The upfront costs associated with piping natural gas into houses and businesses in Homer have been a major sticking point for many residents who are considering the switch.
Let’s say you have a two-story house that’s just shy of 4,000 sq. ft. and you use an oil boiler to heat your home and water. According to a case study prepared for Homer’s proposed natural gas conversion by Kenai Borough Assembly Member Bill Smith, the people who were living in the house in this scenario paid nearly $4,400 annually to have a cozy home and hot showers.
In Smith’s projection, which is on the Homer city website, the owners would likely save 66 percent each year in heating costs if they switched to natural gas.
If they replace the boiler with a high efficiency unit and factor in the cost to connect to the natural gas line as well as pay down the Homer special assessment district rate of $3,283 per lot, the house in this scenario would see an overall conversion price tag of roughly $17,500. According to Smith’s analysis, the owners would have a 100 percent return on their investment in six years.
But what about a home with a propane boiler?
“Anyone who’s on propane, has a propane cook stove, a propane hot water heater, they’re sitting pretty nice,” said VBS Heating Products co-owner Connie Cavasos. “Just get ‘em converted and you’re ready to go.”
She and her husband, Mark Vial, operate the heating company in Homer. She said many of the propane appliances they have arrive ready to work with natural gas, and they convert the appliance to be used with propane. So, using Smith’s cost analysis again, this time the scenario includes a two-story house that’s about 1,600 sq. ft. The owners would save almost 80 percent in heating costs if they converted their propane boiler.
When including all the same factors as before such as dealing with the appliance, connecting to the gas line and paying off the HSAD fee, these owners would have an overall cost of about $5,600. According to Smith’s study, the owners could see a 100 percent return in about two years.
The largest upfront costs will be to connect and meter a home with Enstar Natural Gas Company and replacing any appliances. VBS Heating’s Vial says costs for direct vent heaters or gas fireplaces can range widely.
“They range from anywhere from $1,100 to $2,500. And as far the the Jotul and other brands we carry… you can get simple all the way up to elaborate. That’s anywhere from $1,800 to beyond,” he said.
Enstar officials have said they want to break ground for the trunk line beginning in just a few weeks. The company also is expected to have an office in Homer to begin taking natural gas applications. The city’s next public hearing regarding the natural gas and special assessment issues is Monday Jan. 28 at 6 p.m.