In the past few weeks, gas stoves have become suddenly, strangely controversial. Who would have thought that this trusty household appliance could be so divisive?
Well, if you’re wondering what the flap is about – and whether you should be concerned – we’d like to offer our take on cooking with gas.
First off, yes, there are legitimate health risks associated with the use of natural-gas stoves. Numerous scientific studies over the years have found that gas stoves emit harmful compounds such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, benzene and formaldehyde – even when they’re not operating. A report released late last year by Rocky Mountain Institute attributed 12.7 percent of childhood asthma nationwide to gas stove use, which is comparable to the danger of secondhand smoke.
The natural gas industry disputes these findings, and notes that any problems can be eliminated with proper ventilation. But many of us don’t have a stove hood that vents to the outside, and even if we do, how often do we use it?
Furthermore – and this is where CLEER has an interest in the matter – gas stoves are a source of greenhouse gas emissions, albeit a relatively small one. Our energy coaches often advise homeowners who are in the market for a new stove to consider electric induction stoves because they’re cleaner and more efficient (and reasonably affordable, thanks to rebates).
Unfortunately, recent events have contributed to a different narrative about gas stoves.
The controversy started in early January, when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was planning to issue new regulations for natural gas stoves, citing growing public health concerns. In an interview with Bloomberg, an official implied that the commission might even ban them.
This came against a backdrop of a growing wave of local bans on natural gas hookups on new construction: Berkeley, Calf., Eugene, Ore., and many other cities have passed such ordinances, and New York State is now considering what would be the first such statewide measure. However, this was the first whiff of action at the national level.
The Biden administration immediately disavowed any plans for a national ban, but that didn’t stop headlines like “First, Biden came for your gas stove. Next, Democrats will come for your gas heater.” Meanwhile, Sens. Ted Cruz and Joe Manchin introduced legislation to prevent the government from banning gas stoves.
Needless to say, it’s highly unlikely that the government would ever take away anyone’s stoves or heaters, as a ban would be exceedingly unpopular. Even if a ban were enacted, it would only apply to sales of new stoves, not the stove you already own.
Then, in early February, the Energy Department separately introduced new efficiency standards for cooking appliances. These new standards, which won’t take effect until 2027, are primarily intended to save energy rather than to address health issues.
While this second announcement contributed to concerns, it stands to benefit consumers and compliance is attainable. The Energy Department says that about half of all stoves currently on the market already meet the new standards and that the extra cost of complying with the standards will be more than offset by benefits to consumers and the climate.
Officials estimate that as a result, while consumers will spend about $32 million extra on stoves annually, they’ll save about $100 million each year on energy. Meanwhile, society will gain $67 million in climate benefits and $64.9 million in health benefits every year.
This is a common-sense approach, much like other consumer standards over the years that have given us more efficient refrigerators and safer cars. When applied to stoves, it’s a win-win for indoor air quality, lower emissions and saved money, all without sacrificing choice.
If you’re thinking of replacing your stove – or making any other upgrades to your home – contact one of our energy coaches for free advice on the most cost-effective measures for your situation and how to tap into utility rebates to help lower your costs.