(Reuters) - The San Francisco Bay area will phase out natural gas-powered furnaces and water heaters beginning in 2027 to improve local air quality and public health.
It is the latest move by local officials in the United States to eliminate natural gas, a fossil fuel, from heating homes and buildings. California has been at the forefront of the effort, and the California Air Resources Board said last year it will require that all new space and water heaters have zero emissions by 2030.
Eliminating natural gas appliances would mean transitioning to electric equipment such as heat pumps.
In a vote held late Wednesday, the board of directors of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) adopted rules that will require new water heaters and furnaces to have zero emissions of nitrogen oxides, or NOx. Exposure to NOx has been linked to respiratory conditions, according to the BAAQMD.
The rules do not apply to cooking appliances such as gas stoves.
Currently about two thirds of Bay Area households use natural gas appliances, according to the regulator. The rules will prevent up to 85 premature deaths per year and save up to $890 million a year in health-care costs and lost work.
They will apply to water heaters in single-family homes in 2027, furnaces in 2029, and multifamily and commercial water heaters in 2031. The compliance dates are meant to allow availability of zero-emitting equipment to increase and costs to come down, the BAAQMD said in a staff report.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Leslie Adler)