The Straight Scoop on Natural Gas in San Carlos
April 5, 2023
Phasing Out Natural Gas in Your Home
If you're at all like me, you're probably a bit confused with all of the recent news swirling around about the elimination of natural gas appliances in your home. It's especially confusing because there are guidelines being issued by different government organizations that seem to be either redundant or perhaps contradictory. I did a little research, and in this post I hope to demystify what you can and cannot do with natural gas in your San Carlos home. But first, a little background.
Back in 2021, the City of San Carlos passed an ordinance that required all newly constructed and substantially reconstructed homes to be all-electric, with an exception that allows for gas cooking appliances and gas fireplaces. If you've built a new home or remodeled one recently, you're probably already aware of that.
But just a few weeks ago, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) announced a new regulation that would prohibit the sale of gas water heaters in 2027, and gas furnaces by 2030 anywhere in the 9 Bay Area counties. Here's how both of these work together:
What You Can and Can't Do
Once you unravel the terms of both ordinances, it becomes pretty straightforward as to what you can do.
- Gas Cooking Appliances and Fireplaces: You can still install a gas stove (including cook top) and a gas fireplace in your home. There was a lot of confusion early on when San Carlos first passed the ordinance that everyone would need to convert over to induction cook tops, but that's not the case. Chefs everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief.
- New Water Heaters and Furnaces. As the ordinance states, if your home is being newly constructed or substantially remodeled, you're going to have to convert to an electric water heater and furnace.
- Repairing Existing Appliances. For the time being, if your existing gas-powered furnace or water heater were to fail, you can still replace them with another similar gas powered unit — that is, up until the BAAQMD's ban on sales kicks in.
This third point creates an interesting business opportunity for plumbers and HVAC contractors. If you absolutely cannot fathom living without a gas furnace or water heater, some contractors are proposing that you pre-emptively upgrade your existing appliance with a new gas unit just before the ban kicks in. This still doesn't mean that you'll have gas forever, since water heaters seem to die sooner and sooner every year, but it will prolong the time that you're able to stay gas-based.
The second interesting point to ponder is what impact this conversion over to electricity will have on California's oft-troubled electric grid. I know it's hard to think about heat waves and rolling blackouts right on the heels of the coldest, wettest winter we've had in years, but one has to wonder if the grid can handle this load during the summer. Obviously, you won't need your furnace during a summer blackout, but taking a cold shower isn't terribly fun no matter what time of year it is.
I hope this post helped clarify any questions or misconceptions you may have had about the future of natural gas in your home. It goes without saying that you should always check with the proper local authorities before you embark on any project like this. Special thanks to Adam Lokar at the City of San Carlos for the information he provided for this post.