Natural gas furnaces and hot water heaters have been the standard in the US for quite some time. However, in September 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed a measure that effectively bans the sale of natural gas heaters starting in 2030. Here’s everything you need to know about how that ban came about and what it means for California residents moving forward:
Understanding the 2030 Ban on Gas Heaters in California
While CARB’s gas heater ban might feel like a sudden shake-up of the status quo, it’s actually coming as part of a larger effort by the regulatory body to curb greenhouse gas emissions and improve the state’s air quality. The state has been taking aim at California’s gas heaters for the last few years, starting in 2019 when the city of Berkeley passed an ordinance banning gas heaters in new construction. The same trend has been taken up on a state level, with new California energy laws being passed that encourage new homes and apartment complexes to be built without a gas hookup. Still, a total ban on existing gas furnaces and hot water heaters is a much bolder step and makes California the first state in the US to take such direct aim at natural gas appliances. If the rest of the country ends up following the Golden State’s lead, natural gas heating could be going the way of the dinosaurs in the next several decades.
So why take such drastic steps? The reasoning of the Air Resources Board is mainly based on two factors. The first is the effect natural gas has on greenhouse emissions in California. In the US, the use of fossil fuels like natural gas to provide heat, cook food, and heat up water is responsible for about 10% of our national carbon emissions. While natural gas is significantly cleaner than some other fossil fuels like coal, burning it still releases byproducts like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and CO2, all of which are considered greenhouse gasses and contribute to global climate change. The state of California has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 and, as that deadline approaches, more dramatic changes are required. As climate change has transitioned from a looming future threat to a very real and present one, more and more governments are pledging to make the hard choices to save the planet, and California is taking its place as a global leader on that front.
The other significant factor in the gas heater ban is a public health one. Recent studies have revealed that natural gas is a major contributor to air pollution – one study from last year found that pollution from residential buildings now directly harms more people than pollution from power plants, causing thousands of premature deaths every year. Natural gas appliances in California now produce about four times as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) as the state’s electric utilities and about two-thirds as much NOx as all the cars in the state put together. NOx pollution is a precursor to smog, and emissions on this level conjure up visions of mid-century Los Angeles when the smog was so heavy that residents had to wear gas masks just to walk the streets. Nitrogen oxide exposure can also aggravate existing respiratory conditions and even lead to the development of asthma in both adults and children. Shortly before CARB’s decision in September, 26 environmental groups petitioned the EPA to pass similar regulations, citing both public health concerns and greenhouse gas emissions as reasons to phase out gas-burning appliances. While no such regulations are currently forthcoming on a national level, the Biden administration’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 will require similar changes sooner rather than later. If we want to survive the ongoing climate change emergency, phasing out natural gas for cleaner energy sources is an absolute necessity.
How Santa Rosa Residents Can Prepare for the Gas Heater Ban in 2030
With all that being said, what does the gas heater ban actually mean for you as a resident of Santa Rosa? The upshot here is that every household in California will be switching to electric heaters in the near future. That doesn’t mean you’ll be forced to get rid of your existing natural gas heater immediately, of course. The new regulations don’t say anything about removing gas-burning furnaces and water heaters that have already been installed, so you don’t actually have to do anything right now for your California heater ban preparation. However, starting in 2030, whenever your current heater dies, you’ll have to replace it with something other than a natural gas heater. For most people in Santa Rosa, that’s going to mean an electric heater or heat pump, but it could also mean a pellet stove or other alternative form of heating. That will ultimately have to be a conversation between you and your preferred HVAC contractor so you can figure out which heating system will be best for your needs moving forward.
Of course, if you want to get a jump start on things, HVAC contracting companies will be fully prepared to install heating system upgrades for Santa Rosa residents over the next several years. You may prefer to just bite the bullet now and upgrade your current gas-burning heater, especially if you’re concerned about the emissions and want to make the switch to something more environmentally friendly. Either way, you still have plenty of time – about seven years at the time this article was written – to do some research into electric heaters and figure out which solution will ultimately be best for you. We’d highly recommend having this conversation with a trusted HVAC professional so you can make sure you have all the relevant information before you make a decision one way or another. If you have any questions about the switch that haven’t been covered in this article, you should contact an HVAC contractor like Valley Comfort Heating & Air to get some answers.
