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Come On In, the Water’s Fine!

Increase your pool enjoyment with a natural gas heater

If your outdoor living space includes an inground pool, do you suffer from pool withdrawal after Georgia’s summer draws to a close each year? Does March find you staring out the window at that pool, longing for warmer days that allow you to take a swim after a hard day’s work?

Unfortunately, if your pool is unheated, longing is all you’re likely to do until sometime in May. But there’s a cure for that, says a local pool builder.

Investing in a natural gas pool heater can easily extend outdoor “swim season” in northern Georgia, allowing comfortable swimming eight months out of the year, says Bill White, owner of Southern Splash Pools in Athens. 

Using a pool heater allows north Georgia water lovers to jump in
usually by late March and continue swimming well into the fall season.

Using a pool heater allows north Georgia water lovers to jump in usually by late March and continue swimming well into the fall season, says White.

“A heater allows you to swim longer, and if you swim longer you can get more use and pleasure out of your pool,” he adds.

White has been installing pools and spas in northern Georgia for 20 years. In all those years, natural gas has always been king as the fuel choice for pool heaters.

“Ninety-five percent of the time it’s gas,” he said, explaining that Georgia homeowners prefer gas-fired heaters because they are the quickest, most efficient way to take the chill off of pool water.

The Popular Choice

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that gas-fired pool heaters are the most popular system for heating swimming pools across the nation. Their popularity is tied closely to cost and efficiency.

“Gas heaters are less expensive to purchase and install, driving many homeowners to opt for gas,” according to information at energy.gov.

Gas-fueled heaters are up to 97 percent energy-efficient
and warm the water twice as fast as non-gas options.

Gas-fueled heaters are up to 97 percent energy-efficient and warm the water twice as fast as non-gas options, states the American Gas Association. Natural gas heaters do the job by pumping pool water through the heater, which warms it before it is pumped back into the pool.

Athens-based custom homebuilder Rodney Jones and his family are among those who enjoy an extended swim season thanks to a natural gas pool heater.

“On the weekends, we turn it [the heater] on in the morning and by midday the pool water is warm,” he said. “In colder months, we will run the heater from Friday through Sunday night, and it costs about $30. It’s worth it for the extra time we get to use our pool.”

Plan Ahead

If your new home construction includes space for a pool, planning ahead can save on heater costs.

Jones urges factoring in a pool heater as part of the initial construction — even if you aren’t sure you’ll want one. Go ahead and reserve a space for the heater as you lay out your equipment pad and plan for natural gas service lines. This advance planning will make it easier and less expensive to add a heater later.

“If we’re building an outdoor living space that includes a pool — or even space for a future pool — we always extend a gas line to hook up a pool heater,” Jones said, adding that the majority of homeowners he works with do end up choosing to add a heater.

Regardless of when you decide to install a pool heater, always have a qualified natural gas contractor do the work, reminds Pete Ervin, a Walton Gas customer representative. Locate a qualified professional for installation or call (800) 599-3770 for assistance. 

Speaking from personal experience, Jones has one simple piece of advice for those considering investing in a natural gas pool heater: “You won’t regret it.”

LEARN MORE: The U.S. Department of Energy provides detailed information about how to plan for and select the best gas-fired heater to serve your needs. 

Building a Home? Ask for Natural Gas

If you plan to build your dream home this year, don’t forget to ask for natural gas, advises a local homebuilder. 

Natural gas is in demand by today’s homebuyers. In fact, it’s considered standard in upscale homes in northern Georgia, said Rodney Jones, owner of Athens-based Frameworks Unlimited.

“It’s a luxury people expect, and so we always include it,” said Jones, who has been building custom homes in Georgia for more than 20 years.

A national survey indicates homebuilders around the U.S. are being called on to meet similar expectations. “Customer preference was by far the most important factor for the builder to choose natural gas,” concluded a 2018 survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders Economics and Housing Policy Group.

Why gas?

Natural gas is the fuel source chosen by 177 million Americans, according to the National Gas Association.

Buyers like an upscale feel that’s still affordable, and natural gas unlocks countless opportunities to give them more of what they’re looking for. Builders like Jones recognize that affordable, versatile and reliable natural gas is a powerful selling advantage.

