I've been putting in kilns professionally since the mid 70's. Yes, a lot has changed. But it is not just in the ceramics field... a lot has changed in EVERYTHING to do with business. Reality burger..... hold the ketchup. It is just .... as they say.... "a cost of doing business
Yes, putting in BIGGER kilns of any type costs more than the small electric kilns. The cost of a commercial 40 cubic foot electric kiln and a commercial 40 cubic foot gas kiln are not all that different. (Upgrading to the electrical service for that 40 cubic foot electric is not goiong to be cheap either.) Comparing costs of installation for a 7 cubic foot electric kiln and a 40 cubic foot gas kiln is kinda' like looking at a Smart Car and a dump truck. And firing costs and environmental impacts for multiple loads of a 7 cubic foot kiln to compare total load volume to the 40 cubic foot kiln are not very attractive either.....so that is a bad long term trade off idea.
I'm with Neil on this stuff......... illegal and "under the radar" installations are NOT the way to go for many, many reasons. One of them is the potential damage such actions will eventually have on other fellow potters as this kind of thing likely causes more and more restrictions on kilns of all types (wood, gas, electric) to develop.
Some things about this are actually for the better. I've seen gas kiln installations in the past that were disasters waiting to happen..... stuff like moveable propane burners literally plumbed with some garden hose and hose clamps. Kilns crammed into spaces with clearances that assured eventual pyrolization of structural wood and a fire down the road. Inadequate ventilation to remove heat and carbon monoxide. High temperature effluent routed through old home chimneys with no linings of any sort. The list is endless. I have seen the results of gas kiln explosions (yes... unfortunately they do happen.) I've seen the result of fires. I've been an expert witness in leagal disputes.
THAT is how we got into the serious scrutiny of gas kilns department.
A lot of gas kiln installations I have seen should not have happened in the past. They WERE risky situations, put in by people who might have been good artists/potters.... but were not well versed in the design and installation of such equipment. Just because you make good pots does not mean that you have decent thermal engineering skills or really understand combustion theory and practice. Simply reading Olsen's "Kiln Book" is not an education in kiln design anmd building.
If you do your homework, if you know what you are doing to put in a decent kiln installed safely, and you are trying to put in a kiln in a location where such situations are allowed....... it is still perfectly possible to put in a gas kiln. You must do your homework first. And be upfront with any zoning and regulatory issues. And comply with them!
But if your goal is to do something like cram an illegal business operation (I'm a hobby potter.... wink....wink....wink) into a location zoned Residental A and have a gas kiln there...... well... yes..... that is MUCH harder to do these days. As is getting "around" building codes. Too many people did this stuff in the past.
Part of the things I teach in my classes (and workshops) is doing all the planning work that is necessary. And how to deal with regulatory organizations professionally and in a way that they can relate to and understand. The kind of proposal presentations that worked with town governments 30 years ago will be laughed at today....... just like the same is true of a application for a public sculpture installation. You have to have your ducks in a row.
My current pet peeve these days is people putting in smoky anagama-style wood kilns in places that such wood kilns should never be built. Like what has happened with gas kilns....... this is going to eventually bring the regulatory gods down on ALL wood kilns. Reality burger ....hold the ketchup....... not everyone in every location should be able to have an anagama-style wood kiln. If you must have one.... MOVE to an appropriate more rural place where you CAN have one that will not cause undue problems. If you want that kind of kiln bad enough.... you will do this. If not.... accept reality and move on.