When it comes to electric heating, you have a couple of options. You can opt for a standard electric heater, which is the less expensive option, or you can take the plunge and install a heat pump. A regular electric heater will cost between $2,000 and $4,000 to install and can run for up to 30 years, making it an affordable and reliable replacement for your old gas furnace. A heat pump, on the other hand, can cost $10,000 or more to install, making it a more significant investment. However, heat pumps have plenty of advantages over both natural gas and electric furnaces – the next section of this article will cover these options in more detail.
If you’re struggling with the prospect of spending money to install a new electric heater, it’s worth taking a look at some of the tax rebates that the federal government offers to promote more environmentally friendly heating options. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress in 2022, provides several rebates for electric heaters, including a $2,000 rebate for anyone who installs a heat pump in their home. Some of these tax rebates aren’t well known by the public, so it’s worth taking a look to see if you can get some of that money back after installing a new heater.
The Benefits of Switching from a Gas Heater to an Electric Heater
Besides the environmental benefits of electric heaters, there are also plenty of other reasons why making the switch won’t be as painful as you might think. Perhaps the most immediate of the electric heater advantages is the lower cost of installation. When your current furnace finally needs to be replaced, installing a new electric one as a replacement will only cost you between $2,000 and $4,000. A new natural gas furnace, in comparison, costs between $4,500 and $6,000. That’s a pretty significant difference, and it comes without any downsides in terms of quality and reliability. In fact, electric furnaces are a lot easier to maintain than gas ones, which require more complex machinery to handle the fuel and safety features. Electric heaters also need to be replaced less frequently, lasting up to 30 years while gas-burning furnaces rarely last longer than 20.
Electric furnaces are also safer than natural gas heaters. While today’s gas furnaces have plenty of safety features to make sure nothing goes wrong, there’s always a risk when you’re dealing with a fuel-burning appliance. Mechanical failure can cause fuel to leak into your home or, even worse, into the burning chamber, potentially causing a fire or dangerous explosion. Electric furnaces have nothing combustible inside, leaving them with zero risk of fire or explosion. The most significant safety risk of a gas-burning furnace, however, isn’t the fuel combustion itself, but the after-effects. When combustible fuel – including natural gas – is burned completely, water vapor and carbon dioxide are left behind. However, if the combustion process isn’t complete due to a lack of oxygen or poor mixing, the byproduct is carbon monoxide. Unlike CO2, carbon monoxide is extremely difficult for your body to detect, making it dangerous if inhaled. In most cases, a person’s lungs can fill with CO without them even realizing until they start to suffer from the effects of oxygen deprivation. A carbon monoxide leak can be highly lethal, especially if it happens overnight when residents are asleep. While modern gas furnaces feature plenty of safety features to make sure that doesn’t happen, the safest option will always be a heater that uses no combustion at all, like an electric heater.
If you’re willing to spend a little extra money, you could install a heat pump instead of a standard electric furnace. Heat pumps are expensive to install but are highly efficient, making them the best way to lower your energy bills with electric heaters. While electric furnaces work like big toasters, using electricity to heat a coil inside the unit, heat pumps work the same way air conditioners do, using liquid refrigerant to draw heat from outside your home and transfer it inside. This means they require much less electricity, making them the most energy-efficient way to heat your home. As an added bonus, heat pumps can reverse the flow of refrigerant, allowing you to pull heat out of your house instead of drawing it inside. That means you can use a heat pump to replace both your furnace and your air conditioner, consolidating your entire HVAC system into a single, highly efficient unit.
What Santa Rosa Residents Need to Know about Replacing or Upgrading their Heating Systems
Switching from gas to electric heaters might seem like a major inconvenience, but the result will be fewer emissions, less air pollution, and a superior heating system for you and your family. That’s doubly true if you decide to get a heat pump installed in your home, replacing both the old gas-powered furnace and your current air conditioner. If your current furnace dies sometime between now and 2030, you can still install another natural gas one, but we’d recommend just making the switch to an entirely electric HVAC system. The environment will be better off for it, and you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of an electric heater or heat pump. Whenever you decide to make the upgrade, we’d recommend working through the details with a trusted HVAC contractor. They’ll be able to give you some more specific and personalized information on Santa Rosa heating system upgrade costs, installation costs, future power bills, and more.
If you live in the Santa Rosa area and you’re looking for more information on switching over to an electric heater, or you’re ready to make the switch now, feel free to get in touch with Valley Comfort Heating & Air today. You can contact us here through our website, stop by our physical location in Santa Rosa, or just give us a call at (707) 360-6499.