Look, living in New York City is great: There’s a reason 8.5 million people call it home. But we all know it can be exorbitantly expensive, especially when it comes to housing and utility bills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Yorkers paid 42.6% more for electricity than the nationwide average in December 2023. Whether you're a long-time resident or new to the city, managing your energy consumption is crucial. Not only does it save you money, but it also contributes to a more sustainable urban environment.
In this guide, we'll cover a range of energy-saving strategies that can make a significant difference in that cozy apartment. From simple changes you can implement right away to more long-term solutions, here are some ways to maximize a small space living while minimizing your energy costs.
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Heating Things Up
Read any New York City forum, and you’ll find countless posts about surprise ConEd bills. Heating and cooling are major contributors to your energy bill, so it's crucial to understand how your apartment's systems work. If you live in a newer construction, your heat likely runs on electricity, meaning you’ll want to learn how to adjust the temperature for optimal efficiency. If you live in a pre-war building, on the other hand, you likely have steam radiators. Make sure they’re not blocked by furniture to allow for better heat distribution. You can find much more on this topic on our blog here.
Removing your window air conditioning units and storing them away during the colder seasons will prevent drafts, reducing your heating needs.
In the summer, when the city is notoriously swampy, it’s essential to make sure your AC filters are clean for optimal cooling. If you see that little “clean filter” light come on, your AC is trying to tell you something. Clogged filters can hinder the unit's performance, making it less efficient and consuming more energy. The Department of Energy recommends cleaning AC filters every one to two months—or even more frequently if you have pets or live in a dusty space. That measure alone can reduce your energy consumption by up to 15%.
Is Your Refrigerator Running…Efficiently?
Your refrigerator plays a significant role in your energy consumption. To improve its efficiency, pull your fridge away from the wall periodically and clean the coils, both behind and under it (remember to unplug before doing any maintenance). Dirty coils can cause your fridge to work harder to cool your food, leading to increased energy consumption. Additionally, maintaining optimal temperatures inside your fridge between 35-38˚ F is essential. If it runs too cold, you're wasting electricity, and if it runs too hot, your food may spoil faster. We highly recommend doing this when you move in, but doing so every six months will keep your fridge operating more efficiently.
Unplug Unused Devices
Appliances like TVs use power even when they’re not in use, these appliances are sometimes called ‘energy vampires’. Reduce standby power consumption by unplugging devices you're not using or using power strips with on/off switches. Or even better, pick up some smart plugs and automate the entire process. This practice prevents energy wastage from devices that continue to draw power when not in use.
Seal those leaks
Remember, in general, the cheapest way to warm, cool, or light your house is by taking advantage of what’s already there! Let that sunlight in if you want the heat. Stop that cool air from blowing in if you want to stay warm. To improve insulation and prevent heat loss, seal any air leaks in your apartment. Use weather stripping and door sweepers to minimize drafts, keeping your space warmer in the winter. Check for gaps around windows and doors and address them promptly.
Invest in Smarter Appliances
Start with the basics by ensuring that every light bulb in your apartment is an LED bulb. LED bulbs are energy-efficient and have a longer lifespan than traditional incandescent bulbs. By making this simple switch, you can immediately reduce your electricity usage and lower your energy bills. Modern and smart appliances, meanwhile, are designed to consume less energy while providing better performance. Consider investing in larger upgrades, such as an ENERGY STAR-Certified refrigerator — or initiate a discussion with your landlord or super to convince them of their benefits. These benefits don’t just include power savings but also important tax rebates in your area, which can be found here.
Installing smart devices, such as thermostats, gives you more control of your home by allowing you to program based on your own schedule and preferences. Some devices even learn your habits and adjust accordingly, optimizing energy use without sacrificing comfort. And with OhmConnect, whenever you can successfully save energy during an OhmHour or AutoOhm, you'll earn Watts, which doesn’t just mean saving energy but earning rewards in return in the process.
Not unlike the sealing discussion above, older NYC apartments can suffer from poor insulation, leading to significant energy waste. Consider insulating your apartment to keep it comfortable year-round. Install weather stripping around windows and doors, and use draft stoppers to seal gaps at the bottom of doors. Adding insulation to walls and ceilings can also make a substantial difference in maintaining a consistent temperature and reducing the need for excessive heating or cooling. Though, this tip is probably most useful for people who own the building they live in.
Maximizing energy efficiency in your NYC apartment is essential for both your comfort and your wallet, and it doesn’t have to be hard. By improving what you’re working with in the short term, and replacing what doesn’t work in the long term, you can make a significant difference in your energy consumption and reduce your bills. Whether it's switching to LED bulbs, maintaining your refrigerator, or understanding your heating and cooling systems, every effort counts. Once you’ve taken the initiative, regular maintenance becomes simple and routine.
Just as importantly, taking these steps means contributing to a more sustainable urban community. You’ll soon be taking pleasure not only in a lower ConEd bill—meaning more money for your chopped cheese fund—but also building a greener, more environmentally friendly New York City.