July 28, 2007

Have you ever heard of a little thing called the "Industrial Revolution"?

I hate gas and cannot see the point of it. Why would anyone (architect, builder, or home-owner) choose gas over electricity? Electricity doesn't make a habit of escaping from the cables, you don't need Carbon Mon-electricity detectors, you don't need to panic if the Pilot Electric Light goes out, it can't blow your house up; it's just better.

We've been generating electricity to power stuff since 1881; that's fast approaching 130 years ago! Why, then, are houses still built using gas (well, I assume they're still built; they still exist, at least)? Why is British Gas still in business (presumably because they also started offering electricity)?

So here's a suggestion: why not drag your home kicking and screaming into the 19th Century by dispensing with your gas supply and switching to electricity...


- 30 comments by 3 or more people

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  1. Chris May

    Beacuse electric hobs, even the fancy ones, suck utterly. And if I’m going to have to have gas for the cooker, I might as well have it for the boiler too, what with it being about half the price and all. That’s why ;-)

    Incidentally, are more people in the UK electrocuted each year, or blown up by gas explosions? Just curious…

    28 Jul 2007, 21:40

  2. Suck how? I’ve only used electric hobs and have been perfectly happy. If it’s the waiting, then that doesn’t bother me but I will accept that it will bother other people.

    And your comparison is flawed; electrocution is about the only way for electricity to kill you, but there are more ways for gas to kill you than exploding. I should imagine that far more people have been killed in explosions of gas than explosions of electricity…

    A better question would be “Yes, but which has killed more people: electricity or gas?”
    Apparently, in 2005 (the most recent I could find):

    • 102 people died by electricity (I’m collating all the causes I could find relating to electricity)
    • 257 were poisoned by carbon monoxide (although I don’t think it’s in household gas…)
    • 164 were poisoned by “other gasses, fumes, and vapours”, which I assume means “not carbon monoxide”

    Admittedly not particularly helpful for either argument due to the lack of details. I couldn’t find mention of explosions by either.

    But anyway, that’s not what I was talking about; I don’t care how many people each kills (any more than I care about people dying in general, of course). What I’m talking about is the relative danger; in my opinion gas is more dangerous than electricity – if you stay away from electricity it won’t kill you, but gas can. In 2005 12 people were accidentally suffocated/strangled in bed, but I wouldn’t say sleeping is at all dangerous; the death toll does not equate to relative danger, in my mind. I’m just guessing, but I would think most gas-deaths are accidental and most electric-deaths are stupidity…

    If you sit in a room powered by electricity, it won’t hurt you. If you sit in a room with gas (a proper system, of course; not just in the air – that would be stupid) than it might kill you; something could go wrong. As I understand it, electricity doesn’t leap out of wires and kill you – you have to touch the wire – whereas gas can leak from a pipe and either asphyxiate you or blow up if ignited. A ceiling fan, according to the gas man that called the other day, can cause gas to be drawn into the room; I’ve never had the problem of a fan drawing electricity into the room.

    28 Jul 2007, 22:52

  3. Gas is cheaper for heating than electricity. In cold weather normal gas central heating works out at about 23p per hour whilst an electric immersion heater costs about 33p per hour. http://www.changeworks.org.uk/uploads/wat/Heating_Comparison.pdf

    29 Jul 2007, 09:41

  4. Fair enough, but that wouldn’t bother me because I avoid heating as I’m usually too hot anyway.

    Plus my computer seems to have the annoying habit of heating my room whether I want it to or not…

    29 Jul 2007, 09:44

  5. I’m with you on the “too hot” front, however this winter I was living in a room that was separated from the roof by about 4 inches of material. I was teh cold.
    I’ve never lived in a house with a gas oven/cooker, but I’ve used them and they’re so much better than elec. Quicker for one, both heating up & cooling down. With elec you have to wait for the hob to cool. With gas you can just turn it down. Much better for mr environment I reckon.

    29 Jul 2007, 14:18

  6. Gas is much much cheaper for heating and I am totally with Chris on the hob thing. Electric hobs are just plain crap. Gas hobs are so much more controllable and also easier to clean. Not sure how many restaurant kitchens use electric hobs!

    30 Jul 2007, 09:35

  7. Ian

    Get with the 21st century – its all about induction hobs now. Those electrical bad boys are far superior to gas – quicker to heat up/cool down and no danger as only the pan gets hot (not the oven top).....genius!!

