New York’s City Council voted 40-to-7 to ban the installation of furnaces, stoves, and hot water heaters that burn fossil fuels in new buildings (buildings lower than seven stories built in 2024 or thereafter, and in buildings over seven stories built in 2027 or thereafter).
The ban was billed as a way to reduce global warming, but it may just shift the burning of fossil fuels from homes to the power plants that produce electricity for homes.
Buildings are responsible for 70 percent of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide. New York is following other progressive cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley in banning gas stoves and furnaces. On the other hand, 19 states with Republican legislatures have passed laws keeping cities from banning gas stoves and furnaces.
Researchers estimate that the additional construction costs of banning natural gas and thus requiring full electrification would range from between $3,988 and $11,196 in a warm climate (Houston), and between $10,866 and $15,100 in a cold climate (Denver and Minneapolis). Researchers calculate the costs for retrofitting a house that currently uses natural gas for heating, hot water, and cooking between $24,282 and $28,491. Just replacing worn out gas-fired appliances would cost between $9,767 and $10,359.
The researchers say the higher installation costs could be paid back in energy savings in warm cities like Houston in between 27 and 64 years, if energy efficient appliances were installed instead. But most appliances don’t last anywhere near that long. The installation costs would never be recouped in energy savings in cold cities like Minneapolis or Denver.
The Consumer Energy Alliance estimated in early 2021 that retrofitting all houses that are currently using natural gas for heating, cooking, and hot water would cost $258 billion.
The American Gas Association (AGA) estimates that averaging out the costs of electric appliances plus utility bills would increase average home energy costs by between $750 and $910 annually, or 38-46%. The AGA also argues that burning natural gas to produce electricity (40% of America’s electricity is currently generated that way), as could be the outcome of fully electrifying homes in areas where electricity is generated with natural gas, is inefficient compared to using it to directly fuel residential appliances.