By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 12/15/19
One of the main utility services provided by Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) is supplying safe, dependable natural gas services to its residential customers. “We have many customers who come to us asking for a natural gas connection to their home, because, after initial costs, it is much less expensive than propane,” explains Lucio M. Garcia, P.E., CEM, LCU deputy director Gas.
“LCU is in the process of extending gas lines to the East Mesa and north of the city, but it takes time,” Garcia continues. “We’ve brought in contractors to speed up the process of extending main gas lines; over the past year we’ve extended lines and are now providing new gas service to more than 700 additional homes.”
HOW IT WORKS: Once a main gas line has been extended to a neighborhood and gas is available from the street, homeowners have the option to switch from propane to natural gas. It is completely voluntary; there is no charge to homeowners who do not connect. But for homeowners who do connect to gas, it is to their advantage to do so within 3-months because of a $1,400 subsidy that will help cover costs. To start the process call Customer Central at 575-541-2111 and ask for New Connections.
Installing gas is a joint effort: LCU constructs the main gas line, installs a gas meter at the home, and runs a service line from the main line to the gas meter. Distance from the street to the gas meter and the Btu (British thermal unit) capacity of the gas meter determine the cost of installation. On average this fee is approximately $387.00
From the gas meter into the home, the homeowner must contract with a plumber (LCU will provide a list of local plumbers certified to work with natural gas). The plumber brings the gas line inside the home and retrofits the appliance orifices for gas instead of propane. The plumbing fee is determined by the number of appliances (usually hot water heater, dryer, stove, and furnace) that will be retrofitted. For typical 1,400 to 1,800 square-foot homes, the plumbing fee is $300-$400.
“The real savings in switching to natural gas comes in the lower yearly cost of paying for the fuel,” says Garcia, who, with the help of the LCU analysts, calculated the comparison. In 2018, for a 1,500 square-foot home, the yearly cost for propane based on actual prices was $1,813.19. The cost for the same amount of natural gas for 2018 was $253.44. The savings for switching from propane to gas is substantial: more than $1,500 saved annually.
“Yes, there are start-up costs to switch to natural gas, but the long-term savings for a family can really add up,” notes Garcia.
If you’re interested in finding out if your neighborhood already has a natural gas mainline, or if it might be coming in the near future as LCU expands services, please call Customer Central at 575-541-2111.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Installation of a natural gas mainline for LCU.