When you install your air conditioner this summer, you better do it right — both for your sake and the city’s. According to a new report by the Urban Green Council, titled “There are Holes in Our City’s Walls,” poorly fitted air conditioning units cost the city $130 million to $180 million in fuel consumption, which in turn, produces an extra 375,000 to 525,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. In other words, improperly installed ACs account for 1 percent of citywide greenhouse gas emissions. It may seem like a small percentage, but it’s a pretty big environmental impact just so we can cool our apartments.
“This study proves out what we suspected: that the air conditioners sticking out of windows and through walls across the country are costing us far more than their summer electricity bills,” said Russell Unger, Executive Director of Urban Green Council. “We have energy codes that require buildings to use efficient windows, insulation and limit air leakage. But then we go around putting holes in those insulated walls or cranking open those efficient windows to insert an AC unit with flimsy plastic extenders. Federal regulations overlook this problem, worrying only about how much energy AC units use when plugged in and operating.”
As a matter of fact, in the 11 buildings selected for testing, it was found that the average gap size for an AC unit was about the size of a fist. The report also states that in certain buildings, “The cost of fuel lost to such energy waste is equal to the total cost of cooling the building alone,” reports the New York Times.
Although the report does propose both long and short term solutions, one of the main issues seems to be getting residents to remove AC units when they’re not in use. Residents of many buildings are required to hire professionals for both installation and removal. Sometimes the cost is just too high, other times the professionals just can’t come.
“Every year, I spend hours trying to get someone to come to get these things taken out, stored and cleaned,” said tenant Daniel Dubno in an interview with the New York Times. “You talk to a bunch of people, you find a reputable company, and then you find out that these guys are just too busy and you can’t get on their schedule.”
Although it seems logical to remove them yourself, it might not be the best idea, especially in the crowded streets of Manhattan. As John H. Slattery, real estate agent, and treasurer of his Upper East Side co-op building, notes, “What if an installation goes wrong, and it falls out the window and kills someone?”
In all fairness, he does have a point.