A debate has reignited around the use of natural gas in residential buildings across the nation. States had already been looking to tackle the use of fossil fuels, with local governments signing laws into effect which restrict or prohibit the use of gas in new constructions. However, recent studies that found links between using gas stoves and asthma in children have sparked fresh concerns.
Many states have taken preemptive measures to prohibit local authorities from being able to put gas bans in place. As well as this, House Republicans have introduced the HR 1640 Save Our Gas Stoves Act, blocking energy efficiency and conservation standards. Some dispute the terminology “gas ban” altogether. Liz Beardsley, Senior Policy Counsel at USGBC says, “We do not characterize the recent policy developments as “banning natural gas in U.S. households.” Rather, some jurisdictions are establishing policies to pursue electrification infrastructure and minimize the expansion of natural gas infrastructure for new construction projects because they have determined that gas assets are inconsistent with their goals and existing resources.”
In this article, we take a look at the current state of play, comparing the areas of the country that are adopting all-electric laws and those that are protecting the use of natural gas in homes.
Which States and Cities Are Prohibiting and Which Are Adopting All-Electric Laws?
In the graphic above, you get an overview of states’ and cities' positions on natural gas bans according to the Building Decarbonization Coalition (BDC) data. The yellow states enacted preemption laws prohibiting local governments from issuing gas bans or electrification ordinances. Those in green and blue have adopted some form of control on the use of natural gas, from banning the use in new construction to ensuring new buildings are ready to switch to all-electric use. Below we go into more detail about where the different states and cities stand.
States With Preemption Laws on Prohibiting Gas
As of writing, there are currently 22 states which have taken preemptive measures. The first law was signed in Arizona in February 2020. This number of states taking the same action is constantly growing, with South Dakota being the latest state to do so in March 2023. Ohio is the biggest consumer of residential gas, which has outlawed gas bans, followed by Texas.
States and Cities Advancing Gas Bans and Electrification Codes
The latest law to be passed is in New York which has become the first state to introduce laws that ban gas stoves and all natural gas being used for heating and cooking in new constructions. Those residences which are up to 7 stories will need to be gas free by 2026 and taller buildings by 2029.
Berkeley, California, was the first city in the U.S. to ban installing natural gas hook-ups in new buildings in 2019. However, this has now recently been overturned by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco judging the act to be illegal due to ban being preempted by a federal law. California is the state which consumes most residential natural gas and, therefore, unsurprisingly, is also the state with the most cities adopting all-electric laws for new buildings. Beardsley says, "These are complex issues, and communities are making decisions that they see as best for their residents. Many areas of the country have plentiful and affordable clean electricity, so electrification makes a lot of sense right away, particularly when technologies like heat pumps are getting so much better and more efficient.” Currently, 69 cities, towns, and counties throughout the state have signed all-electric requirements for new buildings by law.
California has adopted a state-wide policy whereby all new constructions should be prepared to switch to electric. All new single-family homes should have the option to cook and heat their homes with electric as well as be able to install electric vehicle charging. Colorado is in a similar position with a bill passed that gives local governments grants and housing developers for high-efficiency electric heating equipment.
Washington was the first state to adopt a law in which all newly constructed commercial and multifamily residential buildings must install all-electric space and water heating systems.
Cities and counties across the country have implemented a variety of different policies to varying levels of degrees. Some rules are more general, while others are more specific.
Why Are Some States Prohibiting Gas Bans?
Every state will have various reasons for taking preemptive measures. Arguments for doing so are based on a few different factors. One is that residential gas bans are not a realistic solution to climate change. Gas advocacy groups believe the heightened need for electricity production will simply shift emissions rather than eradicate them as it also uses fossil fuels. Another is that it will drive up construction costs and utility bills, ultimately making homeowners pay more. David Schryver, President and CEO, American Gas Association says, “The cost increases that a ban on the direct use of natural gas in homes would impose on consumers should be top of mind. Policy-driven electrification is projected to increase the average residential household energy-related costs by $750 to $910 per year.”
Annie Carforo, Climate Justice Campaign Coordinator, WE ACT, believes that “Homeowners should be more concerned with the fact that they are exposing themselves and their children to high concentrations of indoor air pollution that have scientifically proven negative health impacts.”
What Does This Mean for Homeowners?
Will You Be Forced to Switch to Electric?
