Electrifying Heating And Cooling

It’s winter in NYC now and I am reminded of all the apartments the Gotham Gal and I lived in during our 20s and 30s in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The typical heating system was hot water or steam-powered radiators that clanged all night long and had two settings, on and off. Sometimes the handle wouldn’t work and you could not turn them off. So we would open the windows to manage the temperature in the apartment. I am certain that much of NYC apartment living still works this way in 2020.

Contrast that with an apartment building we just completed in Brooklyn that uses passive house design to keep the apartment warm in the winter and cool in the summer, has super efficient electrical heating and cooling systems in the apartments that are managed by smart thermostats, and all of this is powered by solar arrays on the roof and upper facade.

Tenants in our new apartment can program the heating and cooling in the apartment to tune it to their daily needs and can also participate in demand response programs to get compensated for not using electricity when demand is very high.

The apartments buildings we lived in during our 20s and 30s typically had oil or gas fired boilers to power the radiators and so when we were heating our apartment and the backyard to via our open window, we were consuming carbon energy and contributing to the climate crisis.

This new building we just made could in theory operate entirely off the grid although in practice that won’t happen for a host of reasons.

We are still living in the past in many parts of NYC and the US and the world even though we can live in the future. It is simply a question of investment dollars. It requires capital to convert a building from the old way to the new way. And many property owners either don’t have the capital or don’t want to spend the capital.

The Green New Deal in NYC is going to change this. Property owners are now required to get their buildings into the modern era or get fined significantly. That will unlock capital to property owners because the returns on converting to electric heating and cooling are going to be even higher when you put the avoidance of fines into the models.

This is a good thing and long overdue. It feels great to make a modern clean building and offer it to tenants. And more and more property owners are going to get that feeling over the next decade.

#climate crisis