    Wanting to stay impartial though, I reckon gas is better for the environment, since 25% of all electricity generated is lost in transmission to the houses, whereas probably 99% of gas gets there! (Ok, if the electric comes from renewables, then thats obviously better…)

    30 Jul 2007, 10:10

  8. I think there is a place for both gas and electric on a hob – and if I had my way then I’d have two gas, two electric and a great big gas wok burner in the middle.

    With gas you can adjust the temperature quickly and you get instant heat – but with electric you can sustain constant temperatures for a long time.

    I have however recently invested in a simmer mat which seems to be working quite nicely for rice etc. (First saw these in France in the 80s!)

    30 Jul 2007, 10:13

  9. I will always swear by an electric (fan) oven, and (unless I get a lot righer) an electric hob usually comes as standard with one of them!

    30 Jul 2007, 12:12

  10. There’s a lot of energy loss converting heat into electricity.
    Electricity can’t be stored economically and is expensive to transport. All that phase alignment stuff – mighty big sparks when you get it wrong!

    Also the Industrial Revolution was over by 1850, before electricity was in much use.

    30 Jul 2007, 12:58

  11. Using gas for heating or cooking is infinitely more efficient than using electricity.

    Gas ==> Heat in a boiler = ~90-95% efficient

    Gas ==> Electricity in a power station = ~42-46% efficient.
    Transmission of electricity is about 98% efficient
    Conversion of electricity to heat is considered to be 100% efficient.
    Overall efficiency = 45.1% best case compared to 90% worst case so in actual fact you burn twice as much resource for the same overall output.

    30 Jul 2007, 18:41

  12. Sue

    Yes I have, we went into the industrial revolotion in great detail in history at school, not the most enthralling of subjects! I’ve got a Rayburn cooker which makes the most wonderful casseroles and jacket potatoes and in the winter it heats the whole kitchen, we all gather round it on winter evenings, it’s so cosy. I think it’s also environmentally friendly because we run all our radiators off it.

    30 Jul 2007, 18:44

  13. Sue

    I forgot to say, the Rayburn is gas powered (you can get ones that run on solid fuel and electricity). We had always had electric cookers previously and when we had it installed about six years ago my husband said “Now, you’re cooking on gas, darling!!” He’s such a joker.

    30 Jul 2007, 18:51

  14. I’ll put a spanner in the works and throw oil into the equation. It can be stored, unlike electricity, and can be transported to and fro as required, unlike gas which is just pipelined directly to its point of use. In terms of storage cost per unit of energy potential, I believe oil also works out the cheapest.

    But I’m looking at things purely from a macro-economic perspective of production, refinery, and commerce. Environmental considerations will lean towards another alternative altogether.

    31 Jul 2007, 22:03

  15. Oil used to be used a lot for space heating, but nowadays people don’t seem to use it if they have the opportunity to use gas.
    For cooking, campers usually prefer gas to oil. The only stove run on a liquid that I’ve heard people recommend, ran on petrol. Petrol is heavily taxed and rather dangerous.

    01 Aug 2007, 08:56

  16. Mathew Mannion

    Try living in the countryside where gas pipelines (like cable TV) are literally just a pipe dream.

    01 Aug 2007, 09:50

  17. What a stupid entry.
    There literally only one good thing about electric cooking – you canne blow yourself up.

    problems
    1. Slow to heat up – makes cooking incredibly boring, reduces ability to control temperature
    2. Slow to cool down – increases risk of accidental burning of oneself or something else, making cooking incredibly annoying. Can’t put anything on that hob for 20 mins.
    3. If you spill anything on a hot lecky hob, it stinks to fuck. Makes cooking annoying. Gas, no such problem.
    4. Harder to clean. As above.
    5. Half of them you can’t tell if they’re on or hot, just by looking at them. Poor.
    6. They look really naff compared to gas cooker.

    Basically, you’re asking me to cook with something it takes 20 odd minutes to be on the temperature I want it, is cold when it’s on, is hot when it’s off. No self-respecting cook would ever want an electric stove. If you don’t like food, and you’re more concerned about blowing up the house, fair enough, get one, but I enjoy my food, I enjoy cooking, I need a proper cooker.

