On March 15, 2023 the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) adopted amendments to “Regulation 9” that will prohibit the installation of water heaters and furnaces that emit NOx, which will effectively ban the installation of gas water heaters and furnaces, starting in 2027.

What is BAAQMD?
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District was founded in 1955 to regulate “stationary” (non-vehicular) sources of air pollution. The district covers 9 Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Southwestern Solano, and Southern Sonoma. Early regulations started with trash burning and industrial pollution, and the district began regulating NOx in 1984.

What is NOx?
NOx is shorthand for both Nitric Oxide (NO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), which are a byproduct of gas combustion, and are a form of pollution that causes smog and acid rain. The NOx and PM 2.5 pollution from the roughly 1.8 million gas appliances in the Bay Area is equivalent to the pollution from passenger vehicles – so not insignificant. It is estimated that NOx pollution causes 37-85 premature deaths per year, as well as has $400-$890 million in health impacts per year.

When Does the Ban Start?
The ban is slowly rolled out over many years, and the start date depends on the type and the Btu/h (British thermal unit/hour) rating of the appliance. As of the dates below, furnaces, water heaters, and boilers that emit NOx cannot be sold or installed:

  • Jan 1, 2027: Water heaters & boilers < 75,000 Btu/h (residential tank)
  • Jan 1, 2029: Furnaces (residential & commercial)
  • Jan 1, 2031: Water heaters & boilers between 75,000 and 2,000,000 Btu/h (multi-family & tankless)

Existing appliances are not affected and can be repaired indefinitely. The ban is based on the date of manufacture, so a water heater built on 12/31/2026 can be sold & installed in 2027+ but, a water heater manufactured on 1/1/2027 cannot be sold or installed unless it emits zero NOx.

Replacement Appliances
If you can’t install gas water heater or furnace, what can you use? The replacement appliances will have to be electric, either electric resistance (cheap but inefficient) or heat pump (more expensive but 3-4 times more efficient than electric resistance). For both types of electric appliances, it is likely that new 240 volt circuits will need to be run to supply power, but over the life of the appliance, heat pumps are more cost effective, even if they cost more upfront. Especially since there are significant rebates and tax incentives available. To see what rebates are available in your area check out The Switch Is On.

Lastly, if we are going to consider how “expensive” it may be to transition away from gas appliances, let’s not forget about the $400-890 million in annual health effects that will continue if we don’t transition. With that in mind, heat pumps are a bargain.

JMC Inspections: Service, Experience, Professionalism since 1994
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