“It’s [natural gas] so important that I always include it as a home feature on my marketing materials,” said Jones.

Affordable: Local consumer favorite Walton Gas offers competitive pricing month after month. 

Georgia homebuyers chiefly prefer natural gas for
heating, cooking, water heating and outdoor living.

Versatile: Natural gas is versatile enough to be used in nearly any indoor or outdoor application. Georgia homebuyers chiefly prefer natural gas for heating, cooking, water heating and outdoor living.

Reliable: Because natural gas supply pipes are underground, outages are rare, so homeowners can depend on some gas appliances even when their electric power is out.

Natural gas appliances have lower operating costs and use less energy to get the job done.

They also have fewer moving parts, so homebuyers can expect more years of service with less maintenance. And here’s another benefit: Homes with natural gas appliances sell for 6% more on average.

Eco-conscious homebuyers are also attracted to natural gas-fueled homes. Today, most of our nation’s energy needs are met by fossil fuels, and natural gas is one of the cleanest, producing the fewest emissions. It provides an environmentally sound choice since alternative and renewable sources are not readily available and currently meet only 6% of our energy needs.

Gas up

A new construction home offers an exciting opportunity to plan for natural gas appliances you’d like to add immediately or in the future.

Even if you plan to put off adding some amenities — such as an outdoor living space — until later, you’ll want to ask your builder about pre-piping natural gas hook-ups during construction. It is cheaper and easier to install the lines as a part of new construction rather than during a renovation.

Jones lists these amenities as being the most-requested by area homebuyers:

Furnace: Installing an energy-efficient natural gas furnace is job one for any new construction project Jones tackles. “A gas furnace can heat up a large space quickly. That’s important because people want their home to be nice and warm when they come from work in the winter,” he said.

Fireplace: “Ninety-five percent of my clients want a fireplace,” he said. Whether they are found indoors or outdoors, fireplaces and fire features are a definite must-have for 2019, according to Housetrends magazine. These features can serve as a cozy nook or focal point for a large room or outside entertainment area.

Cooktops, ranges and stoves: “Everybody wants a gas cooktop these days,” Jones said. Ninety-seven percent of professional chefs prefer natural gas for its instant response and precise temperature control. Gas ranges last six years longer and cost 30 percent less to operate than other fuel sources, on average.

Outdoor grills: “We almost always run a natural gas line out to the deck for installing a gas grill,” he said. “If you want to cook with gas, natural gas is so much more convenient than having to mess with propane bottles.”

Spa and pool heaters: “Every pool I build includes natural gas heat,” Jones said. In fact, he uses natural gas to warm the water in the spa and pool at his own home. “Natural gas is the fastest way to warm up the water when it’s cold outside,” he added.

Outdoor living spaces: One of the biggest home trends is extending the outdoor-living season via gas-powered equipment. “Half of the screened-in porches we build include a gas fireplace,” Jones said.

When purchasing new products and appliances, Walton Gas  reminds you to choose items that are both energy efficient and good for the environment. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label.

Choose Walton Gas

If you choose natural gas for your new home, don't forget to shop around for the best customer service and most competitive rates. Visit Walton Gas to learn about our specail offers for new residential customers. 

Lighten the Laundry Load with a Gas Dryer

Do you have a date with some dirty clothes? It’s likely, according to studies (yes, people really study this) about how much time Americans spend doing laundry.

In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tackled the topic. The agency concluded that the majority of laundry is done by women who dedicate an average of 119 minutes per week — just 60 seconds shy of two hours — to the chore.

A survey by Taskrabbit.com finds that washing, drying and ironing laundry takes up 16% of the time the average American spends accomplishing household chores and tasks each week. That same study also noted that doing laundry is one of the least favorite chores we tackle at home.

And let’s not forget these laundry-related statistics:

-The average American family does almost 400 loads of laundry yearly, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
-A single load of laundry, from wash to dry, takes an average of one hour and 27 minutes to complete.

Any way you add it up, doing laundry takes a big chunk of our time — time that could be spent enjoying family and friends, pursuing a favorite hobby or just taking a nap.