    02 Aug 2007, 00:16

  18. Interesting that all of your points about ‘cooking’ are actually about using the hob. I’ve always much preferred an electric oven for obtaining even cooking and maintaining temperature throughout the cooking process.
    I agree with most of your points about the hob on the most part, however will point out that it’s fairly easy to adapt ones cooking style to get used to electric, just as it was fairly easy for me (brought up with electric) to get used to cooking with gas when at uni.
    Also – I don’t exactly see where the aesthetic comes in – old/cheap cookers (gas or electric) tend to look naff, whilst new and pricier (especially full on range cookers) look much better. Could always go uber cool and get an aga!

    02 Aug 2007, 08:33

  19. Sue

    I find the Rayburn is goog for cooking everything except stir fries (I don’t do any other sort of frying) because the hob doesn’t get hot enough, I’m thinking of getting an electric wok because we like stir fried food. That’s the only drawback with the Rayburn hob, it takes as long to heat up as the oven but food cooked in the oven is lovely, everything is kept very moist, on Sunday I cooked roast chicken and did roast potatoes cooked in goose fat which were divine (it sounds very unhealthy but goose fat is surprisingly low in cholesterol). I know some people think Agas and Rayburns are “cool” but it was my husbands choice to get one and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his reasoning, I think he just liked the idea of cooking and heating the house and us at the same time.

    02 Aug 2007, 10:28

  20. Yeah, HR, cos I use hobs much more than I do the oven. Electric ovens are fine, electric hobs are not. I will not accept it taking 20 odd minutes to fry my garlic in olive oil. I like the look of the fire, I mean. It’s proper cooking.

    03 Aug 2007, 15:19

  21. What a stupid entry. There literally only one good thing about electric cooking

    Can I just point out that it wasn’t my entry that mentioned cooking…

    04 Aug 2007, 00:28

  22. Sue

    Vincent, I don’t make a habit of cooking with goose fat, I usually use olive oil for roast potatoes, this was an exception. The last time I used goose fat was when we had a goose for Christmas about five years ago. I’m a great believer in using olive oil and even have it on toast instead of butter or margarine.

    04 Aug 2007, 09:32

  23. Can I just point out that it wasn’t my entry that mentioned cooking…

    Something you did write

    you don’t need to panic if the Pilot Electric Light goes out,

    My new combination condensing boiler is mostly powered by gas and doesn’t have a pilot light. Unfortunately it appears to use about one kWhr more electricity every day than my old non condensing one. The gas consumption appears to have reduced, but I’ll wait until I’ve used it for a full year before coming to a conclusion about that.

    04 Aug 2007, 11:11

  24. Richard

    Can I just point out that it wasn’t my entry that mentioned cooking…

    Yes, but your entry did condescendingly wonder why one earth idiots like us would be living in a cave in the Stone Age when the wonders of electricity have been unleashed upon us for quite some time now. And, believe it or not, one of the big uses of natural gas is in cooking. Therefore your post, in wondering why the hell cretins like us would keep using gas, did beg some comments concerning cooking.

    The primary reasons for continuing to use gas have already been mentioned. Electricity is comparatively expensive and inefficient. You’ve also got to remember that, preference aside, not everyone is exceedingly rich. If you live in a house with central heating and gas-hobs/ovens, then it will be rather expensive to switch to electrical goods. You’ll need a new boiler, perhaps more and you’ll have to buy a new appliance(s) as well as potentially do some work in the kitchen. That’s already a couple of grand gone and then you have to worry about your monthly bills, especially during winter.

    In terms of cooking, I’m completely with Vince on this one. I use a fan-assisted oven for baking. I rarely use it for grilling and I use gas hobs for everything else. Not only is it more precise (try going quickly from boiling to simmering on an electric hob) but the way it spreads heat is fantastic and if you do any amount of serious cooking then you’re going to have to use a gas hob.

    I do miss my old gas-fire grill and the accompanying risk of setting your kebabs on fire. Good times, good times.

    06 Aug 2007, 12:06

  25. Your entry did condescendingly wonder why on Earth idiots like us would be living in a cave in the Stone Age

    Now to be fair I never said “idiots”, nor did I mean “idiots”. What I said is that I couldn’t think of any reasons for choosing gas over electricity. I have now been provided with reasons: it’s cheaper and hobs change temperature faster. I accept this, however my preference is still for electricity; aside from anything else I am uncomfortable with gas because it might leak. I have no idea if this is at all likely, but that’s part of the problem; I don’t know gas – I’ve always had electricity – but my mother has just moved into a house that has gas (the house is awesome enough to outweigh any feelings about gas; it’s not worth missing out on the house) which has started me thinking about these things.

