricity price any time soon. Even if electricity gets expensive, you can always install a small array on your place to make up it.

    The thing that is worth roughing in is a service cavity. Something you can access from both sides down the road with minimal cutting through drywall or flooring.

    1. raul4817 | | #5

      Akos,

      I get your point. I guess I am just planning for the worst. I really dont know if I'll ever go back to gas, just in case the wife hates the electric dryer, but from what your saying it should be a non issue.
      In regards to the electricity usage from the dryer or minisplit I have no issues on supply. I was lucky enough to take advantage of the federal rebate and the state of illinois srec program. Hence I went with the largest array I could and the price was surprisingly low after all the incentives. I have a 13.6 kwh array that is estimated to produced 18k kwh a year. Too early to see the actual numbers but as of the first of the year I've produced 4k, and that's in a typical chicago winter.

      The end goal would to go all electric from the house to the cars parked in the garage, even the fireplaces are going to be electric but I've still got a long ways till then.

      In regard to the service cavity. I guess I'll ask you now since that would be my next post anyway.

      I'm all done with installing the intello air barrier and have planned to build out a 2x3 wall in front of it. My only hang up is the excessive twisting I have seen with 2x3s. I could go the metal stud route but not keen on hanging anything of real weight off of those.

      The idea was to build the wall on the floor and stand it up spaced 16 or 24 oc. Once I stand it up I was going to nail off the top and bottom plates. I was not planning on penetrating the wall portion of the intello. I have seen the mooney wall but this would require me screwing through at the wall at various points
      Any thoughts or best practices.

      I have kicked around the idea of just saying to hell with it and framing with 2x4s to reduce warpage but every inch counts so I'm torn

      Raul

      1. Expert Member
        Akos | | #8

        I mean service chase running up from the basement not a full service cavity along the wall. These seem like a good idea, but I don't think one would use it enough to matter. I've run empty conduit in my walls and have yet to touch it.

        Since it looks like you've already taped yourself into a corner and need one, I would strap out the wall with horizontal 2x on flat and call it a day.

        The couple of screw holes through the membrane especially when clamped between two pieces of lumber will leak next to nothing. This would get you most floor area and be much quicker to build than dealing with twisted 2x3s. Plus it is a joy to hang drywall on lumber like this since it is impossible miss the stud.

        Get surface mount electrical boxes but inset them so they are flush with the drywall. These have about the same volume as standard 2.5" device boxes.

        1. raul4817 | | #9

          Akos,

          If I where to go this route and I may just to be done with it. I should mention that here in the great state of IL everything and I mean everything electrical has to be inside conduit. 2x on the flat may pose an issue for the 90 bends in the corners. I do have a short radius bender but I'll have to play around in the morning with some scrap pipe and 2x to see if its feasible. I though of taking the 2x3 and screwing through the 1.5" edge. Not really a joy for sheetrock but gives me some wiggle room on the electrical bends.
          Raul

          1. Expert Member
            Akos | | #10

            The way to do tight corners is with two bends.

            First bend goes up vertical into the corner, you rotate 90, the 2nd bend then takes you back to horizontal and out of the corner.

            This also works great for plumbing as you can turn even 1" pex through a tight space.

  3. George Smith | | #4

    If you have solar panels and a plan to eventually swap out your gas appliances for electric, it doesn't seem worthwhile to run a gas line upstairs. The future is electric, right?

    1. raul4817 | | #7

      George,

      That's what I keep telling myself and my wife. But the doomsday prepper in me keeps telling me to do it. I guess I'm just trying to see what others here would do in my position. I know in some parts of the country natural gas service is not the norm. But around here most would call me crazy to shut off my gas service. But the "cheap insurance" as Bill stated is not crazy either.
      Raul

  4. Cm Mm | | #11

    I'm w/ Zep: 'tis better to have and not need... Trust your prepped instincts.

  5. Tom May | | #12

    Just run a 3/4 line and cap it on either end. If it's a straight shot you can always remove it or if you decide to run electric you can use it as a conduit or chase.

  6. Jon R | | #13

    This discussion includes an assumption that solar panels offset grid electricity usage. This is only cost effectively true if the time of use is matched or you have a utility that is willing to act as a low cost battery. The latter is increasingly not true (YMMV).

    While I'm in favor of phasing out nat gas, it's also worth thinking about long term power outages (where nat gas has some advantages).

    1. raul4817 | | #14

      Jon,

      In my case I went with a larger pv array than needed for my current consumption.
      My reasons for this was the addition of the future minisplit for the 2and story and my eventual transition To another mini for the 1st floor and basement. And swapping out the stove and hot water tank for electric as they bite the dust.The other deciding factor was the generous incentives here in Illinois.

      The federal rebate is a % of total cost, however IL srec program is based on production over a 15 year period and paid at $70 or so per MW you are estimated to produce in the contracted 15year contract.
      The payment is front loaded with the homeowner agreeing to maintain the system operable for that 15year period.
      If for some reason you do not they can in theory ask for some of the credit back.

      My original solar design called for 26 panels on the south side of the gable roof. After going through some hoops with my local jurisdiction I was allow to also install an additional 18 on my detached garage. The total out of pocket difference between the 26 vs 44 panel array was only around $1200.

