If your house was built in or around 1900, odds are it had gas light at one time — and the original gas pipes are still in your walls. The thing about gas light is that it looked cool, but was kinda dangerous. I mean, could you imagine having gas piped throughout your house? So many opportunities for disaster. Don’t get me wrong, gas light can look really cool, like those old gas street lamps that some cities have kept in tact in their more historic areas. However, they can also look nightmarish. Remember the whorehouse scene from Oklahoma!?
Gas lighting in the ‘dream ballet’ from the film adaptation of “Oklahoma!”
Ok, so I don’t think anyone in their right mind would actually turn up the flames that high. But many gas-powered light fixtures did feature flickering flames. Pretty as a candlelit Christmas tree and just as risky.
Gas Pipes: What to Do?
If you have gas pipes in your house, you’ve got three options. 1) Remove the pipes. 2) Reconnect the gas lines and restore gas lighting to your house. 3) Leave well enough alone.
Removing Gas Pipes
You’ve probably noticed that in some areas of your house, there are capped-off ends of pipes protruding through your walls. Those are your former gas pipes. Honestly, the smartest thing to do is have a licensed plumber take them out. That’s the quickest and safest way to do it. However, if you decide to do it yourself — and please don’t do this if you’re new to DIY home repair — follow these tips in this SF Gate article. Very useful, very thorough.
Restoring Gas Lights
Back in the 60s, many hippies who moved into the Haight Ashbury restored gas lights to the run down Victorian mansions that they lived in. I may or may not have experienced this first hand, cough cough. Victoriana/Edwardiana was very popular with the hippie crowd for some reason, and people wanted the full Victorian experience. Restoring gas lights can really give your house an authentic look and feel. Plus, with gas lights you have more control over the amount of light, and it can be softer than electric light. But you gotta be careful. I always think back to that scene in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” in which the mom threatens to “turn on every gas jet in the house,” meaning she would kill herself and her children by flooding their tenement flat with gas. (Ok, so gas light is kind of a morbid fascination of mine. It’s still cool to have gaslight in your house. So long as you don’t screw around.) Once again, if you do this, you really have to be careful. And be prepared for your gas bill to go up.
Leaving Gas Pipes Alone
You do not *need* to remove the gas pipes. Odds are they are just pipes at this point. The capped-0ff pipes can serve as a quirky reminder of the house’s original lighting scheme. You can paint over them. No biggie. However, there is a possibility that some or all of the pipes are still connected to a gas source, in which case it’s inflating your gas bill. Removing the pipes can bring your gas costs down if in fact gas is still flowing through them.
A Word About Gas Fixtures
If your house has the original light fixtures, then they were reconfigured to supply electric light in place of gas light. It may be possible to make them into working gas fixtures again, but don’t quote me on that. Obviously you want to keep your fixtures original but if that’s impossible, you can find intact gas fixtures on Ebay.