Owner Builder: Gas Meter
Natural gas via a gas meter is a primary form of heat generation in today’s homes. The owner builder will most likely deal with the Gas Utility during the build process. Each company has different procedures to follow when ordering gas meters. I will draw from my experiences to give some guidance, however, it is important for the owner builder to discuss local requirements with their natural gas provider prior to beginning construction.
How do I Find Out What to Do?
A phone call to the builders desk at the local utility should be made. Explain that you are contracting your own build and need to know what steps should be taken to order your gas meter. Be sure to discuss lead times, requirements and possible snags that may cause delays.
In some areas, the gas company will insist on placement verification. That is, they will come out to the owner builder site and mark where the meter should be placed. It’s location will depend on the location of the utility line adjacent to the lot.
Once the placement is determined the utility company or an affiliate subcontractor will be scheduled to dig "laterals" and place line from the street to the house. Make sure the trench is protected. Caution tape, at a minimum should be around the open trench until the placement is complete and backfilled.
Gas Test or Gas Line Inspection
Before a gas meter can be set at your home, the city building inspector must verify that the lines inside the house will hold gas without leaking. The plumbing contractor will put the lines under air pressure and attach a gauge. The gas gauge is normally set on the exterior stub where the meter will mounted.
It is important that the interior gas lines are complete. For example, the hot water heater should be connected as well as the gas fireplace. The inspector must verify that those additional gas lines are secure and up to code.
If the gauge holds, the inspector will pass the test and assign a gas tag with a number. The tag will be checked by the gas technician when they set the gas meter. If it is absent, the tech will assume the lines have not been tested and passed. The gas meter tag inspection is one of many during the construction process.
Utility companies are notoriously unconcerned with the success or failure of your project. Keep this in mind when doing your scheduling. Lead times can be weeks or months for setting meters and often again for unpinning. This is especially true in November and December. Builders are rushing to hit their end of the year numbers and the gas company is swamped. Don’t put off getting your gas test. As soon as the lines are complete and the plumber says they are ready, schedule the inspection.
My practice was to actually schedule the meter set prior to the gas test. Our lead time was typically 7-10 business days, so I would call ahead 3-5 days before the inspection. This would allow for at least one failed test and necessary corrections. Normally the tag was attached several days before the meter set. There is some risk involved here. If the gas company should come earlier than expected and there was no tag, the meter set would have to be rescheduled and we would get pushed to the back of the line. In addition, they did not contact us or indicate that they had come.
Often, the gas meter set also depends on appliances being in. That way, their attachments can be checked before unpinning to prevent the possibility of leaks.
It is so important to communicate with the gas company. They WILL NOT contact you if there is a problem. You have to take the initiative and call them on a regular basis until the gas meter is not only set but unpinned.
This can be one of the most challenging and frustrating tasks of the owner build. Be prepared.