Natural gas furnaces are among the most popular residential heating options in the United States. Based on decades-old, time-tested technology, they’re reliable and cheap to operate. According to the most recently available census data, 48% of American homes rely on them each winter. The trouble is, while natural gas isn’t as harmful to the environment as other fossil fuels, it’s still contributing to the existential crisis of climate change. That’s why California, true to its national leadership role on climate issues, has voted to ban natural gas-powered furnace and water heater sales beginning in 2030. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming change.
The Trouble With Natural Gas
Ever since scientists first began sounding the alarm over human-driven climate change, industrialized nations have looked for ways to minimize their environmental impact. Coal, which is among the dirtiest fossil fuels available, was the first to fall out of use in much of the U.S. Gasoline, however, was a trickier problem since replacing several generations of cars, trucks, and other gasoline-powered vehicles will take a while.
For some time, experts pointed toward natural gas as a critical bridge fuel to get us from our current fossil fuel mix to a completely renewable energy society. That made sense, as burning natural gas produces around half of the CO2 emissions that coal does when burned. Plus, it’s inexpensive and plentiful here in the United States.
The trouble is that natural gas, while cleaner than other fuel sources, isn’t perfect. Its main component is methane, which itself is the cause of an estimated 30% of global temperature increases since industrialization. That means every home that’s still using a natural gas furnace is still contributing to the problem of climate change. That’s the main argument that led the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to vote unanimously to enact a ban on natural gas furnace sales beginning in 2030.
The decision began a process that will see various state agencies draft rules to phase out natural gas-powered appliances, including furnaces. Those rules will then come up for further votes in 2025. If the measure eventually succeeds, it would make California the first U.S. state to make such a move.
What the Ban Means for Homeowners
Right now, the looming ban on natural gas furnaces doesn’t mean much for homeowners here in Northern California. For the time being, companies like Environmental Heating & Air Solutions will still sell, install, and service natural gas furnaces here. However, it does mean that homeowners will have to start getting educated on other types of heating options for their homes.
Alternative Home Heating Options
Right now, the most efficient and environmentally friendly replacement available is heat pumps. They’re electrically powered but don’t generate heat using electricity or any other fuel. Instead, they capture the heat energy available in the outside air and carry it indoors. That makes them extraordinarily efficient, with some heat pumps producing as many as four units of heat for every unit of electricity consumed. That’s an astounding 400% efficiency rate!
Also, as California’s power grid moves further toward reliance on renewable generation sources like wind and solar, heat pumps move closer toward a net-zero environmental impact. That makes them an ideal replacement for gas furnaces. Plus, homeowners here don’t have to wait for the gas furnace ban to go into effect to switch to heat pumps. They can choose one as a replacement the moment their existing gas furnace needs replacement.
The only caveat homeowners must consider is that heat pumps lose efficiency when the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in the Roseville, CA, area, we don’t see too many days below that temperature each year. But when it does happen, a heat pump may deliver less heat or need to turn on an auxiliary electric resistance heater to keep your home at your desired temperature. At those times, they cost a bit more to operate and aren’t as efficient, but your home will remain warm and comfortable.
What About Gas-powered Water Heaters?
It’s also worth noting that the upcoming ban on natural gas furnaces in California applies to water heaters, too. Again, this doesn’t mean that homes with gas-powered water heaters must remove them. Instead, it means that their next water heater installed after 2030 must use electricity instead.
The good news is that it’s possible to use a heat pump to supply a home with some or all of its hot water needs, too. The trouble is that just like home heating heat pumps, they don’t work as well in cold weather. And, again, most of them include electric resistance heating elements to make up for any heat shortfalls in cold weather.
Of course, homeowners can also opt for a conventional water heater tank that relies on electricity instead of gas. They’re already quite efficient and provide similar performance compared to gas-powered versions. Alternatively, homeowners can choose an electric tankless water heater to serve their home’s hot water needs.
A tankless water heater, or an on-demand water heater, senses when someone requests hot water in a home and turns on to heat it in real-time. Modern electric varieties can supply hot water to homes just as well as electric heater tanks can. Plus, they save homeowners a bit on operating costs. Since there’s no heat loss from hot water sitting in a tank waiting for use, they use a bit less electricity each year to operate.
Plus, they come with one additional benefit. They provide as much hot water as you want for as long as you need it. That means no more showers going cold before you’re finished with them. And you’ll never have to worry about waiting for the hot water to replenish after someone uses more than their fair share.
An HVAC Partner for Today and Tomorrow
Now you know the details surrounding California’s upcoming ban on gas furnaces and gas-powered water heaters. While most homeowners won’t need to make any changes to their homes anytime soon, it’s worth knowing that your options will soon change. That will give you an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and invest in more efficient and environmentally friendly heat and hot water options for your home. The experts here at Environmental Heat & Air Solutions stand ready to help homeowners all around Northern California do that.
We’ve served the community here since 2010 and go out of our way to help homeowners make the most out of their heating, cooling, and plumbing service investments. Part of that commitment means advising homeowners on economical options like heat pumps and tankless water heaters. Our team of NATE- and BPI-certified technicians have the expertise to install whatever systems you choose and keep them running well for years to come.
If you’d like more information about heat pumps, tankless water heaters, or anything else related to the coming ban on gas furnaces, contact Environmental Heat & Air Solutions today!