The short answer is no. Currently, there are no laws in place that force homeowners to switch from gas to electric. Carforo reiterates this by saying, "No one is calling for a [gas] ban in existing homes.” Similarly, Beardsley comments, "We are not aware of credible policy proposals to ban gas appliances, and a nationwide ban seems highly unlikely in the near future given the political divide around the issue. It is more likely that local communities and states will adopt policies promoting electrification that meet their needs, goals, and resource circumstances.” Most phasing out of gas reliance is restricted to new construction. For anyone worried about having to give up their gas stove, Schryver reassures homeowners that “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published a statement noting that they are not looking to ban gas stoves.”
However, as shown in the map above, few local governments in California have introduced legislation requiring all-electric appliances to be installed upon remodeling, with Portola Valley introducing the requirement of electric equipment upon replacing gas appliances. Schryver says, "APGA encourages consumers concerned about being forced to switch their home appliances to all-electric to voice their concerns to their elected officials and regulators at the local, state, and federal level.”
How Much Would it Cost If You Wanted to Switch to Electric?
While homeowners may not be forced to change out their appliances for electric ones, they may decide to do so regardless. Carforo says, “People transitioned to gas because it appeared to be safer, given that no one was monitoring the pollution it creates or connecting that to climate change. But now that better, healthier, safer, and ultimately more affordable options have come along - induction stoves and heat pumps, eventually powered entirely by renewable energy - we are confident that people will make the transition.” If so, here are the associated costs for switching common home gas appliances to electric ones:
Gas to Electric Furnace:
The average cost to convert from a gas furnace to an electric is roughly $2,600 to $4,200. This includes disconnecting and capping off the gas line, disposing of the current unit, and the cost of the new furnace and any necessary wiring. The cost does not include completely removing a gas main line. Depending on the age of your home, you may need to upgrade your electrical panel in order to be able to take on the higher load. This can add another $1,500 to $4,000 to the total. However, you might want to opt for a heat pump instead when making this change. Heat pumps are a more energy-efficient system to heat a home and cost around $10,000. Luckily, tax incentives and rebate programs can help you with this expense.
Gas to Electric Water Heater:
You can expect to pay anywhere between $870 and $4,100 to switch out your gas water heater for an electric one. To do so, you’ll need to run electrical lines, which is included in the total cost. And similarly to switching to a furnace, costs account for capping off the gas line and disposing of the old unit.
Gas to Electric Cooktop:
To connect a new electric cooktop, you’ll need an electrician to run wires and set up a high-amperage circuit. Assuming your kitchen is located close to your electrical panel and your home doesn’t need a huge electrical upgrade, it should cost around $400 and between $300 to $1,000 for the unit itself.
What Government Incentives Are There for Switching to Electric?
While some costs may put people off switching out their gas appliances for electric ones, there are incentives set in place to combat this. The Inflation Reduction Act is comprised of many rebates and tax breaks for those looking to make their home more energy efficient. For example, there is a rebate for up to $8,000 when installing a heat pump to heat or cool your home, another $1,750 for heat pump water heaters, and $840 for an electric stove or cooktop, among others. Some limits exist, such as the maximum incentive being $14,000 per household.
What Happens Next?
The division across the nation continues as homeowners are split on whether they would be happy to have restrictions on natural gas use in new buildings in their communities. In a survey, 47% of homeowners said they would not support a gas ban in their area, while only 38% said they would.
Transitioning to electric is part of the Biden administration’s plan to eliminate fossil fuels to generate energy and reach their target of 80% renewable energy generation by 2030. As Saul Griffith, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at Rewiring America, says, “We can burn no more natural gas if we wish to hit a climate target of 1.5 degrees C of warming. Science says a ban is required.” While transitioning to electric makes for a greener future, homeowners will be concerned about monthly bills as electric is almost always higher in costs to run.
Beardsley advises: “As homeowners and homebuilders consider their next projects, we recommend they look at the incentives, consider the costs over the lifetime of the appliance or system, and consider the health risks associated with different options. We see these factors leading to momentum in electrification over the next five to ten years.”
Preemptive laws to restrict gas bans have been introduced in Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania but are yet to be successfully enacted.
Irena is an industry analyst at Fixr.com. She analyzes and looks for visual ways to simplify data. She has been researching and writing about home improvement and personal finance since 2018. At Fixr.com, she is constantly looking to give homeowners the best advice on how to invest in their homes.
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