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The Challenge of Switching to an Electric Stove in an Old Co-op

New York City

Induction and electric stoves, gas stoves, fossil fuels, carbon emissions, Local Law 97.
Feb. 13, 2023

Q: A co-op shareholder wants to swap her gas stove for an electric or induction stove. But the co-op board won't allow the switch until the shareholder pays for a study to show what impact capping the gas line would have on the entire building. Can a co-op board make such a demand?

A: There are good reasons for wanting to trade your gas stove for an electric one, replies the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. A growing body of research shows that cooking with natural gas is not good for the environment or your health, including a December study that linked the fuel usage to an increase in asthma risk among children. And a switch away from fossil fuel-powered appliances to electric appliances will also help the building comply with looming caps on carbon emissions under Local Law 97, part of the city's sweeping Climate Mobilization Act.

But switching from gas to electric might not be a simple task in an apartment building, especially if it’s an older one.

To answer the original question: Yes, a co-op board is entitled to ask a shareholder to pay for a study to determine the impact a home-improvement project could have on the building, says Dean Roberts, a member at the law firm Norris McLaughlin. “Electrification is a wonderful idea," he says, "but it comes with some serious baggage that people don’t think about.”

The biggest obstacle to switching appliances is not the gas line but the building's electrical capacity. Electric and induction stoves require a 240-volt outlet, the type used to power a dryer or level 2 electric car charger. If an outlet exists behind the stove, it is likely a standard one. (While conventional electric stoves heat a metal element, induction stoves send an electric current through a coiled copper wire underneath the cooking surface, which creates a magnetic current throughout the iron-based cookware, which then heats the food. The stovetop itself does not get hot. Induction stoves save energy.)

To install the proper outlet, you might need to upgrade the electrical panel in your apartment to accommodate the extra load. It’s also possible that your building does not have the electrical capacity to handle more heavy duty appliances, and may need a building-wide upgrade to accommodate your request.

“You may need to make an adjustment to bring in more current into that apartment,” says Marc Karell, an environmental engineer who conducts energy audits for multifamily buildings in New York City.

Hire an electrician to examine your apartment and your building to see what’s possible and what work is necessary. A plumber could answer any questions the board might have about what impact, if any, capping the gas line would have on the building. Ask the co-op board for details about what, specifically, they expect from a study, especially since they seem more concerned about the gas line than the electrical ones.

As complicated as all this sounds, it’s a good idea for the building and its residents to start thinking about going electric. Tell the board that if the work is feasible it should encourage other residents to do the same. Doing so would help the building reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. If apartment or building upgrades are necessary, residents and the building may qualify for federal subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act.

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