Suddenly, after more than a decade of complacency, attention is riveted
on energy conservation. And with good cause. With oil production
limited, fuel costs have skyrocketed since the beginning
of the year and reserves of home heating oil are currently
at distressingly low levels. As housing cooperatives and
condominiums prepare their budgets for the year 2001, this
new energy crisis cannot be ignored. Buildings heated with
natural gas or those able to use both gas and oil may find
themselves in a somewhat better position than those dependent
exclusively on oil heat. But gas prices have also increased.
And the new deregulated electricity market has also brought
higher rather than lower, costs at the present time, also
due in some part to the escalating cost of fuel.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer has been a leader in focusing on this
new energy crisis and has been making recommendations for short and
long term measures to cope with both the cost and supply of fuel, natural
gas and affordable electricity. Since assuming his seat in the Senate,
Mr. Schumer has worked to heighten awareness of the need to contain
energy costs and conserve energy use.
MAYOR'S TASK FORCE ON HOME
Nowhere is the nation is the dependency upon oil stronger than in the
Northeast, where the heating season is long and the use of heating oil
is widespread. In an effort to mitigate the effect of the oil price
increases on city residents, Mayor Giuliani has established a Task Force
on Home Heating Oil chaired by Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jane Hoffman.
The Mayor has charged this Task Force with reviewing the present situation
and proposing ways for the city to ensure that an adequate supply of
affordable fuel will be available for this winter. The Task Force will
is also suggest ways that New York City can improve conditions leading
to the availability of affordable heating in the future.
Senator Schumer was the first witness at an in-depth two-day hearing
where the Task Force gathered information from representatives of every
aspect of the heating oil industry to serve as background for its deliberations.
The Senator sketched a history of the present crunch and offered specific
recommendations for the better understanding and use of energy resources.
The speakers that followed each presented their own aspect of the industry
ranging from family companies that deliver oil and service heating equipment
to traders in oil futures.
SIMPLE WAYS TO
ON YOUR ENERGY BILL
On a raw, bitterly cold morning in January 1973, I had the
bizarre experience of attending a meeting with four other
individuals in a stiflingly overheated room. Despite the 10-degree
temperature outside, the room air conditioner was turned on
to make the space usable. This in the middle of an energy
crisis. Strange as it may seem, I had a similar experience
this past winter. Why not open a window if a room is overheated?
Following is a list of possible ways to cut today's awesome
1) Open windows to adjust room temperature (don't compound the
energy problem with air conditioners).
2) Draw shades, drapes, curtains to conserve heat at night,
open during the day for sunlight to enter.
3) Close unused rooms and turn off heat if possible.
4) Use ceiling fans at low speed to recirculate ceiling heat
to people level.
5) Set back thermostat at night up to 10 degrees (more than
this wastes heat on morning recovery).
6) Use humidifiers to raise humidity level for
comfort; this can permit you to lower the thermostat 3-5 degrees.
1) Use shades, etc. to keep out warming sunlight.
2) Use ceiling fan at moderate to high speed for air circulation.
3) Close unused rooms.
4) Use timers on air conditioners.
1) Change incandescent bulbs to fluorescent energy saving
2) Check for water leaks; cold water as well as hot consumes
3) Install furnace flue damper when possible.
4) Pay attention to energy efficiency ratings when purchasing
new appliances. A moderate amount of intelligent attention
to energy conservation can result in big savings.
Each panel contributed its own piece of the complex puzzle that the
Task Force must grapple with in its quest for sound policies for our
THE COST OF OIL
Crude oil is the raw material both for gasoline and for home heating
oil. It is during the refinery process that the oil is prepared for
each use. After a summer of record gasoline production and use, refineries
modify their machinery to begin processing home heating oil. Even with
refineries working at full capacity, there is an initial period of limited
supply of home heating oil. As new supplies arrive at refineries and
are processed, reserves will begin to be rebuilt. But, while fuel is
in short supply, prices will be high. Continued limited production by
the oil producing nations could prolong the period of short supply.
Hostilities in the Middle East could further aggravate the situation.