Loathe laundry day?
Save time and energy with a natural gas dryer.

Still, we all like to wear clean clothes. So, how can laundry day become less of a burden?

The answer might be as simple as choosing to use a natural gas dryer.

Why go with gas?

Doing the laundry is easier and quicker with a natural gas dryer in the laundry room.

Natural gas dryers have a lot going for them. Consider these advantages:

- Fast drying. Natural gas dryers heat up fast, so they dry clothes quickly. A natural gas dryer can dry two loads of clothes in the same time it takes for one load in most dryers. The average household can save up to 48 hours of drying time a year.

- Energy efficient. The Consumer Energy Center (CEC) attributes six percent of the average household’s utility costs to the clothes dryer. Doing the job faster makes a gas dryer an energy efficient option. High-efficiency natural gas dryers can save up to 50 percent in dryer energy costs, estimates the CEC.

- Gentle on fabrics. Natural gas dryers fluff and freshen your washables with less wrinkling, shrinkage and static cling. These dryers are gentler on fabrics because clothes are dried more quickly at specific temperatures to adequately evaporate water from the fabric. Then, when a gas dryer turns off, the heat dissipates quickly, reducing the amount of wrinkling. This can reduce the amount of time spent on ironing.

- Low operating cost. A natural gas dryer costs more to purchase — approximately $100 more — than a comparable electric model. But it will cost less to operate over the lifetime of the appliance because of the lower cost of natural gas.

- Durability. A quality gas dryer typically lasts a long time — up to 13 years or more.

- Energy Star rated. In 2015, for the first time ever, the United States Department of Energy began rating clothes dryers for energy efficiency. Appliance manufacturers now make many natural gas dryer models that have earned the rating. Although you may be able to buy a lower efficiency gas dryer (has not earned Energy Star rating) for less, keep in mind that you will pay more for each load of clothes you dry as it uses more energy to do the job for the life of the unit. The more efficient your gas dryer is, the less energy it takes to dry your clothes, and the more you save.

Installation notes

Sold on the benefits of a natural gas dryer? If you’re a Walton Gas customer who is thinking of making a switch, remember that all gas dryers require a vent to the outside. Also, gas dryers require a dedicated gas line that must be professionally installed. A qualified natural gas contractor can help with both. To find a contractor, use Atlanta Gas Light’s online locator or call 1-800-599-3770.

Time to upgrade?

If you’ve had a gas dryer for several years, it may be time to upgrade to maximize laundry day efficiencies. Today’s gas dryers use less energy than older models. Consumers can save over half of their operating costs by replacing their old gas dryers with new, energy-efficient models.

Be a laundry rebel

In 2017, only about 18 percent of all the dryers used in this country were gas-powered, according to Statista.com. That means fewer than one out of every five households is currently bucking tradition to enjoy the benefits offered by a natural gas dryer.

If you’re already a Walton Gas customer, it’s simple and smart to lead your own laundry rebellion. Your natural gas dryer will more than pay for itself in fuel savings, fabric-friendly operation and reliable, trouble-free performance. More importantly, you’ll save hours of work with faster drying times and wrinkle-free clothes.

Once you lighten the laundry load, all that’s left to do is decide how you’re going to spend all that extra free time.

Show your Love with Safety and Security

Protect your valentine from carbon monoxide poisoning

This Valentine’s Day, think outside the (candy) box to show you really care. Along with the traditional card or candy, give a gift of safety. Protect your loved one — and yourself — from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which occurs most often during the cold winter months.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the “silent killer.” At low levels, it can make you sick. At high levels, it is deadly.

Every year, at least 430 people die in the U. S. from accidental CO poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based here in Georgia. Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and nonirritating. It is produced from when fuels such as natural gas, propane, gasoline, heating oil or wood burn incompletely, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

This Valentine’s Day, Walton Gas encourages you to surprise your sweetie with a true gift of love by taking steps to protect your household from CO poisoning. To help, we’ve rounded up these 10 most-asked questions about CO poisoning and prevention.

1. What causes CO to accumulate?

Common sources of carbon monoxide gas include heaters, fireplaces, furnaces and many types of appliances and cooking devices, including charcoal grills or barbecues. Idling vehicles also produce carbon monoxide gas. When indoors, the gas can build up to dangerous levels — especially in modern eco-conscious homes.

