Reduce Hazardous Emissions by Switching From Gas to Electric Appliances Today!

By Melissa Yu

This article was featured in our Summer 2021 Yodeler alongside a Building Electrification illustration by Vrinda Manglik.

On April 19th, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) Stationary Source and Climate Impacts Committee discussed options for building decarbonization in the Bay Area. The Air District specifically examined ways to regulate building appliances. The Sierra Club’s SF Bay Chapter worked with partner organizations to turn out over 30 advocates at this meeting to speak in support of an equitable transition to clean, healthy appliances in the Bay Area. Our goal is to have the Air District commit to setting zero-nitrous-oxide (NOx) appliance standards for all home appliances.

What exactly are zero-NOx appliance standards? In short, these standards would require appliances sold in the Bay Area to be non-polluting. The Air District already has rules limiting NOx emissions from residential water heaters and furnaces, but the current standards allow pollution to persist. The Air District has the authority to reduce NOx emissions from polluting sources, including appliances, in order to improve local air quality and protect residents’ health.

We need zero-NOx appliance standards to protect our health and air quality, address climate change, and provide climate resiliency. NOx pollution harms our health by increasing the risk of asthma and leading to premature deaths. Fossil fuel appliances emit eight times more NOx pollution than power plants and two and half times more NOx than light-duty passenger vehicles in the Bay Area. Building pollution is responsible for more premature deaths than any other pollution source. Additionally, buildings make up 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay Area. If all residential gas appliances in the Bay Area were replaced with electric, the reduction in outdoor air pollution alone would prevent 125 premature deaths, nearly 200 cases of acute bronchitis, and 115 cases of chronic bronchitis each year – with a total annual savings of $1.2 billion.

Thankfully, incentives already exist to offset the cost differential between electric and gas appliances across the Bay Area. For example, Alameda Municipal Power, the Bay Area Regional Network, and Electrify Marin are all offering rebates ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 for heat pump water heaters. Some regions also offer rebates for central heat pumps, induction ranges, heat pump dryers, and electric dryers. In most cases, these incentives can be layered for maximum cost savings. To see a full list of potential appliance rebates throughout Bay Area regions, head to our Building Electrification page.

At the April 19th meeting, the BAAQMD committee directed staff to look into pursuing stronger NOx appliance standards. In July, BAAQMD staff will host a public workshop to discuss their findings and how to equitably and affordably regulate building appliances. If you or your organization wants to get involved to support this effort to transition to clean, healthy homes, you can do so by reaching out to Melissa Yu at [email protected]


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