How to Keep Energy Costs Down All Summer
NEW YORK CITY — As temperatures go up, many New Yorkers find relief by blasting cold air into their homes, even if it means higher electricity bills.
Each year, homeowners nationwide spend about $11 billion to power their air conditioners, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. New Yorkers have more than 6 million window air conditioners that account for 20 percent of all energy use in the summer, according to ConEd.
Budget-conscious New Yorkers have a few ways to stay cool while keeping costs down.
For many, saving money means keeping air conditioners off for as long as possible. Using a fan can help to save money since it only uses one-tenth of the energy used to power an air conditioner, Con Edison spokesman Allan Drury said.
Some inventive residents enhance the effect of their fans by facing them outward or creating a cross-ventilation system with one fan blowing in and another blowing out on opposite sides of an apartment in order to move hot air out.
But there are ways to save without giving up air conditioning, Drury said. He recommended keeping the temperature at a comfortable, but budget-friendly 78 degrees. Each degree below that costs consumers an extra 6 percent in energy costs, he said.
Use energy-efficient units, clean air-conditioner filters regularly and only cool rooms that are occupied in order to further conserve energy, Drury said.
Before purchasing a unit, be sure to estimate the cubic square feet you want to cool, gauge how much direct sunlight the room gets, take your window's measurements and take a photo of the electrical outlet you're going to use in order to find a unit that suits your space.
Tech-savvy residents can also lower costs by plugging in wireless devices called modlets that allow users to control their air conditioners remotely and set temperature schedules.
Con Ed gives out the devices for free as part of its CoolNYC program, which it launched in 2011 with city-based green tech company ThinkEco to help reduce energy consumption.
Customers who sign up for the program receive a “smartAC kit” that includes the modlets, as well as a thermostat, which doubles as a remote, according to the CoolNYC website.
Users plug their window or room air conditioners into a modlet, which connects the units to their WiFi network. Once the units are online, users can control them from their computer or mobile device through a free app.
The system, they said, helps them track their energy usage and save money. Similar programs exist for homeowners with central air conditioners and businesses, Drury said.
Clinton Hill resident Amber Thomas said she takes a different approach — she leaves home. Thomas said her favorite warm-weather escapes are Chelsea Piers, where she swims and ice skates, and public parks.
“I get out of the house, hydrate myself and try to stay in areas with shade,” she said.
For some people, though, no cost is too high for the comfort of a cool room on a scorching day.
“I hate the heat, so I just deal with it,” Queens resident Vincent Ban said.