Still hanging onto that gas stove? You rebel! But should you? Well, that depends on some questions and considerations we have for you.
We began to research this article under the assumptions that 1) older gas stoves were more of a health problem than newer, and 2) most stove emissions get sucked up with a good range hood that expels them outdoors while cooking. Well … not necessarily, on both counts.
A 2022 study out of Stanford reveals that over three-quarters of methane emissions coming out of gas stoves sneak into homes with the stoves turned off! Further, it didn’t matter whether those stoves were old or new. While not enough to cause an explosion, to different degrees, slow, steady leaks were present in nearly all cases.
While Methane is far more dangerous for the planet than for humans, it’s not the only leaking element. The study also tested for other chemicals present in natural gas such as benzene—a carcinogen suspected of being unsafe in any amount. Although the authors of the study say they might be underestimating the benzene levels, resulting models showed that elevated leakage rates of benzene combined with low ventilation rates can result in indoor benzene concentrations that exceed the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment reference exposure levels (8-h REL) for benzene.1
A study out of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and PSE Healthy Energy identified 21 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as good ol’ benzene and toluene. Present in most of the Boston area homes tested, VOCs can cause illnesses such as asthma and cancer. 2
And when that gas stove is burning, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM2.5 join the party. Low levels of NO2 can irritate the lungs, especially in asthmatics, and put residents at increased risk for respiratory infections. At worst, it can cause bronchitis, harm lungs, and result in pulmonary edema.
And that asthma? The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has published that gas stoves cause 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the United States—that rate is higher (sometimes over 20%) in states with more gas stove use.
A paper from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) offers another sobering find: You’re looking at a 50-400 percent increase in nitrogen dioxide levels, plus 30 times more carbon monoxide, and two times the PM 2.5 in homes with gas stoves over those without.
Must you ditch your gas stove to avoid such issues? Not necessarily.
We know what you’re thinking: Here comes the BPE ventilation lecture. Yes, but not so fast! Naturally, the following tools will help lower exposure to gas stove nasties:
- Open windows while cooking.
- Use the range hood ventilation above your stove while cooking.
- Ventilate your home with high efficiency, balanced mechanical ventilation!
But let’s look at the issues with each of those solutions.
Opening windows will lessen indoor air pollution, of course, but how willing are you to do that when it’s freezing outside? How about when you have the A/C pumping to keep the space cool on a sweltering summer day? And will you remember to open them? Lastly, even if you’re not wasting energy while heating or cooling your home, open windows are still not efficient enough for clearing that gas and the chemicals it produces and releases. Why? That air coming in, whether stagnant or blustery, won’t create a clean sweep of contaminants.
Will you actually use them? Many people don’t. Some only use them if cooking is giving off a lot of steam or when foods burn.
Does the range hood exhaust outside through ductwork? If not, it’s not doing much now, is it?
Are the filters cleaned regularly? Grease and debris can barricade fumes, sending them back into the kitchen rather than drawing them past the filter.
With the right equipment (including filters) and installation, high efficiency mechanical ventilation can enable air changes that more thoroughly exhaust stale (polluted) air and replace it with outdoor air. Just make sure (through duct/louver placement) that you’re not dragging in the same stuff your range hood just vented out! Rather ideal, a good ERV system will reduce health risks in your home due to your gas stove and all the other indoor pollutants with which we surround ourselves.
But venting that concoction of gas stove emissions outdoors, no matter how effectively, still isn’t a win for the planet, despite the equipment operating on far less emissions than other HVAC systems and renewable energy.
Gas stoves and the environment.
No matter how well you protect your indoor environment, levels of methane (the emission second most harmful to the planet next to carbon dioxide) from U.S. gas stoves are about equal to the carbon dioxide released by half a million gas-powered cars in a year.
For the sake of the planet’s ever-warming climate, it might be a good idea to get rid of your gas stove and replace it. For those who need further incentive, the Inflation Reduction Act provides the possibility of a nice rebate for buying a new (electric) one. How much you’ll save in tax credits (up to $840!) depends on your geographic location, income, and the cost of the new stove. To find out, visit this Area Media Income (AMI) tool at Fannie Mae.
What do they say you have without health? Nothing. So, if you’re unwilling to part with your gas stove just yet or are determined to be one of the holdouts (about 38% of U.S. households), be sure you’re ventilating your home optimally.
Not sure how? Give us a call, and we’ll walk you through the possibilities. Even without a gas stove on your premises, a mechanical ventilation system with a BPE ERV (BPE-XE-MIR-500 shown) at its heart will make your indoor air quality healthier while it lowers your energy bill. Now those are incentives we can all agree on.
1 Methane and NOx Emissions from Natural Gas Stoves, Cooktops, and Ovens in Residential Homes Eric D. Lebel, Colin J. Finnegan, Zutao Ouyang, and Robert B. Jackson, Environmental Science & Technology 2022 56 (4), 2529-2539, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c04707