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The University of Colorado Boulder SPARC House, which was the winning entry in the 2021 Solar Decathlon, has an electric induction stove from Beko appliances. Induction cooking compares more favorably to gas cooking than conventional electric stoves. Plus, the stove top stays cool on touch and only heats up when triggered by induction cookware. (Casey A. Cass, for the University of Colorado)

When consumer advocates assess notoriously dubious home warranty offers, they beg the homeowner to ask a few key questions: What appliances does it cover, how often are claims denied, does the warranty company have a track record? 

Colorado legislators want to answer a new home warranty question prompted by climate change and personal health worries: Will they let you replace your gas-fueled appliance with a greener electric model? 

A bill making its way through the Capitol demands an emphatic “yes” response to that question. House Bill 1134 would require home warranty companies to replace a broken gas appliance with an electric model, if the consumer wants it. 

Since electric heat pumps and heat pump water heaters are often more expensive than their gas equivalents, though, language added to the bill says the homeowner can be required to pay the difference. Once that was made clear, bill lead sponsor Rep. Cathy Kipp, D-Fort Collins said, the home warranty companies backed off their objections. 

Consumers will need to contribute to climate change solutions by making changes that reduce greenhouse gases, and state government can clear the way for some of those choices, said another lead sponsor, Rep. Junie Joseph, a Boulder Democrat. Sen. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton, is another main sponsor.

Joseph heard from a homeowner looking to replace a traditional water heater with a heat pump water heater. Then another representative mentioned the same problem for a constituent wanting to replace a broken gas stove and being denied.

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“We all have a responsibility when it comes to reversing the climate trends, which means the type of appliances that we have in our house,” Joseph said. “That’s a way that each and every one of us can contribute to decarbonizing the planet. There are people who want to make the change, right? And the bill will allow them to make that change.” 

Allowing the switch would seem to be a no-brainer for warranty companies once they were off the hook for paying extra for electric, Kipp said. 

But, she added, “you get one warranty company that says, yeah, no, even if you’ve paid the difference, we won’t do that. And we’re like, really? That’s not cool.” Thus the need for legislation, Kipp said.

The bill has already passed the full House, and is on to committees in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where its chances are very good. It’s scheduled for the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Monday at 1:30 p.m. 

Republicans in the House objected to the bill for further tilting Colorado’s playing field against natural gas, a fuel they say will still be needed for years during the transition to cleanly generated electricity. They also suggested an amendment offering the opposite of the bill’s main point: Consumers should be able to get a natural gas warranty replacement for a broken electric appliance. Democrats rejected the idea.

The GOP in recent months has also questioned the costs that electrification is adding to Colorado’s high utility bills, with Xcel and others being allowed to recover some of the costs of renewable energy, transmission lines and decommissioning coal’s legacy.

An industry leader, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has not taken a position on the appliance bill, but in general, president Dan Haley said, members don’t want consumers forced into electrification.

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“We believe in consumer choice when it comes to energy, and how people cook for their families or heat their homes. What works for some, may not work for others,” Haley said.

Joseph has heard the arguments, but says many Coloradans, including her Boulder constituents, are impatient for change.

“Fossil fuel has been what we’ve used for a very long time. And we’ve seen the climate trends. We’ve seen the impact on our communities,” Joseph said. “My colleagues on the other side, they’re fighting for something that is not sustainable.”

Michael Booth

Michael Booth is a Colorado Sun reporter covering health, health policy and the environment. Email: booth@coloradosun.com Twitter: @MBoothDenver