2. What are CO poisoning symptoms?

CO poisoning mimics flu-like symptoms including headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion and breathing difficulty. Higher concentrations of CO can cause vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage and sometimes death.

3. What should I do if CO poisoning is suspected?

Act quickly. Leave your home immediately and seek medical attention.

4. How can I prevent CO leaks?

Conduct regular heating and cooling system maintenance and be sure ducts are properly sealed. Have a licensed professional inspect your fuel-burning appliances before every heating season. Make sure the appliances are running properly and are correctly vented to the outside of your home.

5. What should I know when buying a CO detector?

It’s important to note a couple of options exist on the market, each with their own advantages:

Plug-in and battery-operated. These models are less expensive and convenient. They are available in a range of price points and are ready to plug in straight from the box.

Hard-wired. These detectors are powered by the same wiring for a home’s outlets and light fixtures to provide reliable detection. Some even come with a display panel so you can monitor your home’s current CO concentration in parts per million (ppm).

Note: You can also purchase combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that will monitor for both threats simultaneously.

6. How many CO detectors do I need?

Per the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), you should have at least one detector for each level of your home and additional ones outside bedrooms. Skip attics or basements unless they house a gas-fueled appliance.

7. Where should I install the detectors?

No matter what type of carbon monoxide detector you choose, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and requirements for installation. While some work best at levels five feet from the ground and below, you must install others on or near the ceiling.

8. Where should I avoid installing a detector?

Avoid these locations:

-Areas with high humidity, such as bathrooms.
-Areas with temperatures below 40°F or above 100°F.
-Near areas with heavy ventilation.
-Within five feet of cooking appliances.
-Within 20 feet of combustion appliances.
-In direct sunlight.

9. How often should I test a CO detector?

The CPSC recommends monthly tests. Here’s an idea: Check your CO and smoke detectors on the 14th of every month as a sign of love for your family. Also remember to keep other equipment, like gas furnaces, in check with seasonal tune-ups.

10. What does that annoying chirping sound mean?

If you have a CO alarm that is emitting random chirping or beeping, it needs your immediate attention. It means your alarm is no longer offering the protection it should. It may signal that it’s time to replace the batteries. Or it could be time to replace the entire device. Most CO alarms have a usable lifespan of about seven years.

There is nothing more important than keeping your loved one safe. On Valentine’s Day — and every day — be proactive in protecting against CO poisoning. Your sweetie will love you for it, but it still won’t hurt to throw in some chocolate and flowers, too!

MORE: Customers of EMC Secur-ity, a sister company of Walton Gas, can add fire and carbon monoxide protection at no additional cost. Learn more at https://emcsecurity.com/fire-alarm-systems or call 770-963-0305.

Winning for charity

Children and the homeless will reap the rewards from the Georgia Bulldogs’ successful 2018 football season. On the way to repeating as the SEC Eastern Division champion, the Dawgs posted 11 regular-season victories. Every win scored a $1,000 contribution from Walton Gas’s Champions for Charity, adding $11,000 to the total being donated to three local nonprofits.

Through Champions for Charity, Walton Gas and its customers are contributing money to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, The Salvation Army and Camp Twin Lakes. The $11,000 football donation is supplemented by contributions from new Walton Gas customers.

Through Champions for Charity, Walton Gas and its customers
are contributing money to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,
The Salvation Army and Camp Twin Lakes.

 

Every new Walton Gas customer can choose between receiving a $25 bill credit or donating that amount to Champions for Charity. Every customer donation is matched by Walton Gas, meaning another $50 is added to the year’s Champions for Charity contribution. This year’s total will be finalized after May 30, the last day of the giving period.

During a Georgia Bulldogs game last fall, Walton Gas presented checks totaling $42,000 to the three organizations. This represented the amount raised during the 2017-18 giving period. Since 2013, when the program started, Walton Gas and its customers have contributed $218,000 to the charities that collectively benefit thousands of Georgians each year.

The Results Are In!

