Resident's work brings gas to area

June 07, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

His neighbors in Oklahoma Estates often jog, bike or walk by Sam Gertz's home at the end of Monroe Avenue.

They usually wave. Lately, though, they are shouting the same question as they pass his door.

"When are we going to get the gas lines?"

Mr. Gertz has the answer ready.

The third week of July, crews from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. will arrive in the South Carroll neighborhood to install lines linking the development to a natural gas main -- about 2,000 feet from the Gertz residence.

"I always wanted natural gas for heat," said Mr. Gertz, 66, a railroad retiree who purchased his house seven years ago. "When I found there was a source so close, I went to work."

He contacted BGE and his neighbors.

"We check distribution maps to see if there is a source close by," said Charles Franklin, BGE public information representative. "We do these conversions on a case-by-case basis and usually like to work with community associations."

If 70 percent of the residents agree to the change, the company will do a detailed cost analysis. Mr. Gertz polled nearly 200 people and found 178 who favored the conversion.

"I went way over the percentage required," Mr. Gertz said. "The more people I got interested, the better it looked to the gas company."

Typical answers to his queries were "please hurry" or "ASAP," he said.

He said, "You really don't have to survey too many people before you know it will be worth it for BGE."

Art Slusark, company spokesman, said he was not surprised at the response.

"We are seeing more and more people who want gas for heat," he said. "In all the research, consumers prefer natural gas."

Mr. Gertz had energy savings estimates, provided by BGE, when he called on neighbors over two weekends in March.

Based on use by a family of four, annual operating costs of a water heater would drop from $480 to $193 if a customer switched to gas. A gas stove costs $25 per year to use -- $107 less than an electric range.

Without measuring each home and calculating heat loss and gain, BGE would not estimate savings in heating individual residences. Mr. Gertz said those savings would be considerable.

The overwhelming response favored the change, he said.

"The few 'no's' I got were from people who had just replaced a heat pump or bought a pellet stove," he said.

"It was a lot of hard work for Sam, going house to house," Zeeda Gertz said of her husband's efforts. "Still, he met a lot of people he never knew were here before."

Mr. Gertz said he was glad to do the leg work.

"One man wants to take me out to dinner for all the work," said Mr. Gertz with a laugh. "I told him he didn't have to. Just converting would be enough."

Most residents have signed a preliminary commitment. The many positive responses coupled with the accessibility led the company to approve the project, which should be completed by the end of August.

Residents would share the cost of the project. It breaks down to a one-time charge of $136 -- $96 for pipes and $40 for a meter -- for each homeowner.

Mrs. Gertz calls the project "a bargain." The couple now pays $127 per month for electricity on an estimated annual plan.

"Electric heat is the cheapest to install," said Mr. Gertz. "The gas lines have been here for years but the builder just didn't want to hook into them."

The homes, which range in age from 15 years to new, all have electric heat. "People here had electric bills of up to $400 a month last winter," he said.

Sam and Zeeda Gertz said they had gas heat in their other homes and had no experience with heat pumps until they moved to Sykesville from Woodlawn.

Mrs. Gertz said she liked her new three-bedroom colonial so well, she was willing to forgo her heating preference. She has never really liked the heat pump, she said.

"It heats but it's not warm and cozy," Mrs. Gertz said.

Mr. Gertz said the blower from the pump never shuts off. "It's noisy and I can't sleep with it running."

He said he is looking forward to quiet and savings. The project is a "no-lose" proposition, he said.

"Once the lines are here, you can convert right away or as you see fit," he said. "As your present appliances break, you can replace them with gas ones."

Residents who have not been contacted may still be able to join the project. Call BGE Marketing and Energy Services at 1-800-786-2000.

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