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Overheated NYC Apartments
Can be Prevented!

2012 June 20

By Juan G. Gutierrez

May 31st marks the end of the “Heat Season,” for building owners in New York City to provide heat to tenants until October 1st.  This should also mark the period to begin repairing, tuning up, or replacing boilers and radiators in the multifamily buildings throughout the city.  One of NYC tenants’ major complaint, beside very little heat in a city apartment, is an overheated apartment!  Some apartments are so hot that it kills house plants and tenants resort to desert plants! New Yorkers’ solution to overheated apartments for years has been to open up their windows, to release some of the heat trapped in their apartments.  Many of these buildings are overheated simply because they have a hard time ensuring that every apartment is heated.  So some apartments in the same building might be overheating while other apartments might just have enough heat to comply with the City Housing Maintenance Code and State Multiple Dwelling Law.

There are solutions for these old apartment buildings that have problems with overheating by their water or steam radiators.  One consideration could be the installation of thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on every radiator in the building.  Most TRVs do not require electricity, are easy to install by almost any handy person, and can cost as little as $40 to $50 each.  TRVs have a built-in sensor that opens and closes the radiator according to the temperature in the room, providing an individualized comfort control to any room.

TRV is a proven technology that has been around since the mid 1940’s.  TRV has been put to test in a demonstration project in 1995 here in NYC, by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Report No. 95-14, Titled: Thermostatic Radiator Valve (TRV) Demonstration Project Reference No. PB96-198163.  The report concluded that “overheated apartments achieved energy savings through the installation of TRVs.”    Since the report was written in 1995, the savings associated with fuel cost might be even greater today making the simple payback period even shorter.

Other maintenance tips that apartment building owners and management can do to their boiler heating systems are:

  • Clean boilers and radiators
  • Tune boilers
  • Replace leaking radiator vents and steam main vents
  • Insulate bare piping
  • Reduce domestic hot water at a constant minimum temperature of 120º degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalds and save energy (check local codes for specific temperatures)
  • TRV temperature should be set at 70º degrees Fahrenheit

The best thing about TRVs is that the investment made to control radiator heat pays for itself in the long run through energy cost savings.  It also provides a comfortable apartment temperature.

About the Author:  Juan is an Environmental Protection Specialist with EPA Region 2.  He is currently the region’s ENERGY STAR coordinator.  He grew up in Corona Queens, NY, and is a former US Marine Corps Sergeant.  He graduated from SUNY Stony Brook with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and received a Masters in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College.  Juan currently resides in Corona Queens where you can usually find him riding a bicycle.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Nustita permalink
    January 28, 2013

    Having grown up in a New England house where the thermostat was never set above 65, I am boggled by the waste I see in my Queens neighborhood every winter. It can be 15 degrees outside, but walking down the street you’ll see many apartments with their windows flung wide open, the occupants desperate for some fresh air in their overheated apartments. This is also the case in my building, and for some reason I can’t convince the super or the landlord that installing a TRV on our radiator is a no-brainer investment. What I get is total indifference– to the comfort of tenants, to the larger environment, and to basic economics.

    Honestly I think the only way to improve this is to pass legislation in city council. The landlords would kick and scream, sure, but it would be for their own good and for the good of their tenants.

  2. Edward Jereb permalink
    January 28, 2014

    My building super says that our system is “too old” for TRVs (299W12th). I presume that we have a one pipe steam system in an old Bing and Bing building. Do you know of an engineering reason that may preclude TRVs in an older building?

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