I Want to Switch to an Electric Stove. Can the Board Stop Me?
Quitting gas makes sense for the environment and your health, but not all buildings are equipped to go electric.
Q: I own an apartment in a co-op with a gas stove. I would like to replace it with an electric or induction stove. But my co-op board informed me that I cannot remove the gas stove unless I pay for a study to show what impact capping my gas line would have on the entire building. Can my board really mandate this?
A: You have good reason to want to trade your gas stove for an electric one. 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. But converting to electric might not be a simple task in an apartment building, particularly if it’s an older one (and most of the city’s limited equity co-ops are old).
Your building is entitled to ask you to pay for a study to determine the impact your home improvement project could have on the building, according to Dean M. Roberts, a Manhattan real estate lawyer who specializes in regulated co-ops. “Electrification is a wonderful idea, but it comes with some serious baggage that people don’t think about,” he said.
Your biggest obstacle is not your gas, but your electricity. Electric and induction stoves require a 240-volt outlet, the type of outlet used to power a dryer or level 2 electric car charger. Pull your stove from the wall and if any outlet exists at all, it is likely a standard one.
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,” said 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.
If you are able to replace the stove, you would need to hire a plumber to cap the gas line, and an electrician to do the electrical work. Both jobs would require city permits and inspections.
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, something it will likely need to do soon to comply with the city’s sweeping climate change laws. If apartment or building upgrades are necessary, residents and the building may qualify for federal subsidies.
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