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What you can do to save money and be green next time you upgrade your appliances

Building owners can help themselves and their tenants reduce energy costs and manage energy loss. The NYC Retrofit Accelerator and other programs pave the way.

Building owners can help themselves and their tenants reduce energy costs and manage energy loss. The NYC Retrofit Accelerator and other programs pave the way. This is one of five articles in Unbuilt Labs’ Research Package “Incentive programs to help NYC building owners comply with the Climate Mobilization Act (2019)by Deven Malone. We recommend clicking on the link above to familiarize yourself with the four pillars of what the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability calls the “largest climate solution put forth by any city in the world”.

In an effort to maintain comfort and maximize worker productivity, many commercial buildings in particular find themselves spending more than they need to on energy. However, this is a steep cost for comfort, as 20 to 30% of all energy in commercial buildings leaks (“Energy Waste in Commercial Buildings” 2019). A thin building envelope leaks energy to the outside, with more dramatic heat transfers taking place in the peaks of summer and winter. Not only is this economically inefficient, the environment is burdened by senseless emissions. To this end, smart technology can itemize electricity inputs and costs and create maps using thermal imaging to detect sources of leaks and inefficiencies (“How to Read Your Electric Bill: Part I” 2015).  Programs offered by both Consolidated Edison and NYSERDA can service buildings by fitting them with such programs.

Similarly, as wasteful and/or outdated appliances and technologies are upgraded and replaced, there is a need for waste collection, as many parts are not recyclable. To avoid junk yard build up, Con Edison offers a bulk recycling program for building owners.

Energy costs are often burdensome and are exacerbated by energy waste. Electricity costs, however, do not require massive infrastructure changes in order to be reduced. Appliance-focused programs comprise a multifaceted approach to combatting energy waste and high costs. Since electricity bills are itemized, homeowners have the opportunity to address particularly inefficient appliances (“How to Read Your Electric Bill: Part I” 2015). Also, since most of these incentive packages offer individual appliance rebates, homeowners or renters can take advantage of them, granting tenants autonomy in addressing their own energy efficiency concerns.

Consolidated Edison, through the Retrofit Accelerator, offers programs for both residents and building owners that upgrade lighting, thermostats, and air conditioning, all of which reduce electricity waste. Such replacements will ultimately drive down costs. Efficient lighting requires less electricity to produce light than older bulbs. Improved thermostats allow for easier, often metered, adjustments that reduce energy usage when it is less necessary (“Thermostats” n.d.). Moreover, the Consolidated Edison Smart Usage Rewards Program allows building owners to earn money for reducing electricity usage during hours of peak demand. This program requires the installation of a communicating interval meter, which transmits data on a property’s energy usage, itemized on an hourly basis, to Con Edison (Gerza 2015). This device also allows homeowners to adjust their energy usage based on the meter. By installing devices that are better at utilizing electricity, residents can expect to lower their energy costs.

Additionally, training programs for workers in building maintenance help to ease the transition between equipment. Said programs train technicians in streamlining processes to maximize efficiency and build familiarity with new technology. The vast majority of associated programs focus on incentivizing installation of new and improved products. However, such replacements can only go so far in curbing emissions and costs without proper operations. Certification programs offered by the Building Performance Institute and Building Owners and Managers International aim to provide new skills to systems maintenance workers.


NYSERDA Combined Heat and Power Assistance Program

  • Building owners are encouraged to install combined heat and power (CHP) systems, with NYSERDA providing incentives appropriate for the scale; more money is available in incentives for buildings that install more CHP equipment.
  • Combined heat and power (CHP) systems provide on-site electric power, heating, and cooling from a single fuel source. This efficient power generation technology is also called cogeneration. CHP systems recover waste heat and use it to operate industrial processes, heat domestic hot water, and provide space heating and cooling.
  • Engage with experts at the US Department of Energy and find out if your facility matches CHP criteria here: https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/chp/chp-taps