    And, believe it or not, one of the big uses of natural gas is in cooking.

    True, but that’s irrelevant to my previous comment. Vincent said “What a stupid entry. There literally only one good thing about electric cooking”. I interpreted that, correctly or incorrectly, as an opinion based on comments about cooking. Therefore I defended my entry by pointing out that it didn’t mention cooking.

    So here’s a suggestion: why not drag your home kicking and screaming into the 19th Century by dispensing with your gas supply and switching to electricity…

    Now I admit that this can be seen as a bit harsh, however I only meant it as an amusing closing sentence because the format amuses me.

    06 Aug 2007, 12:25

  26. 102 people died by electricity (I’m collating all the causes I could find relating to electricity)
    257 were poisoned by carbon monoxide (although I don’t think it’s in household gas…)
    164 were poisoned by “other gasses, fumes, and vapours”, which I assume means “not carbon monoxide”

    Oh and I almost missed this! I’m guessing that the 102 electrical deaths were mostly shocks received when turning on the kettle, licking your fingers and sticking them into sockets, thinking you can change a light switch without turning off the mains etc. but I’m not sure why you’d assume that the majority of the 164 deaths due to “Other” would be down to household gas when anyone working in chemicals or in coal mines or in oil (etc.) faces that risk.

    07 Aug 2007, 10:16

  27. A lot of people killed by carbon monoxide are killed due to faulty cars or portable gas appliances. Or suicide.

    07 Aug 2007, 11:29

  28. I’m guessing that the 102 electrical deaths were mostly…

    Actually the causes listed were “Exposure to electric current, radiation and extreme ambient air temperature and pressure”, “Exposure to electric transmission lines” (only 1 death; a 45-49 year old man), “Exposure to other specified electric current”, and “Exposure to unspecified electric current”.

    I’m not sure why you’d assume that the majority of the 164 deaths due to “Other” would be down to household gas

    I didn’t assume that. Where did I say that? What I said was that I believed Carbon Monoxide wasn’t in household gas and that “Other” meant “Not Carbon Monoxide”; I didn’t say “Other” meant “Household Gas”...

    What I did say, however, was that the statistics were useless because they gave no details. All we know is that electricity and some kind of gas killed a few hundred people; we don’t know what kind of electricity, what gas, what the people were doing at the time, or where they were doing it. The only reason I mentioned them at all was because I’d gone to the trouble of looking them up and was damned if I was going to have completely wasted my time…

    10 Aug 2007, 22:27

  29. A lot of people killed by carbon monoxide are killed due to faulty cars or portable gas appliances. Or suicide.

    See! That’s the kind of details I’m talking about that were missing from the statistics. If it had said “Deaths by faulty car exhaust” and “Gas related suicide” they would have been much more useful…

    10 Aug 2007, 22:29

  30. I’ve currently a gas hob, but now I want to change the kitchen worktop.

    This has brought home to me a couple of disadvantages of gas hobs:

    1) Fitting and removal is not a DIY job. S M Harman writes

    With plumbing a small leak will be visible as a puddle on the floor the next morning. With gas it will be visible as a hole in the side of your house when you switch the light on and ignite the built up gas, followed by a lot of expense when the insurance company deny your claim as work was performed illegally on your gas supply.

    I think electrical work is even simpler than plumbing – as electricity doesn’t leak through pin-holes.

    2) The lowest heat output of the smallest burner on my hob is too high for simmering with the lid on the saucepan. The water boils over. Simmering without a lid raises the risk of the saucepan burning dry and delivers excessive moisture into the kitchen – which will lead to mould unless I keep the window wide open (which in winter cools the room – not very environmentally correct).

    So perhaps an electric hob would be better. I’m not going to replace my electric oven just because I’m replacing the sink and worktop, why should I have to employ anyone apart from a carpenter in order to replace a worktop?

    Oh yea, ceramic electric hobs have less thermal inertia than solid plate ones (the down-market choice).

    11 Sep 2007, 10:57


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