• A year on from first domestic connections in Strabane

    19 Mar, 2020

    Geraldine McGarrigle has warmed to her home in Strabane’s Derry Road area in more ways than one over the past year. The Strabane resident was one of the first households in the town connected to natural gas and she hasn’t looked back since.

    Geraldine has lived at Woodend Road for nearly 13 years and just over a year after switching from oil to natural gas, she says it’s been a really positive experience.

    Geraldine, who is a wheelchair user, enjoys the convenience of instant home heating and hot water. Her daughter, who has a blood disorder, also benefits from a more energy efficient home. 

    Geraldine said: “I got natural gas installed in November 2018 and I’d recommend it to anybody. I’m disabled and having instant heat and hot water is brilliant. I live with my daughter who has a blood disorder. She was using a 20 tog duvet as well as having the electric blanket on. She couldn’t get warmed, even on a hot summer’s day, but now she’s going around saying this house is too warm, which isn’t a bad complaint!”

    The SGN Natural Gas network has paved the way for consumers in the western area of Northern Ireland to switch from their existing energy supply to mains natural gas for the first time. Since the commissioning of the first pipelines to Strabane in January 2017, around 600 homes and businesses in the town have connected to natural gas on the new network.

    There has been exceptional demand for natural gas in the key towns in the network area which now have access to an affordable and more convenient form of energy which is much cleaner than the other traditional fossil fuels that are typically in use today. The availability of natural gas also enables households to budget easier by using a pre-pay card to top up their supply from as little as £5.

    Geraldine explained: “I can go to my local shop and get a £10 top-up on my swipe card which would last me nearly a week. I previously had oil which was expensive and the house took hours to warm. If I wanted to take a bath, then no-one could have a shower because there would be no hot water left or, I would have to put on the immersion heater which was another expense.” 

    “I used to have to scrimp and save to get £100 of oil but I don’t have to do that anymore with the gas and I’ve never looked back. I am saving more and the house is so cosy, especially in recent months with all the bad weather.”

    Geraldine also found the connection process was straightforward right through from the initial assessment to installation. “An SGN Natural Gas representative called at the house when the pipeline was being connected to the network in the area to explain the process and it’s been the best decision.”

    Geraldine was also one of a number of Strabane residents to benefit from the hugely successful SGN Natural Gas ‘Warm at Home’ scheme. Grant funding for the scheme comes from the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP) to assist lower income households convert to natural gas central heating, insulation and energy efficiency measures. 

    Both owner-occupiers and private renting tenants who meet the necessary criteria can apply for the ‘Warm at Home’ scheme but availability is limited due to the high demand for applications. The scheme has been extended to all towns in the network area which includes Artigarvan, Coalisland, Cookstown, Derrylin, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Magherafelt, Omagh and Strabane.

    Geraldine said: “I was fortunate that a 100% grant to cover the installation cost was available for my home so the whole experience has been positive. You can also stay in the house during the installation process with no real disruption. The workmen came here in the morning and were away by 4pm the same day. They just needed to get into the hot press and turn off the water for a time, but they explained everything they were doing and nothing was a problem. They even put down cardboard so they didn’t bring any dirt inside the house during the heavy rain.”

    Geraldine using her pre-pay card at the natural gas meter.

    Geraldine’s natural gas meter was also positioned at just the right height on the outside wall of her home to make it easily accessible from her wheelchair. “SGN Natural Gas put the meter at a lower level so I could reach it and they showed me how to use it. They took me through the manual and told me if there were any problems to give them a call, but there haven’t been. When the SGN Natural Gas representative called back to see how I was getting on, I was able to tell him I was a happy woman because my daughter is finally warm!”

    Geraldine feels her home is also more welcoming for visitors now. She said: “They can’t believe how quickly the radiators heat up. Some people say they’re worried about having mains gas, but there’s nothing to worry about, it’s underground and completely safe.”