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Is It Time to Banish the Gas Stove?

Making the call. It’s an increasingly common headache in New York co-ops and condos of a certain age: the dreaded gas leak. In some cases, faulty piping sections can be fixed, but others require repiping a building’s entire gas system. That’s when boards need to weigh the pros and cons of replacing their cooking-gas lines or making the switch to electrification.


Decisions, decisions. That debate recently came into sharp relief at two prewar properties in Manhattan — an eight-unit, two-building co-op in Chelsea and a 40-unit co-op on the Upper West Side — where pressure tests of the gas lines revealed a potential for dangerous leaks. The Chelsea co-op decided to install a new gas line at a cost of $150,000, which was paid for with cash set aside when the board refinanced its underlying mortgage. The Upper West Side building went the electric route, a $50,000 changeover that required a minor electrical upgrade and was covered by the co-op’s reserve fund. 


Taking sides. Marc Weber of Weber Realty Management, who manages both co-ops, makes no secret about which of the two solutions he prefers. “At the Chelsea co-op they had to re-engineer the entire building, upgrading and reconfiguring the gas lines,” he says. “A contractor had to install a master meter in the basement, and scheduling access was an absolute nightmare.” At the Upper West Side co-op, he adds, “going electric was more cost-efficient.” 


Case by case. The choice between gas and electric isn’t always so clear cut, however. “At first glance, paying to retain the gas system seems like a decision that was not well thought out,” says Tom Sahagian, an energy-efficiency consultant. “But there’s never a one-size-fits-all answer.” At some buildings, upgrading the existing electrical system could be prohibitively expensive, making installing new gas lines a more viable option, especially when shareholders and unit-owners are adamant about not giving up cooking with gas. 


But there is a large downside. “Installing new gas lines most likely means you’ll have a system that will leak again somewhere down the line,” Sahagian says. Boards that opt to stick with gas also have to deal with the headache of the city’s tightened gas inspections under Local Law 152, which requires most buildings to have their gas lines inspected by a licensed master plumber every four years. “That’s why it’s prudent for boards to look closely at both options,” he advises. “You need to be aware of improved electric stove technology, the relative disruptiveness of the two installations, and, if it’s important to you, the effect of continuing to use gas on climate change.”

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