East Hills is looking to clear the air, one gas line at a time, with a new villagewide natural gas program that is a partnership with National Grid.
Over the coming months, 74,000 feet of gas main will be installed and the village will be “100 percent saturated,” National Grid officials said. The program was launched last month and is the first of its kind on Long Island, village and utility officials said.
The conversion from home heating oil has environmental and financial impacts.
Switching to gas is the equivalent of taking 15,000 cars off the road annually, village attorney William Burton said. Residents who convert can expect to cut their home heating bills in half, a savings of thousands of dollars annually, village trustee Manny Zuckerman said. He added that about half of the village’s 2,287 homes made the switch before the National Grid partnership began. Under the new program, the village’s remaining 1,000 households are eligible.
“The East Hills-National Grid experiment has become a model for natural gas expansion in villages,” said Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), who helped form the partnership.
To participate in the program, homeowners should contact National Grid directly for an application. About 200 residents have signed up, a number that Mayor Michael Koblenz said he expects will rise.
Residents previously switched to gas on their own in select areas of the village, Koblenz said, starting in the Northwood section in 2010, followed by the Lakeville area in 2012 and Country Estates the following year.
Before the program, if a gas line was more than 100 feet from a home, National Grid charged residents $100 per foot to connect their homes, officials said. The fee is waived under the new partnership and National Grid is covering the costs of the gas main installation. The average cost of a basic oil-to-gas conversion for a new heating system and water heater is about $7,000, National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said. After the gas lines are installed, residents must then hire a plumber or electrician to connect home appliances. Once all costs are factored in, a new system can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, Zuckerman said.
Discussion about comprehensive villagewide coverage began two years ago, but plans for a formal partnership began to take shape last year after Martins joined the efforts, village and National Grid officials said. Martins called the partnership a “wonderful example” of a village board and private sector working together for the community, one that accelerated access to gas service.
The project is being completed in phases, Zuckerman said, adding that the installation work will have a minimal impact on residents, as 90 percent of it will avoid digging up roadways and will instead involve removing grass. As of Wednesday, about 11,000 linear feet of gas main was installed in parts of both Lakeville and Country Estates, Ladd said. The gas main installation and home service connections are expected to be finished by Memorial Day weekend, said Jim Madsen, a manager for National Grid on Long Island.
Madsen said the utility hopes to repeat the program in other areas of Long Island, if requirements such as density criteria and minimum household quotas are met.