Happy 52nd Earth Day! It’s not likely that you’re baking cookies, hanging decorations or sending out holiday cards to mark the modern environmental movement’s annual celebration, but if you are, these efforts would likely be influenced by sustainability-focused regulations, including Energy Star appliances and lighting.
If you move to a newly-built or remodeled home in a growing list of cities, especially in California, you’ll likely not be baking cookies for any occasion in a gas oven or range. The nation’s most populous state’s long-term goal is to completely ban the use of gas in buildings, including for residential cooking appliances. That will not only reduce emissions and help achieve carbon neutrality goals, according to the California Air Resources Board, as Scientific American reported, it will also “protect public health” and “improve indoor and outdoor air quality.”
The movement is growing beyond the gas-averse Golden State and now encompasses cities and states from New York to Oregon and Massachusetts to Washington. A recent S&P Global Market Intelligence headline blares, “Gas Ban Monitor: California Count Reaches 50 as West Coast Movement Grows.”
While the report also notes that 20 states are writing preemption bills to prevent the bans, phasing out residential building gas use – especially in the kitchen – is an environmental trend that would also enhance the health of these legislators’ residents.
“Natural gas cooking appliances release methane and NOx [nitrogen oxide and dioxide] while in use, damaging the climate and degrading indoor air quality,” according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology. More than 40 million American homes cook with gas, according to the study’s authors, also noting, “People interact more directly with their stove than with other gas appliances, increasing potential exposure to any natural gas constituents and compounds formed during combustion, including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.”
This exposure has significant potential health impacts, including aggravated respiratory symptoms and cardiovascular risk. Researchers in Australia found that asthma rates in children living with gas stoves are comparable to those of children living with smokers. There are even studies showing that exposure to nitrogen oxides can impact children’s brain development.
Wellness-focused homebuyers, especially Gen Z and Millennial parents, will likely be coming across these health findings in popular media. Vox, Buzzfeed, Hunker, Slate and Scary Mommy have all reported on the health hazards related to cooking with gas. So even for homebuyers and remodeling clients less sustainability-conscious than many of their peers, concerns about their children’s health tend to dominate priorities, according to market researchers.
The move away from gas will be mostly wellness-based, Tim Costello, CEO of Builders Digital Experience (BDX), predicted for an upcoming trade magazine article: “In the end it will be driven by concerns for health and indoor air quality. No one wants to buy a house that kills them.”
Induction technology offers a healthier, safer and more family-friendly alternative. Not only does this magnetic-based cooking surface offer more control than gas cooking, it’s also easier to clean and reduces the risk of kitchen fires and burns. Induction is available in portable burners, built-in cooktops, ranges and, most recently, hobs built into countertops for a sleek, customized cooking station.
The latest offering in this integrated induction category was on display at Coverings’ Ceramics of Italy pavilion. Member firm ABK Group was providing a lively cooking demonstration of its new Cooking Surface Prime porcelain slab countertop with built-in induction burners.
“The global induction cooktops market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% from 2021 to 2028,” reports Grandview Research. While this prediction includes commercial and residential use, consumers are increasingly aware of induction’s benefits over gas. Restauranteurs have known them for years!
The toxins that gas cooking emits into the home tend to stay in the home, the study authors cited in ES&T: “Among all gas appliances, the stove is unique in that the byproducts of combustion are emitted directly into home air with no requirement for venting the exhaust outdoors.” They further note that vented hoods that require manual operation are used only 25 to 40% of the time.
The latest systems presented at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show these past three years are offering sensor operation that quietly and efficiently ties the hood operation to the foods cooking on the paired induction cooktop below. Several manufacturers are offering these smart hoods as companions to their own appliances. Broan-NuTone’s latest Custom Range Hood Power Packs, available in July, are brand-agnostic.
Whichever way you go with one of these technology options can potentially improve the health of your home environment and family. And that’s definitely worth celebrating on Earth Day!