Bulk Recycling Program

Con Edison Smart Usage Rewards for Reducing Demand

Con Edison Instant Lighting Incentive Program

The Building Performance Institute Multifamily Building Operator

  • The Multifamily Building Operator certification is a program detailing the fundamentals of high-performance buildings for multifamily building operators.
  • The course costs between $0 (for members of Service Employees International Union) and $1200; the exam costs between $250 and $500, at a discounted rate.
  • The course takes between 35 and 40 hours to complete.
  • The course is offered by the Building Performance Institute in partnership with the Retrofit Accelerator
  • The Multifamily Building Operator course details the following:
  • Heating and cooling system operations and maintenance, including airflow and ventilation management and preventative maintenance; electric energy efficiency; water conservation; green cleaning, recycling, and integrated pest management
  • The course website is found here: http://www.bpi.org/certified-professionals/multifamily-building-operator

Level I or Level II Building Operations Certification (BOC)

  • Building Staff can earn a Level I or Level II BOC
  • Level 1 Certification requires six core classes and one supplemental course (74 hours)
  • Level 2 Certification requires four core classes and two supplemental courses (61 hours)Both course sets are at a discounted $2150, but Local 94 members can receive a further discount to pay $300 per certification course load.
  • Level 1 courses detail HVAC systems, energy efficiency in ventilation, efficient lighting, and performance measurement
  • Level 2 courses detail troubleshooting, system optimization, and motor management
  • Course and program descriptions are found here: https://www.theboc.info/building-operator-training/course-descriptions/

Building Owners and Managers International (BOMI) designation and certificate programs

  • The Building Systems Maintenance Certificate (SMC) training is for those who operate and maintain multiple building systems. It provides in-depth information on key building principles, including efficient energy management and water treatment so participants gain a better understanding of HVAC, plumbing, and other building systems that work together to provide a comfortable indoor environment.
  • The Systems Maintenance Administrator (SMA) designation training is for those who are in charge of a team of technicians who run the day-to-
  • day operation of a building and focuses on ways to streamline the operations in order to manage energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and cost-effective building systems.
  • The Systems Maintenance Technician (SMT) designation training is for those who maintain major building systems, such as heating, refrigeration, electrical, and plumbing. Participants learn about the technologies and trends in the maintenance field so they are able to maximize the efficiency and safety of their building systems.
  • Each certificate requires 24-30 hours of coursework and each course (of which multiple are needed for a certificate) costs $300.
  • Learn about certificates here: https://www.bomi.org/Students/Educational-Offerings/Designations-and-Certificates/Certificate-Programs.aspx
  • Register for courses and learn about schedules and pricing here: https://www.bomi.org/property-management-facilities-management-courses.aspx

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs

  • A mechanism for providing funding, at a fixed interest rate, for upfront costs of at least $2,500 in building improvement.
  • The payback period generally lasts between 10 and 20 years and consists of a property assessment tied to the owner’s property taxes.
  • However, the debt is tied to the building, rather than the owner.
  • PACE is only available to property owners and comes in both Residential and Commercial models.


“Energy Waste in Commercial Buildings.” 2019. Mid-Atlantic Controls Corp. March 5, 2019. https://info.midatlanticcontrols.com/blog/energy-waste-in-commercial-buildings.

Gerza, Adam. 2015. “The Value of Internal Meter Data in Solar PV Project Analysis.” Energy Toolbase. https://www.energytoolbase.com/resourceguides/TheValueOfIntervalMeterDataInSolarPvProjectAnalysis.pdf.

“How to Read Your Electric Bill: Part I.” 2015. Solect Energy. December 1, 2015. https://solect.com/how-to-read-your-electric-bill-part-i/.

“Thermostats.” n.d. Energy.Gov. Accessed August 6, 2020. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats.

Browse the research package “Incentive programs to help NYC building owners comply with the Climate Mobilization Act (2019)” by Deven Malone:

About the Author


Deven Malone, Summer Policy Analyst

Deven has long been interested in communicating for influence. He recognized the importance of social discourse for project momentum during his time as an Associate at Partnership International. There he has researched regulatory landscapes and written project proposals as well as grant applications on behalf of US bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. His focus has been on solar energy, water purification, and hydroelectric fields. At Unbuilt Labs, he is exploring behaviour change communication strategies in housing codes and climate-oriented legislation. Deven is also a beekeeper and a Board Member at Georgetown University’s Hoya Hive.

  • Georgetown University, B.S.F.S. Science, Technology, and International Affairs ‘22

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