With energy costs continually rising and increasing concerns about the greehouse effect of our energy consumption, many Australians are looking for alternative energy sources. One of these is a low-tech solution that has been with us for generations: gas. Natural gas and LPG are clean burning, inexpensive and efficient fuels that can be used in a number of ways in the home. Since gas is highly volatile, you need to have all of your gas appliances connected by a licensed gas fitter
, but once that's done, gas appliances are as safe as they are efficient.
Types of Gas Appliances
Classified as "Type A" gas appliances, several types of these appliances are available for home use in Australia:
- Gas cooktops are the most commonly used gas appliances in Australia. Long before gas was recognised as the cleanest energy source available, gas cooktops were preferred because they give the user complete heat control. Simply by turning a knob, you can instantly take a dish from a boil to a simmer and any heat level in between.
- Gas ovens, like gas cooktops, allow for rapid temperature changes.
- Gas refrigerators are well-known to Australians with caravans but until recently have not been as widely adopted by homeowners. In a gas fridge, the coolant is ammonia, which is processed by the application of heat from the gas burner. A very efficient way to cool a refrigerator, the ammonia is continuously recycled and gas consumption is limited.
- Gas air conditioning works on the same principles as a gas fridge. Gas air conditioning is increasingly being adopted by businesses because of its lower energy costs and green energy tax credits. Homeowners, too, who have switched to gas kitchen appliances often install gas air conditioning systems.
- Gas heating is a popular choice with homeowners. A lesser known type of gas heating known as "hydronic" heating works by heating and re-circulating hot water. A form of central heating, the water is heated in an external boiler and circulated through radiators installed throughout the house.
- Gas hot water heating is being used increasingly in Australia and some hydronic heating systems utilise a standard hot water heater to circulate water through radiators. For safety reasons, only licensed plumbers are authorised to install hot water systems.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Gas Appliances
Aside from the benefits of using gas for cooking, the primary benefit of gas appliances is their energy efficiency. The major disadvantage to them is that they usually cost more than electrical appliances and in most areas of Australia, natural gas is not supplied directly as is electricity. However, gas appliances are said to have a longer working life than electrical appliances and the significant savings in energy bills can offset their higher initial cost.
Should you switch to gas appliances? In the end, it's a matter of personal choice. Many homeowners start with a gas range and then decide to get more gas appliances as their old appliances need replacing. Energy conscious home builders are beginning to plan their home designs around a combination of gas appliances, conventional electricity
and solar power
. The best solution is probably a balanced combination of power sources that maximises energy efficiency, convenience, usefulness and value.