Too Many Cooks in the Regulatory Kitchen

Mapping out the complicated regulatory landscape around gas and electric stoves.

From the federal government all the way to your local building codes, the debate between using natural gas versus electricity to power your cooktops and stoves is heating up.

When you’re deciding what to put in your kitchen, it’s important to understand how all of these regulations affect your choices and their long term implications. But it can be tough to peel back all of the layers of regulation, confusion, and — because we live in the internet age — culture wars around cooking fuels.

So in today’s post, we’re going to try to cut through all of the noise. We’ll give you a quick rundown of:

  • Who’s in charge of the regulations
  • What the policies look like
  • What the status is on those policies
  • How they affect you

And, of course, a quick plug (ha, get it) on how Impulse fits into all of this.

Federal regulation — or the lack thereof

In the last year, a lot of controversy has specifically been stirred up around the federal government’s role in regulating the use of gas versus electric stoves in people’s homes. To keep it simple, we’re going to focus on the key three sources of action.

1. The Department of Energy

The Department of Energy (a federal agency that advances US energy and environmental goals through research, financing, and regulation) plays a surprisingly intimate role in our homes, by way of our appliances. Thanks to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the DoE has the responsibility to set and update standards that ensure “maximum improvement in energy efficiency … which the Secretary determines is technologically feasible and economically justified”.

In February 2023, with this directive, the DoE proposed a new rule increasing the standard for energy efficiency of all cooktops and ranges — including both those fueled by gas and electricity. In short, the proposed rule would regulate how much energy any given cooking appliance can consume in a year.

These standards come straight from the DoE's proposed rule.

Though there’s been industry and political pushback, this proposed rule doesn’t actually ban any specific types of appliances or fuel types. Rather, it sets standards for how fuel-efficient those appliances have to be. And though this rule has yet to be approved and enacted, it’s safe to say that it will have huge impacts on gas stoves in particular. It’s likely that about 50% of gas stoves that are currently on the market wouldn’t meet that standard, clearing the market for more efficient (and electric) alternatives.

2. The Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) plays a more obvious role in regulating our home appliances, especially when it comes to safety. They set safety standards, enforce recalls, and provide consumers with information regarding product safety and regulations to make sure that home appliances are safe to use and free from hazardous defects.

So, naturally, the CPSC’s attention was piqued when reports linked indoor air pollution caused by gas stoves to childhood asthma. In the midst of a heated public debate, one of the agency’s commissioners referenced the power of the commission to ban unsafe products. Much was made of this reference, with rumors circulating that the CPSC was moving to ban gas stoves, and even threatening to remove them from people’s homes. It even led to some very dramatic tweets:

But despite all the drama, there was no actual regulation or action taken by the CPSC. So what’s the lesson that we learned? That the CPSC is a potentially important lever that the federal government could use to regulate cooktops and stoves in our homes, but it hasn’t been put to use yet.

3. Congress

This past summer, Congress also dipped their toes into the pool — but in opposition to regulation. The House passed the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, H.R. 1615 (118), which essentially prevents the federal government (and the CPSC specifically) from using federal funds to ban (or just effectively ban) gas stoves.

It’s important to note that this bill doesn’t appear to have gone anywhere in the Senate, so it’s unlikely to ever be passed. Plus, it is designed to prevent a ban on gas stoves that… doesn’t actually exist.

All said, as far as the federal government is concerned, the Department of Energy seems to be the only body that may actually end up impacting the sale of gas stoves, if only through regulating energy efficiency. Most other chatter about federal regulation of gas stoves seems to be signaling, and doesn’t have a serious impact on your choices as a consumer for now.

State regulation

The story of state regulation of gas appliances, including stoves, is as varied as the political landscape of the states themselves. Rather than breaking down what each state is doing, we're going to focus on three types of regulatory action that states are leveraging: 

1. Gas Bans

There are meaningful moves being made by state governments to urgently move towards building electrification. Although most of these early instances of regulation aim for general building decarbonization, some of them have direct implications for stoves and cooktops — notably through gas bans. For example…

  • In late 2022, California’s Air Resources Board announced a ban on the sale of some common gas-powered household appliances, such as water heaters, furnaces, and heaters. Though this doesn’t apply to stoves and cooktops, it clearly advances the state’s goals of eliminating the residential use of gas-powered appliances.
  • Earlier this year, the state of New York banned natural gas in newly constructed buildings, which means gas stoves too. This is a huge deal, and is seemingly the first state-wide legislation to so directly ban gas stoves (even if this doesn’t kick in until 2026). However, there are exceptions for commercial applications, like laundromats and restaurants, which is an important concession for the long-term viability of this policy.

