Natural gas in the glassworking studio

Natural gas is a very viable alternative for many glassworkers who are either unable to use propane due to local codes, or don’t wish to mess with the hoses and safety issues of propane.

Assuming you already have natural gas in your house, you should be aware of a couple of issues:

  • Household natural gas pressures are in the range of 1/4 to 1/3 PSI, which for some torches is insufficient pressure to run them at their fullest capability.
  • Household pressure CAN be raised however this usually requires some outlay of funds to either have a second higher pressure line brought into the house or to have additional regulators mounted to each gas burning appliance in your house.
  • Natural gas burns cooler by about 200 degrees F than propane, but burns cleaner.

Hooking up to your natural gas line is very easy…but first, have a plumber experienced in fuel gas plumbing bring a line close to your workstation. I recommend using either 1/2″ black pipe or 1/2″ soft wall copper, which ever your plumber thinks will be easier to use.

At the end of the run, have him/her install a gas-rated ball valve (90 degree on-off) and a 1/4″ NPT female fitting. From your local welding supply shop, purchase a Western Enterprises part # 33 1/4″ NPT to “B” fitting. Use teflon tape or fuel gas rated pipe paste and mount the fitting to the the valve opening. Then mount the red hose line running to your torch to the “B” fitting. Test for leaks in the usual fashion.

In some areas the plumber and/or building inspector will want to know what the BTU rating of the torch you are using — unfortunately, not all torch manufacturers have this information readily available, but I can tell you that for the smaller, natural gas rated torches, the BTU output is relatively small compared to that of a furnace or hot water heater.

A word about Natural Gas “boosters”.

There are several companies that manufacture a device which stores and boosts natural gas pressure to a range that can be used by a glassworker to operate their torch at full capacity. These devices were designed for mainly industrial applications, but have found a place in the glassworking arena where propane is not allowed or strictly controlled. The drawback is that these devices are hideously expensive. The lowest cost model is $1000 plus shipping. You can buy a lot of 20# propane tanks for $1000.

My opinion is that unless you are at the torch more than 4 hours a day every day, these devices are not worth the investment.

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