After New York City’s Department of Buildings held a hearing two weeks ago on the enforcement of a major climate law impacting large buildings and their use of fossil fuels, several readers contacted Gothamist with a simple question: How do I get rid of my gas stove?
Gas stoves are known to release many toxins, including benzene, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and hexane. Most of which are linked to conditions like cancer, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases. The risk of a child experiencing symptoms of asthma increases by more than 40% if there is a gas stove in the home. Even when it’s turned off, gas stoves release more than 75% of its methane emissions,
For Brooklynite Jasmin Jodry, the simple act of cooking can feel similar to having a chain-smoking roommate due to the indoor air pollution coming from gas stoves. Jodry says all three members of her family have asthma, and they sometimes struggle to breathe when the stove is lit
“We’re all on inhalers – my daughter, my husband, myself,” Jodry said. “[In our home] there’s one big room where everything happens and we cook for lunch. We cook for dinner. So that stove gets used all the time.”
New York State passed regulations as part of this year’s budget to address the health calamities of gas-fired stoves. Such appliances will be banned statewide in new construction starting in 2026 for buildings seven stories or less and in 2029 for larger buildings.
But existing buildings are not included in the deal, and currently around 70% of New York City homes still have gas stoves. Next year will usher in the city’s Local Law 97, the subject of the DOB’s recent hearing. It aims to reduce the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels in large buildings including co-ops and other residential spaces.
Even though it will take years for the government to phase out gas stoves, several incentive programs and rebates already exist for New Yorkers who would rather not wait. But they will need to navigate several roadblocks that make it difficult for tenants to get rid of gas stoves, including being a renter, a cash-strapped homeowner or in Jodry’s case – a condo owner who must go through the arduous process of board approval and coordination with the energy company Con Edison.
It’s no mere turn of the knob to change out a stove. Some apartments and buildings must upgrade their electrical systems to meet the increased power demands, and doing so can add thousands of dollars to the project. And if you decide the price is too much or it will take a while to save up the funds, other alternatives can help mitigate the health consequences of gas stoves even while one is occupying a corner of the kitchen.
“Having a gas stove in your home turns our kitchens into garages,” said Sandra Steingraber, biologist and a co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York. She co-authored a recent 600-page report on the harms of gas stoves and pipelines. “The gas stove is the tailpipe of a whole natural gas system that begins with a fracking well somewhere.”
Paying for an electric stove
To 100% get rid of the pollution associated with gas cooking, Steingraber said the best option is to switch to an electric-powered stove. The appliance alone ranges from about $500 for the metal coil model to over $10,000 for a high-end 6-range induction stove.
Some of those costs can be recouped through rebates offered through the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). If a household is considered moderate-income, defined as having a total earnings between 80 to 150% of their area median income, then they are eligible to get a 50% rebate off the cost of a new electric-powered stove, up to $840. For low income households, who earn less than 80% of the area median income, they can get all of the cost covered, up to $840.
Some homeowners may not be able to simply plug in an electric stove if they don’t live in a relatively new or remodeled home. They will have to upgrade their electrical capacity. On average, this move can cost around $2,000 for the panel upgrade plus $800-1,500 per circuit.
For low-income homeowners, federal IRA rebates can pay up to 100% of the cost of the work, or up to $4,000 for the breaker box and $2,500 for wiring. Moderate-income households have the same caps, but are compensated at half of the costs.
Homeowners, and in some cases renters, can get home electrification and appliance rebates at the point of sale in participating stores or deducted from upfront costs with a contractor. To find out how much your household is eligible for in federal rebates and tax credits, Rewiring America has an online calculator.
In much larger condo and co-op complexes, the building may already have sufficient power to accommodate the upgrading of a few units, but those owners do have to go through board approval. If all the unit owners in large co-ops and condos want to switch, it gets complicated.
“You have a hundred gas stoves, and if all of those people want to convert to electric stoves, then the building itself probably does not have enough electric capacity for all of these 100 stoves to be converted,” said Tina Larsson, co-founder of The Folson Group, energy efficiency experts for co-op and condo boards.
