The Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted on March 15th and passed a mandate that all water heaters, boilers, and furnaces be zero NOx, effectively mandating that we all go electric by 2027.
There are currently rules that require all new construction homes and buildings to have no gas appliances, the new mandate would extend this requirement to replacements as well. This requirement does not require homeowners to change to electric, it just requires that if your unit needs to be replaced after 2027, it will need to be replaced with an electric unit.
What we know. See below for my thoughts and concerns...
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the regional air pollution regulator, has jurisdiction over Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, plus southern portions of Solano and Sonoma counties. The measure is fundamentally designed to combat nitrogen oxides (NOx) which are emitted from the Bay Areas 1.8 M homes from furnaces and water heaters. Nitrogen Oxides are fine particles that are linked to health problems like asthma and cardio vascular disease.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY...
THE GOOD - clearly improved air quality and reduced impact on the environment is in everyone's best interest. Industry on its own will not change without legislation. A traditional storage tank water heater is a dinosaur when it comes to carbon emissions. Traditional gas water heaters and furnaces are responsible for around 90% of the nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, each water heater or furnace that is replaced with an electric model is like taking a car off the road as far as emissions is concerned.
THE BAD - no doubt about it, the main issue is expense. Technology in electric water heaters and heat pumps is improving rapidly with many options to replace water heaters and furnaces that can also include cooling without harmful chemicals. Of course the top technology comes with the top price tag. Hybrid heat pump water heaters are a great option, they do have additional installation requirements, like a new electric circuit breaker on the panel and for best results need more storage (which is bigger).
THE UGLY - there are several pieces to this puzzle that I see as being really problematic. It really comes down to performance and cost. Electricity is just not as good as gas when it comes to generating heat or heating water. If you have ever compared cooking with gas versus electricity, you know what I mean. So, if you need a new water heater in 2027 and you can not afford a heat pump, you will get an electric storage tank water heater, which will cost more than a traditional gas water heater because you will need an electric circuit. it will also not be able to generate the same hot water delivery as its gas equivalent. Furthermore, if we assume that the same household that can not afford a heat pump also can not afford solar panels, we have to explain that not only will their hot water production go down but their energy bill will go up.
THE DANGEROUS - Nevada will not have the same laws and will continue to sell gas water heaters and furnaces. It is possible that people will buy gas equipment on-line and have an unlicensed handyman install it without a permit. These are the installations that cause fire and carbon monoxide risk.