More than 100 years ago, it was common for American city streets, homes and skylines to glow at night with the soft amber light of gas-fueled lanterns—coal gas, in most cases. That changed in the early 1900s with the ever-increasing popularity of electricity, which by then had become more affordable and easier to access. These days, thanks in part to the inventiveness of Thomas Edison, we mostly light our nights with electric current.
But it’s still hard to beat the charm and ambience—and perhaps nostalgia for a bygone era—of a flickering gas flame. This week, we’ll take a look at natural gas lanterns and how they help that happen.
How Natural Gas Lanterns Work
Natural gas lanterns produce light using two basic methods. One simply relies on the visibility of a flame through glass panels to create light. The other employs the use of a mantle, which is a type of chemical mesh that burns and glows when heated by a flame, producing a brighter light than a flame alone. Both rely on a supply of natural gas delivered through pipes and tubing, a burner, regulators and valves to control the flow of gas, and a housing made from metal and glass panels to protect the burner from wind and the elements.
How do you light a gas lantern? It depends on the type you have. Some require you to switch the gas on and then manually light the burner. This is usually as simple as opening a hinged glass panel, turning the valve on slightly and then lighting the burner tip with a flame—barbecue grill lighters work great for this. The valve can also be used to adjust the height of the flame and to turn it off later. Other models have electronic ignitors that make lighting your lantern as easy as pushing a button. And there are even some that control the process automatically, turning the flame on and off according to a programmed schedule of your choosing.
Where Natural Gas Lanterns Are Used
Typically, homeowners and businesses use natural gas lamps outdoors, installing gas lanterns on front porches, at gates and entryways, along driveways or on posts in courtyards. They’re used to create a soft, warm-lighted accent, rather than light needed for security or maintenance purposes—you won’t find natural gas flames scaring off any would-be burglars.
Installing Natural Gas Lanterns
If you’ve already got natural gas at your home, you’ll need to have a line run from your existing pipes to your natural gas lantern, which should be securely anchored on a wall, structure or post. You’ll want to make sure you have a qualified technician help with mounting your lantern and hooking up gas lines—valves, fittings and other hardware need to be installed correctly to prevents leaks.
If you don’t already have natural gas, check with your utility company to make sure it’s an option at your location first. It’s likely you’ll need a line that taps into a nearby gas pipe—assuming others have it already in your area—and a meter will need to be installed. For more on this, check out our helpful blog: How Do I Get Natural Gas?
Are natural gas lanterns dangerous? They can be if parts become worn or damaged. But so can electric lights. Today’s natural gas lanterns are designed to limit the amount of gas that can come out at one time and also include safety mechanisms to block the flow of gas should your flame go out on its own. But it’s good to have your lanterns (and any other gas appliances) inspected on occasion by a qualified technician—once a year is best to make sure everything is in proper working order.
Additionally, if any new lines are installed underground, you’ll want to be aware of their locations before ever doing any nearby digging—this is good to know for any and all utility lines you might have in your yard. Call your utility company to come mark these locations if you’re unsure.
If you suspect a leak at any time (usually accompanied by the smell of rotten eggs), get yourself and loved ones out of the area immediately and call your utility company or 911.
Cost To Run a Natural Gas Lantern
When determining cost of a natural gas lantern, there are three areas to consider: 1. The price of the lantern itself; 2.) the cost of installation; and 3.) the amount of gas you’ll use every month.
- There are many models available on today’s market. On the lower end of the spectrum, the lamps run for as little as $300, though you can also purchase models that cost $1,500 or more, depending on your needs and tastes.
- Installation costs can vary greatly. Perhaps you just need a small amount of line run through an outside wall to your new installed lantern. That’s going to be a lot less expensive than having a line installed to a set of lanterns along the length of a driveway. Materials, labor and location are all factors that could cost several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Once you know what you want—and where—local lighting contractors should be able to provide you with an estimate. Be sure to shop around and compare quotes—a good place to start is with this Gas Line Installation Quotes website.
- Natural gas usage is another factor that can affect your costs. On average in the U.S., experts say the cost to run a natural gas lantern is about $10 - $12 each month per lantern. This can vary, of course. Will you be running your lanterns 24/7? Or will you just use them on special occasions? With more usage, your monthly gas bill on most natural gas plans is going to rise, and that means a bigger bill. But there are exceptions to this. Gas South’s OnePrice Plan®, for example, is a simple alternative to fluctuating gas bills—you just pay the same flat amount each month, regardless of usage.
We hope this information was helpful. Stay tuned to our blog and social media in the future for more on natural gas and other energy-related topics that can save you time and money—it’s just part of how we strive to make a difference.