The New York City Housing Authority is trying to teach tenants about reducing energy consumption with new technology that monitors usage. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following exclusive report from the Castle Hill Houses.
Residents of city Housing Authority apartments who love taking long hot showers, leaving the lights on, or perhaps keeping the radio and TV going all night, had better watch out. NYCHA now has a way to monitor how much energy its residents are using.
"If the way we use energy in our developments doesn't change, eventually NYCHA will have the change the way we calculate energy usage,” said Margarita Lopez, environmental coordinator for NYCHA. “People will be in a situation where they will have to pay.”
Currently public housing residents are not charged for electricity, gas, and water. But now NYCHA has a way of keeping watch on just how much they're using. The Castle Hill Houses, which historically has had higher usage than other developments, is now the first to have wireless energy sensors in each apartment.
"It puts us in a position where we can engage residents in understanding how the energy usage and reducing their energy usage can preserve the housing authority long term,” explained NYCHA Chairman John Rhea.
The monitoring equipment is now used to check temperatures in each apartment, but can track electricity and water consumption. Many residents say they don't mind.
“Compared to a lot of other places, people pay for their gas and electricity, heat, and hot water,” said one Castle Hill Houses resident. “So it is understandable; don't abuse it."
"Well I think it is best,” agreed another. “It is a good idea. We don't have too much waste with lights, electricity and water."
NYCHA says that's what it is all about. The agency gave a tour to a South African delegation, showing off more than $25 million in energy-efficiency upgrades for Castle Hill. The development was outfitted with new boilers, an instantaneous hot water system, and light fixtures that use special fluorescent bulbs.
"Already we have noticed a 25 percent reduction during the winter months with heat alone,” Lopez said.
Although the program was started at Castle Hill, NYCHA says the monitoring equipment will more than likely be installed in all of the city's public housing developments.
"If the residents feel that we are watching them, they are wrong,” she said. “This is about protecting public housing."
Lopez said NYCHA is just trying to keep public housing affordable by conserving energy and water.