2. Bans on... Gas Bans?

Yep, you read that right. On the other side of the political spectrum, we have several states that have passed “preemption laws”.These laws are effectively a ban on gas stove bans. So far, at least 20 states have passed laws that prevent individual cities within those states from banning the use of natural gas.

Map adapted from CNN.

For those who are in favor of urgent and widespread home electrification, these preemption laws could be seen as a major blow. City-level regulation and building codes has been one of the lowest-hanging fruit to encourage building decarbonization through a switch to electric appliances. And though these preemption laws certainly don’t compel consumers to keep their gas-powered appliances, they will likely slow down the process of electrifying homes across the country.

3. Building Performance Standards 

Building Performance Standards (BPS) are a set of rules that dictate how buildings must be designed, constructed, and maintained to achieve specific energy efficiency and environmental sustainability goals.

Local regulation

Now we’re getting to where most of the action lies — municipal and city governments. Cities became the frontlines for the fight over gas stove regulation in the famously politically experimental Berkeley, California.

In 2019, Berkeley passed the country’s first city-wide ban on gas, which banned gas pipes from newly constructed buildings in the city. Any building going up starting in 2020 would need to comply with the ban in order to get permitted.

The landmark legislation was recently struck down in federal court in a lawsuit by the California Restaurant Association. Even so, Berkeley had started a country-wide domino effect of municipal regulation of gas. Now, more than 125 cities across the country have adopted regulation that either mandate or encourage building decarbonization and electrification.

So how are you to know whether any local policies apply to you? Luckily, there are great resources out there that are designed for this very task. Our favorite is DSIRE, which lists every piece of decarbonization and electrification regulation, searchable by zip-code. You can easily check to see whether your hometown is already regulating the use of gas in homes, and take that into account when deciding how to fuel your kitchen.

Most importantly though, you only really need to worry about all of these regulations if you’re considering an appliance in a major remodel or new construction. No city— or anyone, for that matter — is passing any regulation that requires you to give up the appliances that you already have in your home.

Finally, many of these younger municipal regulations have learned from Berkeley’s experience. For the most part, they primarily regulate the use of gas in residential buildings, and write in exceptions for commercial ones. 

So where are we headed?

Whether it’s on the local level, at the state, or in the federal government, one thing has become abundantly clear: the gas stove debate is heated, and it won’t get settled any time soon. For every move that’s made to mandate building electrification, a seemingly equal and opposite move is made to keep gas appliances in homes.

But the writing is clearly on the wall. Even the most gas-friendly legislation can only slow the steady march towards electrification. Though it’s unlikely to come from a country-wide ban on gas stoves, little bits of regulation like efficiency or ventilation requirements are slowly making it cheaper, easier, and more attractive to switch to electric.

Political and cultural debates aside, though, we think that our Founder & CEO, Sam D’Amico, said it best:

Sam D'Amico via Twitter.

Home electrification won't win over the country’s hearts and minds by banning gas. This is especially the case in states that have gone to the trouble of instituting preemption laws. Instead, electrification is going to happen at the hands of well-informed homeowners, and companies building obviously better products that just happen to be electric.

At Impulse, that’s exactly what we’re aiming to do. Our first and foremost priorities are to build the best next-generation home appliances that we can dream up. When you choose our cooktops, it’ll be because we can help you get that pasta dinner on the table twice as fast, keep your surfaces and air cleaner, and support you to become the best home chef you can be. And, you’ll happen to advance climate goals and building decarbonization in the process.

No matter where in the country you live, you’re likely to see a lot of debate and change around home appliances and the fuel that you use to power them. By choosing to go electric, you can future-proof your home against these changes. And by choosing Impulse, you'll know that you never had to compromise the performance of your appliances to do so. 

Too Many Cooks in the Regulatory Kitchen