After all the donations are tallied, this year’s contributions will again be divided among the three charities based on online voting by Walton Gas customers. Voting concluded with the Bulldogs’ final post-season game on New Year’s Day.

Now…drum roll, please….

The top vote-getter for 2018 is Camp Twin Lakes! The camp received 70% of all votes cast. The donation will help subsidize the cost of attendance at the camp, which is designed exclusively for children with extraordinary medical needs. Camp Twin Lakes serves Georgia youths with a range of serious illnesses and special needs, from cancer and diabetes to kidney disorders, asthma and burn injuries.

The Salvation Army was second in the voting, receiving 17% of the total. Their share of the Champions for Charity donation helps the organization further its mission of offering prevention, refuge and stability to men, women and families who find themselves without shelter due to personal and financial circumstances.

Third place goes to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), which garnered 13% of the votes cast. Treating more than 400,000 Georgia children and teens annually, the not-for-profit pediatric hospital is ranked as one of the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report.

Thank You

Thanks to all the Walton Gas customers who voted during the 2018 season — and thanks to the Dawgs for delivering 11 victories to benefit charity. And a big thanks to every new Walton Gas customer who has chosen to donate to Champions for Charity. Together, we’re scoring a big win for children and the homeless in our communities. 

Does your home need a natural gas makeover?

Add powerful pizzazz with new appliances

For too long, natural gas appliances were regarded much like sensible shoes and push mowers — practical but not terribly interesting or much fun. But times have changed.

Manufacturers are now featuring new twists on traditional appliances as well as fun modern offerings — all perfect for a room makeover in 2019. And we’re not talking about just furnaces, water heaters or cooktops. More than ever before, Walton Gas customers can choose from a wide array of natural gas appliances all perfect for adding some powerful pizzazz to your home, inside and out.

Family Room

Focus on the fireplace to improve the ambience and comfort of your family room.

  • Ventless fireplace – The year’s hottest natural gas appliance requires no flue or chimney. Additional benefits include energy efficiency and better standards of heating. Even better: It requires little maintenance and looks just like a real fireplace. What’s not to like?

Ventless fireplaces are the year’s hottest natural gas appliance.
  • Wall-mounted fireplace – Stunning modern design and efficient heat output are why homebuilders name this ventless fireplace the top “wow” factor in new natural gas-supplied homes. It’s lightweight and thin. Wall-mounted models are available in a variety of decorative fronts and shapes, including narrow vertical ones ideal for a small wall.
  • Gas log alternatives – Fire gazing takes on a modern look when rocks or colorful jewel-colored stones replace traditional gas logs. Manufacturers use shaped ceramics or glass to create the contemporary look. A set of ceramic stones retail for around $50, making this a low-cost way to modernize your fireplace.

Laundry Room

If your New Year’s resolution was to become more energy efficient, consider this: The average American family does almost 400 loads of laundry yearly. Drying all that laundry gobbles up about 6 percent of the average household’s utility costs. High-efficiency natural gas dryers dry your clothes quickly, so they can save up to 50 percent in dryer energy costs, estimates the Consumer Energy Center. They also fluff and freshen your washables with less wrinkling, shrinkage and static cling.

Patio

If you can’t score a ticket for Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta, invite the gang over to your house. Natural gas patio appliances are big sellers here in Georgia because they allow hosts to take the party outside — even in February. In addition to firing up the gas grill for Super Sunday snacks, consider these additions:

  • Pool and spa heater – Keep water temperatures comfortable to extend your swimming season or enjoy your hot tub throughout the year. Gas pool heaters are up to 97 percent energy-efficient and warm the water twice as fast as electric heaters, according to the American Gas Association.
  • Patio heater – Durable and effective, patio heaters let you enjoy your outdoor spaces throughout the cooler seasons. They add about 10 degrees Fahrenheit to the surrounding air (12- to 20-foot diameter), so they're best when temperatures range between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fire pit – One of the top-selling gas appliances now, fire pits bring the warmth of a cozy campfire to your home’s patio or deck to your home’s patio or deck. No worry with the mess or hazards of a traditional fire.
  • Lighting – Once a sentinel at many front walkways, gaslights have returned as a beautiful patio accessory. They provide a warm glow for your outdoor area, which is a welcomed substitute for the harsh glare of an electric porch light. Gaslights can be mounted on a post or wall or on top of a brick or stone wall. Automatic light sensors mean you won’t have to worry about wasting energy.

