Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
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Energy Issues

Published: Winter 2005

The extremely high cost of energy and the unpredictability of its future cost are of great concern in cooperatives and condominiums today. Energy issues plague the budget planning process, with many New York buildings considering a second — or even a third — year of fuel surcharges to bridge budget gaps that they will incur if inclement weather or additional increase in the cost of oil, gas, or power foil current budgetary planning.

In addition to prudent budgeting, there are many measures that a cooperative or condominium can institute to mitigate energy expenditure while maintaining comfort for building residents. New York buildings are notorious for being over heated. City law requires a reasonable level of heat from October through May, namely:

When the outside temperature falls below 55o between 6 AM and 10 PM, an indoor temperature of 68o must be maintained, and when the outside temperature falls below 40o between 10 PM and 6 AM, an indoor temperature of 55o must be maintained.

Because conditions will differ in different parts of a building, to ensure 68o in the coldest rooms (or 75o in the apartments of residents who typically complain if its any cooler), buildings tend to provide heat round the clock in the mid 70 o range, producing so much warmth that residents typically turn off most of their radiators and many keep windows open to cool their homes. In extreme cases, air conditioners are employed to restore a comfortable room temperature!

There is no reason for your building to throw away energy in this way. Setting back the boiler to heat the building’s coldest rooms to 70o can bring considerable savings in fuel this winter. Your super should be encouraged to maintain the heating system in peak condition. This includes regular cleaning of the boiler and burner, and maintenance of steam traps and radiator valves.
The current widespread awareness of high energy costs will help the Board as it works to educate building residents. The building newsletter should explain that the heat is being turned down to save energy dollars. It should encourage residents to support fuel conservation:

1) by checking their apartments to remedy drafts and air leaks:

  • caulking spaces around windows and door frames and installing door sweeps to block drafts from corridors will help make an apartment more weather resistant.
  • plastic internal storm windows can be installed to seal windows that will not need to be opened again until the spring.
2) by fostering positive reactions to lowered room temperature:
  • inviting the building super to visit any apartment that feels cold. He will bring a thermometer to check the actual temperature and will help the resident locate drafts and remedy them.
  • drawing window shades, drapes and curtains at night to conserve heat and opening them in daytime to allow sunlight to penetrate.
  • developing reliance upon shawls, sweaters and sweatshirts on a cold evening rather than demanding more heat.
  • using humidifiers to raise comfort levels in the dryness of winter.
    The board can report the positive results of the conservation effort (in reports of less fuel used than last year or less fuel used per degree days).

The generation and transmission of electricity have become increasingly costly, and State deregulation programs provide little opportunity for savings in the purchase of power. Instead, we must look to conservation and to the time of power use to effectuate savings.

Whenever possible, fluorescent lighting should be substituted for incandescent bulbs that require far more power. This should be the rule in all building corridors and public areas. Current technology now makes available fluorescents that produce warm light in a wide array of tones. The building newsletter should encourage residents also to change to fluorescents for energy conservation.

New appliances should all bear the Energy Star label that ensures that they will draw a minimum of power. In buildings that purchase electricity in bulk through a master meter, the Newsletter can also encourage residents to run their dish washers and washing machines during hours (generally in the middle of the day or after 10 PM) when other electrical use is low in the building. Because electric bills contain a “demand component’ where the peak half hour of use in the month determines the demand rate, any measure that helps flatten the demand curve helps reduce electric costs.

The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) provides funds for energy conservation projects. Representatives from NYSERDA will describe many of these at a workshop at CNYC’s 25th Annual Housing Conference on Sunday, November 13, 2005. You can also get information from the NYSERDA website at or by calling 1-866-NYSERDA.


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