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LED lighting for NYC – and your apartment building

Upgrading to energy efficient LED lighting is one of the easiest ways to reduce electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions.  Now that cities and states are leading the US response to climate change they can follow NYC’s example by supporting LED upgrades. Building owners and managers should carry out upgrades now while utility rebates are still available.  Here's how residents can get involved. 

With our national government doing everything it can to support the fossil fuel industry and block climate change response, it’s urgent that cities and states lead the transition to a post-carbon economy.  Members of the 
US Conference of Mayors have agreed to work towards the Paris climate agreement, as have members of C40, a network of the world’s largest cities.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has already set the City’s goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.  He recently signed 
an executive order committing the City to the goals of the Paris Agreement, which includes holding the increase in the global average temperature to below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.                      


New York City's Roadmap to 80 X 50 is a dense report that recaps the City's extensive research into local energy use, and the changes proposed to meet those goals.   About 70% of NYC’s energy use involves buildings (p. 56).  

The Buildings Technical Working Group "analyzed nearly 100 low- and medium-difficulty energy conservation measures (ECMs) in existing buildings (typically with paybacks of 10 years or less) and found that these measures could reduce current building-based GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by up to 33 percent." (p. 59)  One of those was the expansion of Local Law 88 to cover the common area lighting in residential buildings.  We'll get to that in a moment.


Lighting is the third-largest user of energy in the City’s buildings after heating and electronic appliances, responsible for 13% of the total. (NYC Energy and Water Use 2013 Report , p. 17, graph on p. 11)

Lighting is one of the top uses of power globally as well, accounting for about 15% of the world’s electricity use. One of the easiest ways to cut energy use and carbon emissions is to replace incandescent and fluorescent lights with LEDs (light emitting diodes).  
LED lighting is one of the top 100 solutions to reverse global warming, as researched by scientists of Project Drawdown.            






Diodes – crystal semiconductors that conduct electricity in only one direction – were first discovered in 1874.  Hundreds of applications for diodes have been developed since then, including LED bulbs in 1994.  While solar panels convert photons to electrons, LEDs convert electrons to photons.  They use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and 50 percent as much as compact fluorescent bulbs, to produce the same amount of light. Incandescent lights turn most of the energy they use into waste heat, while LEDs turn 80 percent of the energy they use into light. Also, LEDs last much longer than the other two types of bulbs – according to Project Drawdown, 27 years if used for five hours a day. 

It’s just a question of time until LEDs become the standard lighting technology.   General Electric is 
phasing out production of compact fluorescents.    The rapidly accelerating deployment of LED bulbs is on track to save U.S. consumers and businesses $20 billion a year in electricity costs in a decade, which would lower U.S. CO2 emissions by 100 million metric tons a year.  

LED lighting is especially valuable for low-income communities around the world without access to electric grids.  They can connect LEDs to small solar panels instead of costly, polluting kerosene lamps, for enormous quality of life benefits.             
















While economic factors are moving the world toward near universal adoption of LED lighting, NYC is trying to speed up the process with its recent change in Local Law 88. This law had required LED lighting in the common areas (lobbies, hallways and fire stairs) of large buildings over 50,000 square feet in size.  In a few years, the requirement will be expanded to the much larger number of medium sized buildings above 25,000 s.f.  Here are two ways you can participate in NYC's push toward energy efficient lighting.

Upgrade your apartment with LEDs

Join the LED revolution by replacing the lights in your home or apartment.  Here are light bulb guides from 
NRDC and from the US EPA’s Energy Star program.
Upgrade your building with LEDs

For a much, much bigger impact, get your entire apartment building to upgrade the common area lighting – lobby, hallways, basement, fire stairs – to LEDs. These projects provide a number of benefits for building managers, owners and coop / condo boards, and indirectly, to building residents. 


  • Electric costs for lighting are sharply reduced.

  • The savings will enable management to pay for other projects.  Since LEDs are very long lived, building staff will spend much less time replacing lights

  • LED lighting upgrades will generally pay for themselves in about two years.

  • LED upgrades of common areas will be required for all NYC buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to comply with Local Law 88.  While the law won’t take effect for several years, the Con Ed rebates for LED upgrades will be phased out before they are legally mandated.  Here’s how building managers should address LL 88 compliance.

  • Here are initial steps for building managers considering LED upgrade projects.  To ensure the financial success of these projects, managers should look for LED products with very long warranties to guarantee they will be around, providing savings, for many years.

    Invite your building management to consider an LED upgrade.  Contact me to discuss this.  


Switch to renewable energy for your home or apartment.

You can personally divest from fossil fuels.

Here’s another easy way action for individuals: switch to wind power. For most NYC residents, only 2% of the electricity from Con Ed or National Grid comes from renewable sources, the other 98% is from a mix of oil, gas, coal, hydroelectric and nuclear power. 

If you’re a homeowner, or live in a coop or condo in a small apartment building, you could install solar panels, so contact 
Here Comes Solar for free guidance.

But most New Yorkers who pay their own utility bill will find that the easiest thing to do is switch to wind. Con Ed or National Grid will buy power from a wind farm.  You get the same monthly bill.  It will cost a few cents more per KWh (kilowatt hour) than your current electricity from fossil fuels, but you’re personally divesting from fossil fuels and investing in wind energy production.  As more people follow, the demand for wind will increase, more wind turbines will be installed and the price will drop further.

There are many energy service companies (ESCOs) that supply green energy. You can buy directly from 
Con Ed. You might be able to find green energy suppliers through the NYS Public Service Commission - but good luck navigating through their website.  

Or you can sign up with 
Clean Choice Energy.  Volunteers with researched and have endorsed Clean Choice Energy.  And, for each new subscriber, the company will make a donation to 350NYC. 


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