Whether you prefer a traditional look or something more contemporary, adding a natural gas appliance is a clean and convenient way to amp up your home’s ambience. Learn more about natural gas appliances at http://www.atlantagaslight.com/residential/appliances

Grill Up a Great-tasting Holiday Turkey

If yours is like most Georgia homes, a typical holiday gathering means a house full of family and a small kitchen putting out a lot of food. To gain a little elbowroom, take your turkey outside — to your natural gas grill.

Take your turkey outside — to your natural gas grill.

Grilling your holiday bird outside is an easy and fun solution that will allow you to serve up a succulent, great-tasting turkey. It also frees up oven and cooktop space for preparing all the side dishes, breads and pies featured on your holiday menu.

So, let’s get grillin’ with gas!

Prepare Your Turkey

Preparing your turkey for the grill is no different than readying it for the oven. Begin with a completely thawed or fresh bird.

Remove the neck and giblets. Remove and discard excess fat. Rinse the bird inside and out and pat dry.

Season the body cavity with salt and pepper or other seasonings of your choice. Tie the bird’s legs together and twist wing tips under its back. Brush the turkey with salted butter and finish with a rub of salt and pepper or seasonings of your choice.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. For deeper flavor, refrigerate the bird overnight.

Better With Butter

Before you slide your bird into the refrigerator, consider this: The only way to ensure a completely juicy turkey is to use a butter injection. You’ll need a flavor injector, which can be purchased at most grocery stores.

The injector is a syringe that has a heavy gauge needle attached to a plunger type tube. There are several holes in the last few inches of the tip of the needle. The holes allow melted butter to be released into the meat of the turkey in all directions.

To make the butter mixture you’ll inject, melt one whole stick of salted butter and mix in one teaspoon of fresh, finely ground black pepper and (optional) one teaspoon of garlic powder.

Draw the butter mixture up into the injector. Inject it into the thickest part of the turkey breast and slowly withdraw the needle while carefully applying pressure to the plunger. Do this at least four or five times in each breast to ensure complete coverage. Reserve enough of the mixture to repeat the process in the thickest area of each leg and thigh.

Fire Up The Grill

A three-burner gas grill works is best for grilling a turkey because the left and right burners can be used to provide indirect heat, while the middle burner remains turned off. Preheat the left- and right-side burners to a temperature of 350–400 degrees F.

Place turkey breast side up in an aluminum drip pan. If the turkey legs are hanging out of the aluminum pan, cover them with a small piece of foil to protect them from the heat.

Position the aluminum pan over the middle, inactive burner. Keep lid closed while grilling.

Allow about 11 to 13 minutes per pound for the turkey to cook.

Cooking Tips

  • The turkey could cook a little quicker than you expect so be sure to use a meat thermometer to check progress at the halfway point and again at three quarters of the way.
  • Check the temperature of the turkey on the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.
  • Make sure the turkey is fully cooked to 165 degrees before removing it from the grill.
  • Place the grilled turkey on a platter and loosely tent a piece of aluminum foil over top. Allow it to rest for 20 to 30 percent of the total cooking time before carving.

Once your guests have a bite of your grilled, butter-injected turkey, they’ll be asking for more. It’s likely to become a new holiday tradition in your Georgia home.

Decking the Halls: Focus on the Fireplace

Decorating Ideas & Safety Tips for The Holiday Hearth, from Walton Gas

Ready to deck the halls for the holidays? Don’t forget the mantle or hearth around your natural gas fireplace. A cozy, charming fire is the perfect place to gather, so your fireplace is likely to take center stage in this month’s celebrations and family gatherings.

To help you make this space special, Walton Gas asked Dean Pannell, owner of Pannell Designs and Events in Bogart, to provide some tips for decorating your holiday hearth.

Georgia Master Florist Dean Pannell provides tips for decorating your holiday hearth below.

But before we get to the garland and lights, review these safety precautions to ensure the season isn’t spoiled by an accident.

