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Kips Bay Co-op Evades Carbon Fines with $1.5M Energy-Saving Electrification Project

Emily Myers in Green Ideas

Kips Bay

A $1.5 million electrification project is providing multiple benefits at 240 East 24th St., a prewar co-op in Kips Bay. The primary advantage is a shift away from fossil fuels and the elimination of any future carbon emission penalties under Local Law 97. The transition allows the building, which has 36 studios and one-bedrooms, to ditch its oil-fired boiler, install more efficient heat-pump technology and give residents better control of their heating and cooling. 

Board member Justin Szlasa, who has steered the project to its completion, says it was “a complicated decision-making matrix” to get the co-op to this point. A primary driver of the electrification project was the age and condition of the ancient boiler. “We were always repairing it, and the pipes also showed signs of deterioration,” he says. 

The board worked with mechanical contracting firm VRF Solutions to figure out the best path forward. An important first step towards electrification is upgrading the co-op’s electrical capacity. This involved bringing in more power to operate the heat pump hot water system and give each apartment 125 amps of power. The units also received a new 40-amp plug in the kitchen to allow for induction stoves. While gas stoves are not banned in New York, the city has begun phasing out the installation of gas appliances in new buildings, and Szlasa says the board was aware of a shift in tolerance for cooking gas. “We didn’t have capacity to power electric ranges in the units and wanted to put that in just in case we had an issue with our gas distribution,” he says. 

With the boiler decommissioned, 36 rooftop condensers are supplying each apartment with heating and cooling, eliminating oil from the operating budget. A heat pump on the roof is providing domestic hot water with storage tanks in the basement. One of the biggest challenges of the project was coordinating with shareholders to get access to apartments for over a nine-month period. “We had to take a lot of the pipes through the building from the first floor to the roof,” says Thomas Espositio, president of VRF Solutions, adding that radiators needed to be removed and electric panels and plugs installed. The key was early communication to residents about the work.

“The co-op effectively has a central air cooling and heating system and a super-efficient hot water system,” Espositio says. Shareholders can now remove their in-window air conditioning units and reclaim radiator space. Each apartment is submetered, so shareholders now pay for all their energy based on use — something the board hopes will encourage conservation.  Espositio estimates the co-op should see energy savings of between 20% to 30% as a result of the project.

The project’s costs have been paid for with a well-timed refinancing of the co-op’s mortgage in 2020, when interest rates were low. The refinancing also enabled the co-op to tackle facade and parapet repairs. In addition, the co-op is also receiving $240,000 in incentives from Con Edison’s clean heat program to go towards electrification.

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