HOW TO MAKE THE SWITCH FROM AN ELECTRIC STOVE TO GAS IN A CAPE TOWN APARTMENT
I won’t lie, upgrading from a 10 year old electric solid-plate hob to gas was a serious pain in the butt for us. Nobody in our family had any prior experience or handy titbits to offer when it came to installing gas specifically in an apartment; online info is all so contradictory and we quite simply had no idea where to start! If you’re in the same gas-less boat fear not, it CAN be done and we’re now happily cooking with said gas!
I wish there had been a guide like this for us to have read before getting started with our change-over, it would have spared a few headaches along the way at the very least! Surely we can’t be the only clueless, un-handy people in Cape Town that have ever tried making this switcharoo?
Here’s our story – the problems we had to deal with; the questions we asked and how we finally managed to make the change from an electric hob & oven to a gas hob & electric oven…oh, and also an idea of what it cost us to do so…you’re welcome.
1. CAN I INSTALL A GAS HOB MYSELF?
Unless you’re a qualified gas installer no, you can’t do it yourself. Installation needs to be done by a professional and by law a certificate of compliance needs to be issued for any work done.
This wasn’t something we even considered doing ourselves but I think it’s worth mentioning because I did read a few forum discussions in which people mentioned installing appliances themselves – not only illegal but really dangerous.
2. CAN I EVEN HAVE A GAS HOB IN MY SMALL APARTMENT?
There are all sorts of rules and regulations about this, but the blanket answer here is ‘probably’. We’re in a 2nd floor apartment and we could.
I’d recommend contacting a qualified gas pro and asking, chances are that if they’re helpful, and if you’re able to, you’ll use their services right? Win win.
I contacted Supergas24 who were super duper helpful, they phoned me less than an hour after I’d sent through an email enquiry and asked me questions about the size of my kitchen and where I thought the cylinder might be able to go. They explained things like ‘a 9kg cylinder is the maximum allowed in apartments’ and after my relentless questioning, assured me that it would be possible in our apartment. Yay!
But wait, there’s just no way it’s that straight forward, it can’t be? I started to second and third guess myself ‘did I mention that there’s a 10cm wall between the stove and where the cylinder needs to go?’ I decided to put together a simple diagram of the kitchen (below) and sent that through to them along with photos – again they were really quick about getting back to me (without even the slightest hint of frustration) to confirm that I was all good to go and yes, drilling through walls is all part of their job. Double yay!
I’d also recommend Gasmart. We’ll be trying them out when we need to refill our cylinder (by all accounts that’ll only be in 4-5 months’ time) I had hundreds of questions for them too and they were just as helpful and knowledgeable as Supergas24- their website even says they’re happy to simply give advice if that’s all you need. Awesome. EDIT: We have indeed been using Gasmart for our refills and I can’t recommend them enough. Our cylinder lasts 4-5 months as expected, as luck would have it – both times that we ran out of gas happened to be on Saturdays, but a quick email or call and Gasmart hooked us up with a full cylinder, delivered to our door within 48hours. All for under R200.
3. IF IT'S BUILT IN - MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE!
If you have a granite counter top, you may need to have it cut (even just a teeny little bit) to fit your new hob.
If you’re able to remove your existing hob (possibly easily done by pulling out the oven and pushing the hob up from underneath, or simply by lifting the hob up – be sure to switch off the power to the hob first to be safe), measure the dimensions of the hole cut into your counter top. Do this before you go shopping for a new hob!
You may still find that you have no option and you need to have the hole slightly re-sized – just be aware of this potential additional step when planning and budgeting. We just figured that hob sizes were all standard 60cm, 70cm, 90cm etc and that was that. Nope. It’s what’s lurking beneath that really counts and we learnt this the hard way.
Long story short, come installation day we discovered the gap in our counter top was about 3-4cm’s narrower than the recess of the new gas hob we’d bought. Which meant we frantically had to find someone who could trim granite to size on site – who knew that was a thing!? A search on Gumtree sorted us out, and impressively quickly too – we had it cut that very same morning.
Those few centimetres cost us R650 to have cut out and our entire apartment covered in fine granite dust.
4. TIP: LOOK AT PRICES ONLINE BEFORE BUYING IN STORE
The fun part. Being me and loving online window-shopping I’d done my homework and it really paid off (instead of costing me for a change)!
I Googled all the appliance stores I could think of and along the way discovered some stores I’d never heard of. I wanted to see if I could find prices I could use to budget with – if a site wasn’t any help (which most of them weren’t) I went as far as checking their official Facebook pages for latest specials. There’s no denying I’m a serious website snob; it needs to look slick and work well or I lose interest within the first 30 seconds of browsing – Hirsch’s was the only appliance store website that I came across that actually worked well AND listed prices. After a few hours of browsing through their options and then reading reviews of the same appliances on sites like Amazon, I knew exactly what I wanted (and exactly what I wanted to spend).