Safety Tips

Gas fireplaces are far safer than their wood-burning counterparts — no matches, no smoke, no sparks, no backdrafts, no soot — but that doesn’t mean you should ignore basic precautions. Here are a few things you can do to keep you and your family safe when enjoying time around the fire this holiday season.

  • Schedule a checkup - Modern gas fireplaces require far less maintenance than their wood-burning masonry cousins, but it’s still a good idea to schedule an annual maintenance inspection before you light the fire for the first time this winter.
  • Test alarms - Before using your fireplace, check all of your home’s life-saving safety devices, including carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms for functionality, and to ensure batteries are still working.
  • Beat the heat - The glass in front of a burning gas fireplace can get very hot — hot enough to cause severe burns. Consider adding a fireplace safety gate or screen to ensure children and pets remain at a safe distance. Remember: Even after you turn off the flame, it may take up to an hour for the protective glass and nearby metal to cool.
  • Hang the stockings with care - Many holiday items and materials are combustible, so place all gifts, trees and holiday décor a safe distance from the fireplace.
  • Have ‘the talk’ - Have a safety talk with any young holiday guests. Establish a “no-go zone” —about one or two feet in front of the fireplace — where they aren’t allowed to play when the flame is burning.

Pannell’s Pointers

Once you’ve taken care of the safety checklist, it’s time to dress up your hearth for the holidays. Georgia Master Florist Dean Pannell shares these ideas for festive and safe decorations:

  • Go flameless - Old-fashioned wax candles with real flames are a safety hazard on a decorated mantle. Opt instead for battery-operated, flameless candles. “They look so real that your guests won’t know the difference,” Pannell said.
  • Be unbalanced - Work for an asymmetrical design when grouping items on the mantle. “Make the elements on one end of the mantle higher than on the other end,” the florist suggested.
  • Get green - Drape a 9-foot evergreen garland across the mantle, being careful to keep it clear of the heat from the natural gas fireplace. The garland should drape about halfway down the side of the fireplace. Anchor each end with a large ornament to finish the look.
  • Freshen it - Put a fresh twist on your mantle décor by weaving fresh evergreens into a silk garland. Mist the live greenery to keep it fresh. “The smell of the fresh-cut evergreens is inviting,” Pannell said.
  • Tie it together - Be sure the ribbon used in your mantle garland matches what’s on your Christmas tree. Do not allow ribbon to hang too near the fireplace. The wire in ribbon can heat up and potentially cause a fire.
  • Add finishing touches - If you have a mirror above the mantle, hang a wreath on it. Complete your holiday hearth by adding a pair of topiaries or large, glass vases filled with colorful ornaments. Add a bit of sparkle with a string of battery-operated, LED lights. Be sure to keep hearth décor a safe distance from the heat of the fireplace.

Will Your Range Hold Up For Holiday Cooking?

Walton Gas reminds that November is the best time to shop for a new natural gas oven, stove or range.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens! With the holidays almost here, your kitchen appliances are about to get their biggest workout of the year.

Will your oven have the big bird roasted on time for Thanksgiving dinner? Is your range up to the job of cooking a holiday feast for the family? Nothing will put a damper on a holiday feast quite like the death of an old appliance.

Now is your last chance before the holidays to snag a great deal on gas appliances.

If you’re considering buying a new gas stove or converting from an electric to gas range, now is your last chance before the holidays to snag a great deal. You’ll find some bargain prices at this time of year. Plus, new kitchen appliances equipped with latest technology and features can make cooking more pleasurable.

Walton Gas provides these tips for buying the appliances that will help you successfully cook your way through the holidays.

1. Shop this month

The best time to buy major appliances — kitchen and otherwise — is in the fall when manufacturers unveil their latest models. To make room for these, stores discount their year-old appliances.

The deals can get even sweeter when a holiday sale is involved. Major appliance sales tend to correspond with holidays, especially those associated with three-day weekends. Great deals can be found in November. If you can wait, great deals can also be found on Black Friday.

2. Heed the signs

The only thing worse than an overcooked turkey is an undercooked one. Pay attention to these signs that may signal impending death for your cooking appliance.

