Here Come Heat Pumps: NYC Banning Gas Hookups in New Buildings

Here Come Heat Pumps: NYC Banning Gas Hookups in New Buildings

Gas Ban in NYC Paves Way for Heat Pumps

For New York City, the end of gas appliances in buildings—at least in new construction—is near! Yesterday, the City Council passed a bill banning the use of gas in new buildings, paving the way for electrification, including the use of ultra-efficient, cold-climate heat pumps for heating and air conditioning. 

In NYC, buildings account for two-thirds of annual carbon emissions, making the need for building electrification paramount to our energy transition. RMI estimates that by 2040, the law will deliver avoided greenhouse gas emissions of 2.1 million tons—equivalent to taking 450,000 cars off the road each year—and “could also yield several hundred million dollars in [utility] ratepayer savings by 2040, due to avoided spending on new gas connections.”

Source: R

The bill bans gas-powered stoves, space heaters and water boilers in new buildings under seven stories by 2024. By 2027, all new buildings will be subject to the ban. With these regulations set in motion, New York City will become the largest American city to enact this type of law. 

“It’s a historic step forward in our efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” Ben Furnas, the director of climate and sustainability for the NYC mayor’s office, told the New York Times. “If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.”

Natural gas, or fracked gas, has long been incorrectly touted as a “clean” alternative to oil and coal. Fracked gas releases less carbon dioxide. However, in lieu of the carbon, the combustion of natural gas releases a huge amount of methane, a greenhouse gas with far more immediate warming potential than carbon dioxide. For this alarming reason, we know natural gas is unsustainable (and unhealthy) for the future of appliances in new and existing buildings. 

BlocPower Co-Founder and General Manager Keith Kinch played a critical role in making this gas ban in New York City happen—structuring the bill, securing Council member votes, standing up to naysayers and testifying in support of the bill. Excerpts from Kinch’s remarks:

As we continue to deal with a health and economic crisis, the question we all have to ask ourselves is how do we plan to move New York City forward.
We know [electrification] works not because it’s a great idea, or a plan that may happen, it’s literally happening now!
Right now BlocPower is utilizing the Civilian Climate Corps, a workforce of trained New Yorkers from frontline communities, to complete clean energy projects. One of which is removing a fossil fuel system at a church in Queens. The church is not only a religious sanctuary, but provides services to children and has a food pantry. A building that is an anchor of the community should not be emitting harmful toxins by burning fossil fuels.
Banning the use of fossil fuels, like natural gas, will ensure every new building that goes up in this great city is part of a sustainable future. A future with clean air and clean heat [where] everyone here today, including my two very young children, who are listening now, can thrive.

In addition to emissions reductions, the bill will create green jobs, decrease harmful pollution in and outside of NYC homes, and address staggering environmental inequalities in vulnerable communities. 

BlocPower has already become a trailblazer in building electrification, completing over 1,200 energy efficiency projects in New York City and across the country. Start your project today. 

Debunking Common Myths of Building Electrification 

There are some common misconceptions surrounding what exactly “electrification” means for a city. We're here to clear them up (and cite our sources!) In reality, all-electric appliances are not a new concept. For example – electric heat pumps, which heat and cool buildings, are already widely used throughout Europe. In the United States, “the share of heat pump sales for newly constructed buildings exceeds 40% for single-family dwellings and is near 50% for new multi-family buildings,” according to the International Energy Agency.

Myth: Electrification will cause winter blackouts.

Fact: The Urban Green Council has released extensive reporting on the feasibility of building electrification in New York City. Using energy models and predictions on monthly energy use, they have concluded that building electrification poses no immediate risk to the grid. Tracking citywide building upgrades and electrification projects will be key in preparing the grid, but it is nothing the city can’t handle – NYC’s winter power demand could grow by 42 percent before exceeding summer demand. 

"Citywide building electrification will eventually shift NYC’s peak power demand from summer to winter while significantly raising the peak. But it won’t happen all at once, and so far, the pace of electrification has been glacial. The good news is that utilities and their customers have plenty of time to adapt to these new peaks." - Urban Green Council

Myth: Electric heat pumps are less efficient and more expensive than fossil fuel based heating systems. 

Fact: Over the years, heat pump technology has advanced beyond the efficiency of fossil fuel based systems. Even in the cold winters of Colorado or Wisconsin, the modern air source heat pump is found to be 2.2 to 4.5 more efficient than an Energy Star gas furnace. With better efficiency comes cheaper energy bills. We’ve determined that heat pump systems save our clients up to 40% on heating and cooling bills each year. 

Myth: Electric induction stoves perform worse.

Fact: The natural gas industry has carefully orchestrated this false narrative with millions of dollars poured into their marketing and advertising campaigns. In reality, the industry is desperately trying to sway the public away from reliable, high-performing, healthier electric appliances. Induction stoves are not only efficient, but they do not emit harmful, unhealthy indoor air pollutants. In the age of at-home work, we are breathing in our indoor air more than ever. Even with proper ventilation, gas stoves are polluting your indoor space, causing short- and long-term health effects

Myth: There are no benefits to having a heat pump in a cold climate.

Fact: Not only are heat pumps energy efficient and reduce utility bills, they also expertly clean your indoor air. By constantly circulating air, the systems provide dependable improvements in indoor air quality. Instead of relying on inefficient and unhealthy gas combustion, electric heat pumps provide both heating and cooling by using ambient air from the outdoors, replacing appliances that emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and other harmful pollutants. Furthermore, heat pumps act as expert dehumidifiers when cooling a hot, humid indoor space, reducing the chance of dangerous build up of mold. 

Myth: Increased electrification in NYC will create more GHG emissions because the energy grid is powered by the combustion of fossil fuels.

Fact: It’s true that presently, New York City’s energy grid is largely powered by the combustion of fossil fuels to a much greater degree than upstate New York. However, the timeline of the ban aligns with the New York State’s aggressive Clean Energy Standard requiring 70% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, of which a significant portion must come from NYC. Research finds that by 2040, the implementation of this law will reduce 2.1 million tons of GHG emissions.

Building electrification is the future. 

If you’re ready to save 30–60% on energy costs—and ensure dependable, healthy and clean heating and cooling for your building—BlocPower is ready to help you go fossil fuel free. Get started by answering a few quick questions about your building.