And a cold winter could further tax budgets and nerves. However, if
more oil becomes available, prices should go down.
This leaves end users such as housing cooperatives and condominiums
faced with the dilemma of whether to lock in a pricing plan for this
heating season or to wait and accept market conditions with each fuel
purchase. The advantage of agreeing upon a flat fee per gallon is that
it makes that aspect of the fuel bill predictable (while hoping for
a mild winter to limit fuel use). The drawback is the possibility that
the price you lock in today may prove to be much higher than the market
price two months from now. The decision that your cooperative or condominium
will make on this question should be based on the financial needs of
the building and its residents. A realistic evaluation of the ability
of the corporation to absorb additional fuel price spikes is crucial,
and whether residents would truly prefer special assessments to budget
increases should also be considered.
In addition to prudent budgeting, there are many measures that your
cooperative or condominium can take to reduce energy costs while maintaining
or even increasing comfort levels for building residents. Your building
superintendent should maintain the entire heating system in peak condition
at all times. This includes regular cleaning of the boiler and burner
and maintenance of steam traps and radiator valves. At CNYC's 20th annual
Housing Conference on Sunday, November 12th the heating system will
be discussed both in Dick Koral's morning workshop on A Program of Effective
Maintenance and in Fred Goldner's presentation on Understanding Your
Heating System in the afternoon.
The heating laws of the City of New York require that, from October
1 through May 1, whenever the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees
between the hours of 6 AM and 10 PM, inside temperature must be maintained
at 68 degrees. At night, whenever the outside temperature falls below
40 degrees between the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM, an inside temperature
of 55 degrees must be maintained. Because heating conditions differ
in different parts of a building, to ensure 68 degrees in the coldest
room many other rooms are often much hotter. In such instances, the
remedy of choice is to open the windows, sending expensive, heated air
(and energy dollars along with it) out into space.
Every effort should be made to correct problems that lead to this form
of energy loss of this type. Sealing leaks and drafts in the colder
rooms will help reduce heating costs. Residents should be encouraged
to bridge gaps between door and sill with door sweeps, to caulk areas
around windows where air enters and to install plastic coating to seal
windows that will not be used during the winter. Some buildings purchase
a supply of rope caulking and weatherstripping each autumn and make
it available to residents for this purpose. Radiator valves should also
be inspected to ensure proper functioning.
When improvements are made such as new thermal windows or storm windows
or increased insulation it is important to readjust the heating system
to take advantage of the improvement.
There are many additional measures that should be encouraged in your
building to preserve fuel and electricity while ensuring
comfort of all residents. Consultant Herb Rose is a former
member of the Executive Board of CNYC and currently represents
CNYC on the Independent System Operator which oversees deregulated
electricity in New York State. Mr. Rose has supplied some
advice on energy conservation in the box at the right.
CNYC continues to monitor the progress of electricity deregulation in
the state of New York and to try to ensure that the interests of apartment
buildings and their residents are not neglected as the process of deregulation
unfolds. To date, there have not been many opportunities for savings,
nor has there been much interest among smaller consumers in jumping
into this unknown area. By the end of the year 2002, Con Edison will
no longer sell energy. All customers will purchase electricity from
Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and will pay Con Edison to transport
the power to them.
Transportation costs comprise the lion's share of an electric bill,
due in part to Con Edison's 'stranded costs' of maintaining infrastructure
sufficient to supply power at peak demand. As part of the deregulation
process, Con Edison has been required to sell its generating facilities.
It has also announced a merger with Northeast Utilities next spring,
which is expected to further reduce its overhead. A proposal negotiated
at the direction of Governor Pataki with significant participation from
the Consumer Protection Board postulates reducing Con Edison rates by
$1.4 Billion through 2005, saving residential and small and mid-sized
commercial customers 17.3% and larger commercial customers 13.7%. If
adopted, this proposal will significantly impact the cost to the consumer
of transporting electricity (even if they no longer purchase power from
Con Edison) and may even be sufficient to balance the increase in the
cost of power itself. CNYC will continue to monitor energy deregulation
and report upon its progress.