  • Items don’t cook or bake in the amount of time they should.
  • Error codes show on the stove’s display screen.
  • Burners don’t heat properly, or at all. On gas stoves, if the flame is no longer blue or flickers or sparks from blue to red to yellow, it may be time for a replacement.
  • Glass on the oven door is cracked.
  • It’s over 15 years old.

Danger sign: You smell gas

That rotten egg smell indicates there’s a gas leak somewhere between the gas source and the stove. This is a serious problem that requires immediate attention for your safety. DO NOT turn on your stove. Exit the area immediately and leave the door open. Call Atlanta Gas Light at 877.427.4321 or 911 once you are out of the area and in a safe place.

3. Make the switch

Up your cooking game by making the switch from electric to gas. If you already have a capped gas line in your kitchen, an installer can easily hook up your new gas range, stove or oven. If you have an existing gas line but it’s too far from where you plan to install the new appliance, you’ll need a licensed plumber to run a new line. Today’s gas stoves also require electricity to ignite the burners. A licensed electrician can convert your existing wiring configuration to accommodate gas cooking appliances.

4. Know before you go

If you head out to shop for a new stove or range without a good idea of what you want or need, prepare to be overwhelmed. Some stores have as many as 60 models to choose from right on the showroom floor. The variety of features available can number in the hundreds. Before you go, take a look at websites such as Consumer Reports to learn more about the features, performances and prices of current models. Tip: Don’t be afraid to check out professional-grade gas ranges. Some of the top-rated ones have a median price point.

5. Stay open to options

While doing your homework, be sure to read up on these on-trend options that can help make holiday cooking a snap:

  • Flexibility – At least one manufacturer is offering a removable barrier that divides the oven in half, allowing you to cook at two different temperatures.
  • Connectivity – Many models are now equipped with WiFi and apps that will let use your smartphone to adjust the time and temperature of the oven remotely.
  • No preheat – A special setting lets you bake foods without having to preheat.
  • Better burners – Newer models now have more burners, including a mix of high-power and low-output simmer burners, an oval burner for larger pots and a griddle option.
  • Continuous grates – Slide heavy cookware from one burner to another with no heavy lifting.
  • Convection cooking technology – If you want a gas range with a convection oven, look for dual-fuel options.

Talking Turkey: How much does it cost to cook your Thanksgiving dinner?

Here’s something Walton Gas customers can be thankful for this holiday season: Those priceless memories created around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends come at a low cost. The natural gas energy it takes to cook a holiday meal for 12 guests costs about 42 cents.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says you should cook a thawed stuffed turkey of regular size for 4-4.5 hours. The cost of natural gas needed to operate an oven set at 350 degrees for one hour is about 6¢. So a turkey roasted for four hours costs about 24¢ in natural gas.

The cooking costs breakdown for your Thanksgiving meal:

  • Roast stuffed turkey cooked 4.5 hours: 24¢
  • Large pan of mashed potatoes cooked for 20 minutes: less than 2¢.
  • Giblet gravy cooked on the stove for 10 minutes: less than 1¢.
  • Homemade dinner rolls baked for 30 minutes: 3¢.
  • Vegetable casserole cooked for 1 hour: 6¢.
  • Two baked pumpkin pies: 6¢

TOTAL: 42¢

Cooking Smart

Walton Gas offers these tips to get even more energy value while cooking your holiday meal:

  • Use glass and ceramic dishes. They hold heat well and allow you to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Cooking turkey in a roasting bag can reduce cooking time by nearly half.
  • Keep the oven door closed. The temperature drops 25-75 degrees each time the oven door is opened, so monitor cooking time and peek through the oven window, if possible, to check on your food.
  • Plan to bake more than one dish or cook an entire meal in the oven to save energy.

Did you know?

  • Americans eat 46 million turkeys at Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Another 22 million are eaten at Christmas.
  • 34% of Thanksgiving meals are cooked in gas-powered ovens.
  • Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line, which the company has operated since 1981, employs 50+ experts who answer more than 100,000 questions each November and December.
  • You can talk turkey with a Butterball expert by calling 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372). The company’s experts also answer questions via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, live chat, text and email.