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Natural Gas: What You Need to Know Before Signing Up



    Natural Gas: What You Need to Know Before Signing Up

    Since Governor Malloy signed an energy bill to expand access to natural gas across Connecticut, there's been a big push for homeowners to tap the energy source. However, one homeowner found that trying to gain access to natural gas isn't so easy. Here's what you need to know before you sign up. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013)

    Who wants to save money? Natural gas is supposed to be a cheap and efficient way to heat your home. Gov. Dannel Malloy and the state's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) signed off on expanding access to natural gas, but one homeowner found that trying to gain access isn't so easy.

    According to experts like David Cadden from Quinnipiac University, tapping the energy source is a savvy move. Labor, equipment and new appliances can cost more than $10,000; but in the long-term, homeowners see big savings.

    "Right now, the price of natural gas is much lower than home heating oil. Even though it looks like it may increase by as much as 14 percent, even with that, it'll be cheaper than utilizing oil as a means of heating homes," said Cadden.

    However, there's something you need to know before signing up.

    "I'm worried when it's all done I'm not going to be able to live in here, because I'm not going to be able to heat anything, have hot water or even cook," said Lisa Gorski.

    Gorski bought a fixer-upper in Southington this summer, hoping to make it her dream home.

    "It's my first house, pride and joy…I get to make it what I want."

    She planned to convert her home from using oil to natural gas.

    "It was easier to go with natural gas and cheaper and more efficient then it was to stick with the oil tanks."

    Gorski said she did everything by the book. First, she called the gas company to make sure her home had access to a gas main. When that checked out, she hired an HVAC contractor to find out how much it would cost to install a new heating system, and bought new appliances. Then, she applied for a service installation. After signing the agreement, Gorski turned things over to Yankee Gas.

    "Yankee Gas called me and said they can't get the permit…that the town won't grant it to them."

    The problem was that Gorski's house stands on a freshly-paved street; Southington has a two-year moratorium on street cuts for newly-paved roads.

    "I don't know where to go from here. I can't live here if I can't heat it," said Gorski.

    At that point, Gorski didn't know what to do. She had already gotten rid of her old heating system; and losing the thousands of dollars she spent on new appliances customized for natural gas wasn't an option.

    NBC Connecticut reached out to Southington's town manager and town engineer to get more information about their re-paving policy, but they declined an interview. However, they confirmed that if you were to disturb a road that's been repaved in the last two years, you'd then have to pay to repave at least 100 feet of that road.

    After weeks of negotiations, the town granted Yankee Gas the permit as long as the utility repaved a 100-foot area in front of Gorski's property, which they did.

    Mitch Gross, spokesperson for Yankee Gas said while the installation process usually goes smoothly, pavement moratoriums can keep homeowners from getting natural gas.

    "The towns have different requirements. They vary as to what they require as far as repaving," said Gross.

    Take Windsor: the town used to impose penalties on companies that cut into newly-paved roads. Now, there's a new policy.

    "There are no penalties imposed on contractors any longer-utility contractors that come in, do the work. We watch their trench restoration a little more closely. They have to adhere to some stricter requirements for newly-paved roadways," said Town Engineer Bob Jarvis.

    In Manchester, Town Engineer Jeff LaMalva said utility companies cutting into a newly-paved road are required to patch it up and return a year later to do a more permanent fix.

    "It protects the investment that taxpayers have made in resurfacing the roadway," said LaMalva.

    What do these rules mean for you? If you're like Lisa Gorski and live in a town that has a moratorium on street cuts, you may have to wait longer to have natural gas in your home. Also, expect higher service fees if your utility has to repave a large area.

    Bottom line: do your homework. Check with your town and find out what its repaving requirements are, before you sign up.