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Inwood Park Apartments Cuts Oil Use and Avoids Carbon Fines with Smart Radiator Covers

Unable to electrify or convert the building’s oil-burning boiler to gas, the board at Inwood Park Apartments in uptown Manhattan faced a conundrum. Converting the oil-burning boiler to gas was too expensive — as was electrification — so how could the co-op cut carbon emissions and reduce Local Law 97 penalties? The affordable answer: smart radiator covers.

How they work. The smart radiator covers, known as Cozys, are custom-made insulated cabinets that are equipped with a duct, a fan and sensors. Cozys trap the radiators’ heat and release it according to the settings made by residents in each unit. “The fan will regulate the temperature and keep the room at the desired set point,” says Matthew Isaacs, vice president of business development at Kelvin, which manufactures the covers.

Three Cozys were installed in each apartment at the six-story, 50-unit building. The major benefit of the Cozy system is how it affects the building’s steam condensation rate. “The radiators are now in this insulated environment, so steam is staying at steam temperature for much longer and therefore returning to the boiler at a much slower pace,” Isaacs explains. As a result, the building’s boiler is boiling a lot less water during the heating season.

In addition, the building upgraded the boiler’s heat timer for around $7,000 to increase the efficiency of the radiator covers. Most boilers have a heat timer, which turns the equipment on and off based on outside temperature sensors. Integrating the heat timer with the Cozys allows the timer to get even more accurate data from multiple radiators in every apartment. 

Jeremy Foster, a regional manager at Heat-Timer Corporation, which upgraded the heat timer, says this allows the boiler to switch on and off “much more intelligently.” The boiler at Inwood Park Apartments is now running four or five fewer heating cycles per day. 

Return on investment. For a $143,382 investment, paid by the building’s reserve funds, the co-op has seen a 26% reduction in oil use, cutting the amount of oil purchased from around 23,700 to 17,400 gallons. This equates to annual savings of around $24,000. 

The 38,505-square-foot co-op did not qualify for any NYSERDA or Con Edison incentives. This is because the co-op’s boiler runs on No. 4 fuel oil, and incentives are limited to buildings with gas heating. No. 4 fuel oil is being phased out by the city, with buildings like Inwood Park Apartments being mandated to switch to another heat source by July 1, 2027.

Converting the co-op’s boiler from oil to high-pressure gas would have come with a $3 million charge from Con Edison, something the co-op could not afford. Likewise, upgrading the electrical capacity would have been prohibitively expensive. “All over the city, buildings are being quoted $1 million, $2 million, $20 million to upgrade the electrical capacity,” says Valerie Corbett, an account manager with the city-run NYC Accelerator program who worked closely with Hal Fuchsman, the co-op’s board president, to figure out Local Law 97 compliance routes. 

Future forecast. “With the Cozy system, the building is in a better position,” Corbett says. She adds that the co-op’s next step will be to switch to the cleaner No. 2 fuel oil.

“It’s encouraging,” says Fuchsman, who hopes the wealth of data from the Cozys will give the board a better idea of the building’s heating needs. “In two or three years’ time, when we have no choice but to replace our boiler, we can make a more informed decision.” This might allow the building to downsize to a smaller boiler. 

In the past year, the co-op also completed a $900,000 roof replacement and insulation project using funds from an additional mortgage. Based on energy data from 2019, the building was facing annual Local Law 97 penalties of $20,300. Thanks to the Cozy installation and reduction in oil use, Inwood Park is well poised to be below its carbon-emission threshold and thereby avoid fines for the first compliance period, from 2024 and 2029.

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