      The local utility here has a fair payback imo on overproduction. The net metering agreement pays you per kw sent back to the grid. In my case because I've installed a system that exceeds the allow 110% of previous years usage. I unfortunately only get .03 cent flat on my energy sent back. But when as my usage gets closer to my production I will get paid at the market rate per kw sent back. Most times the market rate is around .03 cents anyway but it can jump around to as high as .07 in the summer during peak hours.

      My current yearly usage is around 11k kwh.
      This is with a 2ton 10seer ac that's awfully hungry all summer. I'm estimated to produce 18k kwh so I have around 7k kwh to work with. The addition of two minisplits should eat some up but also their efficiency is more than twice what I'm running currently, except they will run in the winter as well. The electric dryer seems like a no brainer with some other appliances to follow, heat pump hot water, induction cooktop. And if there is some extra change an EV or 2.

      I have looked into battery storage but I honestly do not think is worth it right now. Considering the high cost and the the net metering agreement I have in place.

      In the event of a real emergency I still have gas throughout the basement. I do have a gas dryer in the basement that will remain.

      This past winter my better than average insulated 2nd story maintain an average temp between 64-68F. This is mostly in part to my oversize condensing furnace in the basment. My real concern will be when I phase out the old furnace in the basement, then I will have to think about a outage proof way of heating my home in emergencies. Not sure if a gas generator could power my fujitsu in the winter if there was an extended outage? But that might be the simplest solution. I have thought of a wood stove or a gas fireplace in the basement for emergencies.

      I have not thought of cancelling my gas service altogether and just maintaing it active at a service fee of 15$ a month.

      I could always dry clothes in the basement, just a hassle. I did speak with a friend who happens to be a retired electrician, he loves his electric dryer and this is encouraging.

      Still torn between running this gas pipe that may never be used. I dont think I'll ever go back to gas fired heating at least for the second floor, in theory if I hate the minisplit i could do some electric resistance heat(not really an efficient option) but something. My heating and cooling load will reduce as I continue to insulate and air seal the remainder of the house.

      Raul

      1. Expert Member
        Zephyr7 | | #15

        There is no question a natural gas fired generator could power your minisplits. I run two 3 ton air conditioners with mine on occasion, along with a well pump and everything else (I live in a more rural area where power outages are fairly frequent). You just need a big enough unit. My guess is you'd probably do pretty well with a 12kw, but depending on your load and what you want to run when, you maybe need a 15-20kw unit. I like the Kohler units better than the generac units you commonly see. The Kohler units are better quality.

        I see no reason an electric dryer would perform any worse (or any better) than a gas dryer of equivalent BTU. As long as you’re putting in the same amount of thermal energy I’d expect similar performance, all else being equal.

        I would still run the gas pipe while you have the chance. Materials is probably $100 or so, labor maybe a half day. Cheap insurance against unforeseeable future needs.

        Note that you can’t per code use gas pipe as an electrical conduit. The pipe is not listed for electrical use, and the threads are slightly different (different taper), even though the different fittings can be made to fit together. You could potentially use the gas pipe as a low voltage conduit though.

        Bill

  7. Craig | | #16

    Something I consider: gas is 1/5 the cost of electric here. Most electric dryer are 3KW. That's about 10,000 BTUs. A quick search lists gas dryers ranging from 22MBh to 30MBh, and single stage. Not venting a gas dryer is nice however.

    Pluses and minuses to both options; for me gas is a clear cost and stability winner as we've never lost gas, but electric has many times.

  8. raul4817 | | #17

    Bill,
    I was actually leaning towards the portable variety of generators that run off unleaded gas. I've seen a few in the 10k watt range that are not terrible in pricing. I have the storage space and have already 2 breaker spaces for a simple square d transfer switch that would be code compliant here.

    I guess I'm spoiled in my part of the country as I have only lost power for a second or two and I can count on my hands the times that has happened since I've owned the home(5 years).
    So with the grid very reliable and a hot water tank to get me at least a few hot to warm showers its mostly the heating I'm concerned with in January if the grid goes for more than a day or so.
    The generator would on be used for one or both of the minis in emergencies.
    Raul

    1. Expert Member
      Zephyr7 | | #18

      You’re talking about one of the generator interlocks, basically a bracket to keep two breakers operated in the proper sequence. I’m not a big fan of those, and they’re not code compliant everywhere, but if you only very rarely need to run on generator power and want to save some money the interlock kits are an option. My own system is a fully automatic ATS and autostart system which is really nice.

      Do yourself a favor and install an “inlet” (a male plug in a weather proof box) on the outside of your house near wherever you will setup your generator when you need to use it. Get a short cord of suitable size for your generator made up to run between your generator and your inlet. Your “go to generator” sequence is now roll out generator, connect cord to generator, connect cord to inlet, start generator, go operate interlock to switch to generator power. Nice. If you can’t find the 50A connectors for your 10kw genset, you can get 60A “pin and sleeve” connectors that are really great, but expensive. I’d look for them used on eBay, otherwise you can get them from electrical supply houses for around $100 or so per connector. They are vastly superior to the straight blade or even the twistlock connectors.

      BTW, most gasoline generators are of pretty low quality these days. About the only brand that is respected is Honda, but you pay more for those.

      Don’t forget to run the unit periodically too. Portable generators are famous for not working when you need them to, which is usually due to lack of maintenance and/or sitting too long without running.

      Bill

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