Here Come the Ultra Low NOx Furnaces!

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Starting January 1, 2024, the only type of natural gas furnaces allowed to be installed in the nine county Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) are ultra low NOx furnaces. This change will affect all Bellows customers living in the following nine San Francisco Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, *Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. Bellows customers in San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Monterey will not be affected. *Bold text indicates counties that Bellows currently serves.

BAAQMD’s Proposed Amendments to Phase Out Natural Gas Heaters

This transformation is at the forefront of BAAQMD’s ambitious plan to enhance environmental sustainability and air quality in the Bay Area. The linchpin of these changes is the introduction of ultra low NOx requirements, particularly in regard to natural gas furnaces, which will play a pivotal role in curbing harmful emissions and fostering a cleaner, healthier environment for the residents of these counties.

The use of natural gas for heating has been a staple in homes and businesses across the aforementioned Bay Area counties. However, this convenience has come at an environmental cost, as natural gas heaters emit nitrogen oxides (NOx), pollutants that negatively impact air quality and pose health risks to residents. Recognizing the urgency of mitigating these environmental issues, BAAQMD is taking a systematic approach to gradually phase out natural gas heaters.

The Ultra Low NOx Timeline

BAAQMD’s proposed timeline for ultra-low-NOx changes is poised to bring about significant reductions in NOx emissions and promote the adoption of cleaner heating alternatives:

  • January 1, 2024: A significant milestone is reached as ultra low NOx furnaces become mandatory for all new installations in the specified Bay Area counties. This marks the beginning of a new era where newly installed furnaces will substantially reduce NOx emissions.
  • January 1, 2029: Building upon this initial progress, the region aims to achieve a complete transition to zero NOx furnaces by the start of 2029. This ambitious target signifies a profound shift towards cleaner and more sustainable heating options.

Benefits of Ultra Low NOx Changes

The introduction of ultra low NOx requirements brings a multitude of benefits to the Bay Area counties, spanning both immediate and long-term advantages:

  1. Enhanced Air Quality:

The most immediate and tangible benefit of these changes is the substantial improvement in air quality throughout the affected Bay Area counties. Mandating the use of ultra low NOx furnaces will significantly reduce the emission of harmful pollutants, leading to cleaner and healthier air for residents and a reduction in respiratory health issues.

  1. Reduced Emissions:

In addition to NOx, natural gas combustion also results in the release of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2). By adopting ultra low NOx furnaces, these counties will take significant strides towards reducing their carbon footprint, aligning with state and national goals for climate change mitigation.

  1. Stimulating Technological Advancements:

The demand for ultra low NOx furnaces will create a robust market for cleaner heating technologies, incentivizing innovation in the heating industry. This innovation will lead to more efficient and environmentally friendly options for consumers, further benefiting the region.

  1. Contribution to Broader Environmental Goals:

California and the United States have set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources. BAAQMD’s ultra low NOx changes are in perfect alignment with these overarching objectives, positioning the Bay Area as a proactive contributor to a sustainable and eco-conscious future.

Challenges and Considerations

While the ultra-low-NOx changes offer immense promise, they also present certain challenges and considerations that must be addressed:

  1. Cost Implications:

The transition to ultra low NOx furnaces will come with increased costs for homeowners and businesses in the affected counties. Bellows will do all we can to ensure that affordable alternatives are readily available, as well as providing access to eligible rebates to help make this transition accessible to all. Expect 2024 gas furnace prices to increase meaningfully over 2023’s.

  1. Infrastructure Upgrades:

To accommodate ultra low NOx furnaces, some homes and businesses may need infrastructure upgrades, such as new or rerouted gas lines or upgraded electrical systems. Coordinating these upgrades efficiently and minimizing disruptions could be a logistical challenge, but Bellows is up for the task!

Conclusion

Commencing on January 1, 2024, the introduction of ultra low NOx requirements in nine Bay Area counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma, represents a momentous stride towards a cleaner, healthier, and a more sustainable future. These changes, spearheaded by BAAQMD, are designed to address pressing air quality and climate concerns by mandating the use of ultra low NOx furnaces in the region.

Work with your Bellows Comfort Advisor to learn more about if an ultra low NOx furnace is right for your home. Join the BAAQDM as we together move towards a greener, brighter future.

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