By Scott Etkin
With summer approaching, higher energy bills are on the way, too. And while most energy-saving advice is geared toward homeowners with attics and hot water boilers, fortunately there are still steps that Upper West Side apartment dwellers can take to lower their energy bills.
Here are three ways to lower your energy usage (and energy bill) that you may not know about:
Sign up for OhmConnect
OhmConnect is a service that compensates you to turn off your appliances for an hour when there is peak energy demand in the electrical grid.
Here’s how it works: OhmConnect partners with ConEdison to monitor energy usage across the city. When demand peaks, utilities like ConEd have to turn on additional power plants, which are especially inefficient and polluting. (ConEd estimates that demand for power this summer will peak at 12,990 megawatts, 500 megawatts higher than last year.)
OhmConnect uses data to anticipate when these spikes will happen and when there’s one coming up, it notifies people to turn off or not use their devices during this period. Thousands of people opting-in to these events leads to significant savings for the utility company – and this money is passed on to OhmConnect users.
There is usually around one 60-minute event per week. Before these events, OhmConnect will notify you to turn off your appliances and not run your dishwasher, A/C, etc. If you opt in, they can also automatically turn off any smart devices or appliances that you’ve connected with a smart plug.
It is free to sign up to OhmConnect and they send you a free smart plug when you register. You can connect other smart plugs and smart devices through the OhmConnect app to increase your savings.
Put up some window tints
Everyone wants natural light in their apartment, but too much direct sun can turn it into a steam room. One solution is to put up window tints that still let in light while reflecting most of the rays that cause the temperature to rise, which results in energy savings by reducing the amount you would otherwise need to spend on cooling.
There are several window tints available to order on Amazon (here’s a link to one option). They do not require any tools to install – you use soap and water as the adhesive – so they can easily be removed without any damage to the window. They come in different sizes though, so you’ll have to trim the film to get it to fit your windows properly.
Another similar solution is to put up peel-and-stick paper curtains, also available on Amazon. These are easy to cut to size and create a nice shade in the room, though they won’t reflect the warming rays like the window tints will. Still, an extra layer can still make some improvement, and they are thin enough that they can go underneath traditional curtains or blinds.
Clean your refrigerator vents and coils
When was the last time you cleaned behind your refrigerator? Chances are, it’s dusty back there – and that dirt can block the air flow from the appliance’s vents, causing it to run less efficiently. (Refrigerators work in part by pumping out the warm air from inside the fridge.)
In particular, cleaning around the vents and coils can improve performance. Where these parts are located varies on your refrigerator model – in some cases, it may be worthwhile to unscrew the vent and clean it with a toothbrush or a rag. Since your refrigerator is one of the most energy-hungry appliances in your apartment and is always on, this fix can make a difference over time.