Few communities of respectable size are now without gas or electricity, and even in the country the latter is almost everywhere obtainable. If not, an individual gas plant, of which there are several makes, may be installed at a moderate cost. Properly placed, such a plant is safe and easily regulated and will furnish light for somewhat less than the usual charge of the gas companies.
Gas has never fully supplanted kerosene, even where it is readily obtained. Why this is true we need not pause to discuss; perhaps a fairly well-founded suspicion of the meter has had something to do with it. But certainly no one building a house in these days would fail to pipe it for gas if the supply were at hand, even if it were to be used only for kitchen fuel. Gas has its virtues as an illu-minant also, and is favored by many on account of the softness of the light.
But while gas is preferable to kerosene, electricity is with equal certainty preferable to gas. It is more adaptable, is in many places quite as reasonable in cost, and is cleaner and safer. In numerous country communities where gas is not to be had electricity is available, as frequently a large region embracing several towns is supplied from a single generating plant.
Gas is subject to fluctuations in quality, sometimes becoming quite dangerous in its effect upon the atmosphere. Water gas, which is very generally manufactured, is said to carry four or five times as much carbon monoxide per unit of bulk as retort gas. It has for the hemoglobin of the blood four hundred times the affinity of oxygen, and a proportion of only two tenths of one per cent may produce heart derangement. While we are wondering that we are alive in the face of such dreadful facts, we may note further that gas is rather variable in its qualities as an illuminant. We have mentioned the suspicious gas meter, whose vagaries doubtless have caused more virtuous indignation with less impression upon its object than anything ever devised. An open flame is always a menace; and then there is the burnt match. Most housekeepers, I am sure, would testify to their belief that matches were not made in heaven. Is there anything that so persistently defies the effort for tidiness as the charred remains of a match, invariably ignited elsewhere than on the sandpaper conspicuously provided, and more likely to be tossed upon the floor or laid upon the mahogany table than to find its way into the receptacles that yearn for it?
For cooking, however, gas must still be a main dependence, and for this reason, as well as to provide for remote emergencies, the house should be piped for gas. At least it should be brought into the house, even if the piping is not continued farther than the kitchen.