Bay Area regulators approve sweeping ban on gas furnace and water heater sales

Bay Area regulators approve sweeping ban on gas furnace and water heater sales

Posted For: Layla Godey

Bay Area regulators voted Wednesday to phase out the sale and installation of natural gas-powered water heaters and furnaces beginning in 2027 , one of the most aggressive plans in the country to crack down on gas appliances in an effort to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

The rules, which cleared the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board by a 20-0 vote Wednesday evening, with one abstention, will prohibit the sale or installation of gas-powered water heaters in single-family homes beginning in 2027.

The rule will apply to gas-powered furnaces in 2029 and large commercial water heaters beginning in 2031.

Regulators argued that the nearly 2 million gas-powered appliances in homes and buildings in the Bay Area are a major source of pollution in the region, saying in a statement that the rule will improve air quality, reduce exposure to particulate matter, and save residents an estimated $890 million per year in health costs due to air pollution exposure.

“This groundbreaking regulation will phase out the most polluting appliances in homes and businesses to protect Bay Area residents from the harmful air pollution they cause,” Dr. Philip Fine, the agency’s executive officer, said after the vote.

But the strict regulations have sparked pushback from the industry and Bay Area residents, who note they could sharply drive up housing costs in the region — already among the highest in the U.S. — and limit consumers’ choices when their gas-powered appliances break or need replacement.

Switching to “zero-NOx,” or electric appliances, will cost residents thousands of dollars. According to the Air Quality Management District’s estimates, switching from a gas-powered furnace to a zero-NOx heater will cost consumers an average of $8,030. They estimate it will be $2,820 to upgrade to zero-NOx water heaters.

A 2022 study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that mid-range electric heat pumps cost nearly $3,000 more than gas furnaces.

And installation of the appliances could also be expensive, especially if the new appliances require homes to upgrade to electrical panels.

That could run an additional $2,630 for zero-NOx space heaters and $960 for zero-NOx water heaters, the regulators said.

Kyle Bergeron, a regulatory engineer with the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, told board members during yesterday’s meeting that he is “gravely concerned” about the high installation costs.

He also took aim at regulators for failing to include support in the plan for emergency situations, when residents might find themselves abruptly without home or water heating, and cannot quickly switch to an electric system.

“What are residents supposed to do?” he said.

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