Electric ovens and hobs have provided extreme convenience and efficiency in homes and catering establishments for a very long time, and many of us cannot remember a time when these appliances were not freely available. The kitchen has been the heart and hub of the home for many years, and with the space we have in our homes becoming smaller and more compact in the modern world, together with the trend of opening up and combining our living spaces and kitchens into a one large hospitable area, the cooking area has taken on even more importance. In South Africa, in particular, with the electricity load-shedding problems which have plagued the country in recent years and still forecast for some considerable time to come, there has been a concerted move towards cooking and heating with other options, especially gas.
Gas is more cost-effective and reliable
Gas is both a cost-effective and extremely efficient means of providing heat for cooking, heating water and warming our homes. It is instant, thus making cooking easier and quicker, and is readily available whilst we battle through hours of non-functioning electrical appliances during those dreaded periods of load-shedding. We can at least still cook our meals, provide lighting and heat through gas-powered appliances whilst we try to continue life as normally as possible. Sadly, for those addicted to having entertainment provided via TV or the internet, gas is not ready to supply those power hungry devices for long periods at this point. Short of running your own generator, UPS or inverter, electricity remains a vital power source, although gas is safe, reliable and convenient.
Let’s not forget the new breed of gas braaimasters!
Gas is also a great option for those who love to braai their food without the smoke and effort of lighting fires and allowing the coals to burn down to the right cooking temperature, use outdoor cooking and heating appliances, especially during the winter months, and generally keep the home fires burning freely, so to speak.
What gas is most commonly used in South Africa for household use?
The gas that we use in our homes for heating and cooking is called LPG ‘liquid petroleum gas’ and, as such, presents its own inherent dangers if not used correctly. This is the reason why we have specialists who fit the gas piping to feed the gas through to our appliances. It is never advisable to try and fit gas lines within a property yourself unless you really know what you are doing and are aware of the dangers posed by incorrect installation. Sometimes these specialists are actually plumbers who have a thorough knowledge of the types of pipes and joins to be used. Gas lines make use of many of the same types of pipes used in normal water and sewage plumbing. A plumber or gas fitter will know which sort of piping and materials are the safest and most effective, especially bearing in mind that many gas pipes are buried and must be able to stand up to such conditions without corroding. This is important as slow gas leaks can result from degraded or incorrectly installed piping, which would be extremely dangerous. Since gas is highly flammable, a slow gas leak will almost certainly result in a fire when a flame is lit in the vicinity of the leak. However, since LPG gas is odourless and colourless (and I must admit that I did not know this myself), a distinct odourant has been added to make it easier for people to pick up a specific smell if there is a gas leak. Try turning your gas hob on when you have to use a match or lighter to actually get it lit when the electric starter is not operational, and you will notice the smell of gas coming from the jets just before you get the flame going. A specialist installer will ensure that the gas lines are as safe as possible, and this is something you really don’t want to take a chance on by calling in an amateur or non-professional person to carry out a new installation or upgrade an existing installation. Gas fitters and installers are also responsible for maintaining and repairing gas lines, and ensuring that all fittings connecting to the gas supply are secure and leak-proof. Most gas leaks are a result of defective rubber tubing and faulty regulator fittings, so these do need to be checked on a regular routine basis.
How do we tap into a gas supply for our homes or businesses?
South Africa does not have a widespread gas distribution network operator or ‘DNO’ which can be tapped into by homeowners and business owners, as is evident in countries such as Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and throughout Europe, for instance, where gas is supplied on a very large scale for central heating and cooking. In these countries there are specific companies which own and operate the infrastructure which is responsible for the delivery of gas to your property. In this country, gas is usually piped into homes from standard 9 kg gas cylinders which are refilled professionally when they run out of gas, and can be conveniently obtained from most petrol stations and specialist gas supply shops. These cylinders are usually located in the kitchen in specific areas such as ground-level cupboards, or are sometimes situated outside of the house within safe holding areas which cannot be tampered with. In such situations, larger 19 kg or 48 kg cylinders are usually used. Camping and gas braai enthusiasts often make use of smaller portable gas cylinders ranging from 3 kg to 9 kg. The most important thing to remember is that, no matter what appliance or size of especially gas cylinder you are using, it is vital that the connections between the two are safe and leak-proof.
The coming years will doubtless see a better infrastructure being put into place in South Africa to supply the growing demand for gas-powered appliances, and the need for gas installers and fitters will continue to increase. It is, on the whole, an exciting prospect. To find out more about gas installers and fitters, see Uptasker’s articles and suppliers’ listings.