Free Gas


There have been a number of questions about the free gas at this farm. Those of you who live in West Virginia or other states prolific in oil and gas know what I’m talking about, but I realize it’s confusing for others. Many parts of West Virginia are rife with oil and gas wells. Roane County is one of those areas. Most often, if there is a natural gas well on a property, the property owners are granted free access to that gas as a courtesy, and the rights are usually listed in the deed and transferable through subsequent owners. In the old days, people ran not just cooktops or furnaces on their free gas but also their lights. My father recalls in his writings about his boyhood in Roane County (in Stringtown) of the pride his family felt with their gas lights–at a time when electricity wasn’t available in rural areas and neighbors without gas wells were still using candles. Free gas can run out, by the way! The free gas lasts for the life of the well. At one time, there was free gas at the Slanted Little House and I can remember as a child the gas light outside in the yard that stayed lit day and night. Why bother to turn it off? Back in those days, people didn’t think the gas would ever run out and they used their free gas liberally (and sometimes carelessly). Most people today are more frugal with their bounty as we have learned that lesson from our forebears. The photo above shows the position of the well house from the front porch. This photo below is a closeup of the well house.

This well has been providing gas for a long time, so I will be frugal with it and hope that it lasts a long time into the future. The well provides me with free heat from my gas furnace, which is a wonderful thing.

By the way, there isn’t anything “wrong” with the natural gas here preventing use of a gas cooktop. There is, in fact, a gas cooktop in the studio where the sister lived and she used it. One of the previous owners who lived in the main house told me, when I asked why there was an electric stove in the house, that he had no experience cooking with gas and wasn’t comfortable with it. I will be switching to a gas range as soon as possible.


  1. Glenda says:

    Glad you answered the question. I had been wondering too. We use propane and it is very high priced these days. That will certainly help with the budget.

    It looks like springtime on Sassafras Farm.

  2. mammaleigh says:

    I can totally understand switching from one to the other when cooking. I grew up with a gas range, then when I moved out on my own I lived in appartments for a long time where it was only electric. Now the thought of switching back (if I could) scares me…haha. I am so used to using electric that I am not sure if I could switch back!

    OT: how are your chickens doing with the move? Are they still laying for you?

  3. emeraldsunshine says:

    I’ve never cooked on gas. It scares me a little bit.

  4. Flowerpower says:

    I had never heard of free gas before this. That is a nice thing! Wish it were here too! :happyflower:

  5. BuckeyeGirl says:

    I grew up cooking with gas and when I was moving around and living in apartments, cooking with electric was the worst of tortures for me!!!

    There are a lot of old stories about the ‘dangers’ of using gas which I just never understood. I suppose I could understand if the oven had to be lit by hand like it was when I was a child, it could be scary when the gas lit with a *whooomph* and there you were with a match in hand, but these days with electric starters or pilot lights it’s really not an issue.

    Oh, and a pilot light is my personal choice too since if the electric goes out it makes the oven useless with the electric starters!

  6. VaGirl2 says:

    I have a dual fuel range and I love it…gas for the cooktop and elecrtic oven. I do not like cooking with a gas oven…but do love the gas cooktop. When we were w/o power during Irene we cooked up a storm on the gas cooktop. I love your new farm.

  7. cabynfevr says:

    Thank you for explaining that! I couldn’t imagine how in the world you got free gas! 🙂

  8. Bev in CA says:

    Have had propane for a long time. It is great for power outages. Of course you can light the burners with a match bcause the electronic igniters won’t work. New stoves have no pilot lights. You can not use your oven. There is a safety feature that prevents that. Trying to light the oven would be dangerous. Suzanne you should have several carbon monoxide detectors in your house. Not just for a cook stove but for other appliances, hot water tank, etc. Rather than explain just google the question of what the dector does. We also have a habit of making sure during the day, bedtime, or when leaving the house that the stove knobs are off. What a plus, so happy for you.

  9. Bev in CA says:

    Just posted and saw BuckeyeGirl’s post. She is right you can have pilot lights. Saying that, you have to make sure that they stay lit. That is were the carbon monoxide comes in. If the flames are not adjusted correctly. Have the gas company make sure your flames are adjusted correctly. You don’t want high yellow flames. They (pilot lights) get carbon and sometimes go out. They could be putting off gas fumes and that could cause asphyxiation, etc. Don’t let this scare you. Jut come safety things. Electricity has safety issues, too. Also pilot lights are always lit and are burning gas. Our gas bill was higher. No pilot lights you are not using gas. We found we could cook anything on the stove top. Love our dutch oven, works great.

  10. whaledancer says:

    Having free gas from your own well is a great perk, but there is an added danger because the gas is odorless. It hasn’t been scented with the rotten-egg smell that they add to municipal gas so that you’ll be able to smell a gas leak. If your farmhouse doesn’t have natural gas detectors already, I hope you’ll get some. Odds are you know all about this, but I worry.