In that case, the building will need to increase its electric capacity to its main box in the basement. ConEd may need to dig up the street, upgrade all the buildings on the block and make any necessary repairs to its ancient pipes, which are often corroded and rusted. The gas line to every apartment will also have to be shut off and capped.
“The electrical work that Con Edison has to do on the street can take anywhere from two months to two years, depending on what they find when they open up the manhole,” Larsson said. “All of this comes with a lot of consulting, a lot of engineering work, a lot of electrical work, so it’s a complex issue.”
Reducing use is the next best thing
If getting rid of the gas stove is not an option, then health experts advised trying to use it less. One way is by using plug-in appliances such as toaster ovens, electric kettles, air fryers, crock pots or rice cookers. There’s an appliance for basically every function that a stove performs, including plug-in griddles for frying an egg.
“Anything that you can plug into an outlet and use with electricity is not going to have the combustion of hydrocarbons that the methane that we use to cook on gas stoves does,” said Zach Williams, gas stove expert and associate director of environment and health at Physicians for Social Responsibility.
If countertop space is too scarce to accommodate an army of tabletop appliances, then Williams suggested covering the gas stove with a butcher block and putting a portable induction cooktop right on top. That’s essentially a hot plate that can come with a single or double burner but offers the quality of induction cooking. A single burner starts at around $50 and a double goes for around $200.
If the gas stove remains in the kitchen, regardless of how much you use it, health experts strongly recommend properly maintaining a carbon monoxide detector. Unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for more than 100,000 emergency room visits and 400 deaths annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Options for all New Yorkers
Any act of cooking, whether it’s on gas or electric, can continue to pollute the air.
“If you’re frying something, basically you’re burning oil, and that produces a lot of particles and a lot of organic carbon particles, which are equally or more dangerous than the traces of nitrogen oxides that may be produced by the natural gas combustion itself,” said Illias Kavouras, an environmental health sciences professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health.
Particulate matter is considered one of the most dangerous form of air pollution to human health. Cooking releases coarse, fine and ultra fine particles as well as volatile organic compounds, such as acrolein and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons that are known health hazards. These emissions can contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, including asthma. Research shows that preparing food at high temperatures, such as frying and broiling, produces the most pollutants.
At least one study has found that stove exhaust hoods have limited effects on clearing these fumes because many of these devices do not vent the air to the outside. Instead, these hoods recycle the air through its filter and recirculate it back into the apartment. Despite that, Kavouras recommends using the hood, calling it: “better than nothing.” He strongly advised frequently cleaning the filter in the hood by simply washing it with soap and water.
Experts also suggested opening a window as much as possible while cooking or using high-grade air filters. HEPA or molecular filters can reduce the level of indoor pollutants by about half, according to Dr. Kathleen Nolan, pediatrician and president of the New York chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Although these airborne pollutants can migrate into all parts of the home, they tend to concentrate near the source. The ideal spot for an air filter is just outside the doorway to the kitchen, according to Dr. Nolan.
Pollutants such as particulate matter can also settle on surfaces such as couches and rugs, which can be stirred up and put back in the air, causing further exposure. For that reason, Nolan recommended doing “weekly high-level cleaning” with household detergents. This goes beyond dusting or wiping the most common surfaces in the kitchen with a rag and all-purpose spray cleaner. Deep cleaning for chemicals includes vacuuming of chairs and sofas.
The most important option to choose, according to the more than half-dozen health and energy experts Gothamist spoke to for this story, is to take action on a civic level. Local advocacy groups such as Food & Water Watch, Renewable Heat Now and NY Communities for Change are active in pushing for legislation to electrify New York. Many of the organizations are family friendly and have opportunities for children to get involved.
“You can put your shoulder to the wheel here and be a public voice in bringing about change,” Steingraber said. “We can’t always be asked as individuals to shop our way out of some environmental crisis that’s not of our own making. We really need action on the part of the people that we elect to say we need to start disincentivizing gas hookups and incentivizing the new technology that we already have.”