Are We Saying Goodbye to the Gas Stove?

Depending on where you live, the decision on whether your next appliance will be gas or electric might not be much of a decision at all.

By Rachel Brougham | Published Nov 23, 2022 3:17 PM

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As communities and residents around the United States work to slow further climate change damage, some major cities are taking a stand and banning new gas appliances. That means if you live in one of those cities, your next stove, clothes dryer, or water heater will likely be electric.

On the flip side, 20 states have already passed preemption laws that block cities from banning natural gas in new appliances.

Why the Ban on Gas Stoves?

A recent study from Stanford University found that gas stoves contribute more to climate change than previously realized. That’s because even when they’re not in use, gas stoves leak small amounts of methane into the air. And when it comes to total emissions in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency reported that residential and commercial properties made up 13 percent in 2020. Furthermore, the EPA reported about 80 percent of those emissions from homes and businesses came from the combustion of natural gas—the fuel used in appliances. Natural gas is mainly methane, a strong greenhouse gas that warms the planet.

So how much greenhouse gas are we really talking about? To put it in perspective, a study in the journal “Environmental Science & Technology” found that even when gas stoves in the United States aren’t in use, they put 2.6 million tons of methane into the air each year. That’s about the same amount of greenhouse gasses 500,000 cars put into the air every 3.5 hours in this country.

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To Ban or Not to Ban

Already, cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle have enacted some form of ban on natural gas hookups in new homes and buildings as a way to slow climate change. Some of these bans will take place in the coming years.

Shelia Foster, an environmental law expert at Georgetown Law, told CNN that cities moving away from natural gas can make a significant impact on the climate. “Natural gas bans are kind of low-hanging fruit,” Foster told the news outlet.

But many states are saying “not so fast” as they work to hamstring local governments’ ability to limit consumers’ choice of appliance type.

“This is not really a climate solution,” Daniel Lapato, senior director of state affairs with the American Gas Association, an advocacy group, told Pew, a non-partisan organization that works to improve public policy. “When you start eliminating these options, you have to look at the cost implications to the homeowner.”

Gas companies are working to produce a more renewable natural gas that is methane-based and produced from other sources such as farms and landfills, Lapato added. He said laws to ban natural gas appliances would hinder these efforts.

There’s also the issue of how electricity is produced for our homes. Currently, most of the electricity in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels. Electricity from carbon-free sources such as solar, hydropower, wind, and nuclear make up just 40 percent of the nation’s electricity supply, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order calling for 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity (CFE) by 2030.

So What’s the Alternative?

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Those looking for alternatives to the gas stove might want to look at the advantages of electric stoves. For example, electric models, including induction, are more energy-efficient. Consider this: With an electric range, 74 percent of the energy produced is transferred to food, compared with just 40 percent when it comes to its gas counterpart. Induction cooktops are an even better option, with up to 90 percent of the energy transferred to food.

Electric appliances are also safer than gas. While electric stoves don’t completely eliminate the risk of burns or fires, the lack of gas means there’s no risk of gas leaks due to an improperly installed gas stove.

When it comes to cost, however, natural gas is generally less expensive than electricity. A gas stove can cost 10 to 30 percent less to operate than an electric one, depending on where you live.

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The Bottom Line: So What Does This Mean for Me?

For those who live in a city that’s enacted a ban on natural gas appliances or will in the years to come, that may mean more money out of your pocket when it’s time to update your stove or other appliances. That’s because if you were to update your gas stove to electric, you’ll likely have to undergo some fairly significant retrofits to make the change.

In response to the expense of switching, there are some incentives in the works. For example, the California Public Utilities Commission offers incentives of up to $4,885 for residents to switch from gas water heaters to electric heat pump water heaters.

The federal Inflation Reduction Act can also help. The legislation calls for $4.5 billion in funding for states to provide rebates for the purchase of new electric appliances. Consumers who purchase an electric stove could receive up to $840 in rebates and another $500 to help offset the cost of converting from gas to electric. How much you qualify for depends on where you live and how much you earn.

To see if and how much you qualify for, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. The website tracks credits and tax incentives related to energy by state.

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