    I hate cooking on an electric range; gotta be gas. I like the speedy control of temperature it gives you, and I like being able to just look at the flame and know how hot it is. Being able to cook when the electricy is out is a plus, too.

  11. twiggityNDgoats says:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of free gas! Is there a regulator in the little well house? Just make sure you know how to reset the regulator (usually a little spring-loaded valve) in case a pressure drop causes it to close. This happens here on occasion.

  12. Barbee says:

    My goodness, all the things I learn from this blog!

  13. bonita says:

    @Buckeyegirl: We’re about the same vintage…I remember being able to cook entire dinners by myself, IF someone else lit the oven. I was terrified of the Whoomph! Also terrified of matches, so t he gas would bo ‘on’ longer for me thatn for my mom or dad. That meant I got a bigger whoomph. Took a long time to get over it.

  14. Merino Mama says:

    We’ve got free gas here as well. We get royalties off of two wells because we’re in a pool with two other landowners. The royalties are pitiful, but the free gas is priceless. My only complaint with it is that being well-head gas, it stains everything in your house with a yellow film. You have to clean a lot more than you would with electric. We have a wall heater and the gas made a dark streak right up the wall and around the top of the ceiling. I finally painted the wall a really dark orange and it camoflouges it a little. but the ceiling is a different story. Hopefully Roane County well-head gas is cleaner than Nicholas County gas. I’m very happy for you!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Merino Mama, this is set up with a gas furnace for central heat, not a wall heater. (Tnough there is a wall heater in the studio.) I haven’t noticed any dirt related to the heat, but that may be because it goes through a furnace with a filter, etc.

  15. Hugh says:

    With free gas, I’d make the one-time purchase of a generator and create my own electricity. Of course stay connected to the grid for backup, but then there’d be no worries about outages.

  16. CarrieJ says:

    Gas rocks!! You have so much more heat control, etc. I dislike eletric and was spoiled for many years. If I had free gas….I would go gas appliance crazy!

  17. twiggityNDgoats says:

    Merino Mama, You are right about the gas being variable in quality from region to region. In our area of Roane County the gas is generally clean and the well operator on our farm goes to great lengths to separate the gas and oil prior to putting it in the gathering line. We are very fortunate in that we are tapped into the line and not the individual well. So sometimes it is a matter of handling. Hopefully Suzanne has clean burning gas as well because you are very right, it can leave oily films and can shorten the life of appliances.

    Because “city gas” is highly processed and is nearly pure methane which is odorless, they add “smell” back in. Wellhead gas at least in our area, commonly has an odor as a result of other gases and contaminants. Oh geez, my past life as a geologist has just surfaced. Sorry!!

  18. Pete says:

    Mercaptin. Not sure of the spelling there, but is it still used as the odorant of natural gas? About the nastiest thing I have ever smelled!

  19. twiggityNDgoats says:

    Ditto on the gas generator. We are in the process of installing a natural gas carburetor kit on an electric start portable generator which we are going to use for emergency power. For us it is a great option. We will be able to power our furnace, 2 freezers and 2 fridges plus other misc. stuff. It is a very cheap option compared to a larger standby unit. It will be wired to our panel. Hopefully it will do what we need.

  20. twiggityNDgoats says:

    Yes, mercaptan is the main odorant used for processed gas. It smells sort of like rotten cabbage which I agree is about the nastiest smell on earth.

  21. Ms.Becky says:

    It’s so kind of you to address this question, thank you very much. this is my first awareness of a natural gas “well” on private property, and I’m intrigued by it. I’ve never heard of such a thing, living here in the Midwest all my life. I hope your well supply lasts your entire lifetime and long after that! Best to be frugal, yes. Nothing last forever, but this is just a wonderful thing, having your own private source of natural gas. I would love it! thanks for the thorough response to the question Suzanne.

  22. Willamette Valley Girl says:

    We live in Oregon and I have never heard of “free gas” – how sweet! I’m happy for you and yours. BTW – about one year ago we transitioned from electric to a gas stove and I can say unconditionally that it was a great move on our part. It’s much better in so many ways.

  23. Murphala says:

    Thank you for this explanation! I was one of those curious ones who had never heard of the idea of free gas. As I was reading through the comments, I noticed others mentioned that there is no smell associated with the gas, as it is when you get it from a gas company. That would probably make me highly nervous–but there are gas detectors? That would make me sleep better at night. 😀 But here it is: one more reason to move to West Virginia!

  24. Chic says:

    Love that view from your front porch Suzanne…I LOVE all the trees too. How wonderful to have free gas…enjoy it for as long as you can…hopefully for years to come.

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