Note: I thought it was important to check it all out in person, feel the knobs, open the oven and all that, but if I’d wanted to I could have ordered from Hirsch’s online and had it all delivered.
I went to a few physical stores (with Hirsch’s online prices in mind) and found that all round the in-store prices were waaaay higher than I was expecting. I understand physical stores needing to charge more than online stores in general but the differences were just too crazy to be OK with.
When I went over to Hirsch’s I discovered that their in store prices were also quite a bit higher (about R600 more for the hob and R400 more for the oven) than advertised on their website. I’m not at all pushy usually, but armed with the info on their website I blubbered and stuttered my way through asking my really lovely sales consultant why there was such a big difference in pricing. He immediately said he’d see what he could do for me and disappeared to work out his best offer.
Yes, I know this particular sales trick is nothing new, I can’t help but wonder though, if I’d have been offered the same discounts if I hadn’t been in the know about the pricing online. Being aware certainly didn’t hurt.
In the end I was sold the appliances for about R100 more (per appliance) than the prices available online, so saving about R800 in total on the in-store prices. I was cool with that. The Hirsch’s consultant phoned a few days later to find out if everything was working and if I was happy. Nice little after-sales touch.
5. UNINSTALLING THE OLD TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE NEW
This was the part I kept stressing over – Who uninstalls the old stuff? Is that the gas installers job or do we need to figure out how to do it ourselves? But how will the gas installer get to where he needs to get? What if it’s not actually his job and it’s still installed when he gets here?
After some online research, we decided to switch off the power at the mains, pull out the oven and see what we could see back there. Basically there was just a long cable coming out of a hole in the wall and into the back of the oven (the old hob was drawing power from it’s connections to the oven and so it didn’t need a separate power source).
Our shiny new oven just had a black square on the back of it that we assumed the long cable from the wall had to somehow be connected to and the new hob had a standard electrical plug attached to it – where the hell was that going to plug into? We needed an electrician.
6. DO I NEED AN ELECTRICIAN AND A GAS INSTALLER?
We needed both. Our new gas hob needs electricity for auto ignition and the new oven is electric.
We looked online for electricians and were pleasantly surprised (at first) at the number of sites that offered 24hour service, free quotes, available electricians in our area etc. Quickly it became quite clear though, that the companies behind these sites charged a commission of around R500 just to send an electrician your way, in general we were quoted R1,000 for the first hour and R500 for every part of an hour after that. That seemed pricey to us.
As convenient as these services were they expected us to know exactly what we needed doing, which makes sense, but in this case we had no clue – ‘umm, old stove out new one in, but there’s just one cable, what is it for? what is life?’ We weren’t going to let someone come out only to discover that they didn’t have what they needed on arrival because we couldn’t tell them what that might be – and of course to pay for the pleasure of a wasted call out.
What we learnt:
Ask your Facebook friends: Fairly obvious, but it’s definitely worth posting a Facebook status asking if anyone knows an electrician in your area. We were amazed at the connections that popped up – unfortunately nobody was immediately available and we were all out of patience.
Ask your apartment’s body corporate or managing agent: We contacted ours and they were able to recommend someone who turned out to be great.
It was a Friday afternoon but he came by (for FREE) and took a look at what needed to be done along with the measurements he needed to know. He sent through a quote over the weekend and was able to do the job on Monday morning.
He disconnected and helped remove the existing oven and hob (this was when we discovered we needed someone to cut our granite to fit the new hob), supplied and installed a plug point for the new hob to be able to plug into, and connected the new oven for us using the existing cable coming out of the wall.
Total cost for the electrician’s work was R785
The cable coming out of the wall and into the oven is long enough that we’re able to move the oven out from under the counter if need be whilst leaving it connected – this enabled the gas installer to work his magic and get where he needed to get.
The new hob needed somewhere to plug into that didn’t exist before the electrician came along, so for us the electrical work was necessary before the gas installation was doable. It’s totally possible that you may not have the same issues going on behind your stove as we did though.
The Gas Installer
As I mentioned earlier, you NEED to have fitted gas installations done by a qualified gas installer and the installer needs to supply a certificate of compliance, for insurance purposes, for peace of mind and by law.
As our luck would have it, South Africa had a serious gas shortage the week we bought our hob and wanted it installed! Our gas installer luckily had stock available and supplied us with our 9kg cylinder when he came to install everything.
Total cost for the gas installation (remember this is for installation inside an apartment) including a full 9kg cylinder + the refundable cylinder deposit @R550 : R2,200
7. TOTAL COST OF OUR GAS HOB + ELECTRIC OVEN INSTALLATION
So, what did it cost to us all told to make the change from electric to gas? (not including the actual appliances)
Having the granite cut to size – R650
Electrician – R785
Full New Gas cylinder + refundable deposit – R550
Gas installation – R1,650
TOTAL = R3,635
Worth it? For the love of controlled cooking, yes!
DISCLOSURE: I didn’t receive any compensation for writing this and have no connection whatsoever to any brands or products mentioned