Why New Brunswickers Are Thinking Twice About Natural Gas In New Homes….

In the run of an average week, I usually field a question or two about natural gas as a fuel heat source for new construction.  In my previous life, I sold homes in Ontario where natural gas was the standard.  Here in NB however, that is not the case.  In fact, the amount of our clients who choose a natural gas heat system is declining year over year.  I feel that there are 2 major reasons for this.

1. Your Neighbour Probably Doesn’t Have Natural Gas

I’m going to use the Toronto Area as an example because it’s one that I know best. The GTA is similar to many urban, developed areas of Canada in that there is a long established history of natural gas usage.  In fact, according to Statistics Canada as of 2011, 50% of all homes in Canada were heated by natural gas.  I have been searching high and low for stats on NB homes heated by natural gas but can’t seem to find any (if you do, please send them my way).  That said, there are drastically fewer homes in NB heated by natural gas than in many other Canadian cities.

There is a high cost to delivering natural gas to our region and that delivery cost is being absorbed and shared by a small number of customers (myself included).  The smaller the base of consumers, the higher the cost. As such, I am paying a much higher rate for natural gas in Moncton, NB than I was in Oakville, ON.  With natural gas rates staying where they’re at and often rising, many of our clients are option for the alternative of ducted air-to-air heat pumps which offer a similar upfront cost but keep power rates low throughout the cold season.

2. If You’re Building In A New Development, Natural Gas In Likely Not On Your Street

According to Enbridge NB’s website:

“New pipeline is built when there is sufficient demand in an area and where the economics ensure that the capital costs are covered over the long term.”

Looks promising enough.  When I called EnBridge to ask what constituted “sufficient demand” and for more information around the aforementioned economics, they asked me to complete a one minute questionnaire so that they could put me on a wait list. I was told that as soon as enough people in my area were on the wait list, they would then consider extending the pipeline to the street. They couldn’t tell me what number of homes would constitute “enough”.

This process is not terrible if you are considering a renovation or conversion however, if you are building new construction, the very nature of the process is problematic.  Because EnBridge is requiring a “sufficient” number of homes to agree to be natural gas consumers, the assumption is that people on the list can/will wait until the list is full.  When it comes to custom home construction in a new development, it is highly unlikely that homes 1-8 on the list (for example) will wait to build their homes until that 9th person agrees to use natural gas and fills the demand requirement.

Instead, homes 1-8 will proceed to stay on schedule… and that guy who could have been home 9, is back to square one. (Please note that these numbers are for illustration purposes only and were not provided by Enbridge).

I personally would LOVE to see more demand for Natural Gas in NB.  This would not only offer our clients more choice in their heat system but, eventually, they would more competitive rates.  Are you considering natural gas as a conversion or as a new construction home?  Why or why not?