When I was a boy--many years before I became a "gasser"--we had appliances that ignited with a match and key. The cold-weather morning ritual was to fire up the room heater (supplemented by the gas oven), the roaring vesuvius water heater, and three of the stovetop burners-tea kettle, toaster, and frying pan. For a half hour, everything went flat out. Some of my affluent friends were able to light a basement convection furnace with a button in the hall. This was a demonstration of class, but the resulting gas use was the same. When I was a young man, newly married, newly graduated, I owned a very sophisticated home. A marvelous thermostat in the hall kept the house at a nice temperature around the clock—"Don't touch that control; you'll use more gas!" An automatic water heater provided a constant supply of scalding water--that increases the apparent capacity of the tank. Four pilots kept the stove warm and ready for instant response. Modern automation kept things going on and off in a tune that met their destiny and my comfort. As long as I remembered to heat the tea kettle, winter life was a constant comfort and convenience. Now I am an old man, aware of and ready to enjoy those automatic comfort services. But the world has changed again. Through publicity and designed tariffs, I am directed to resume control of those inanimate devices. I fool them with an automatic set-back clock thermostat that turns my furnace on as I arise; intermittent ignition devices that quickly fire my tea kettle; low water temperature settings that cause the controls to trigger the instant I draw for shaving. My old tin meter no longer reminds me of the old days--it's too busy going flat out.
During the 1950's, following World War II, an interesting change was taking place. The creativity of the war years was searching for new applications. The release from years of denial in new housing and home comforts and the affluence that followed the war and depression provided a ready market for modern housing, modern appliances, and modern energy controls. Customer growth went wild, and, with it, the expanded use of gas in the home. Gas statisticians were loving the new numbers for space heating, water heating, stove and clothes dryer saturation. But something else was happening. Peak hour use of gas was not increasing at the same rate as the twenty-four hour use. It became apparent that the demand for gas by all those new consumer devices was being spread over more hours--its use was not concentrated in the short, morning peak. While six or seven percent of the twenty-four hour demand had been consumed in past peak hours, this factor continued to decline. With increased saturation of a broad variety of gas appliances, automatically controlled, peak hour use continued to decrease. In addition, increased effect of temperature on the peak hour use was detected.