By Kevin Ebi.

Under the CoolNYC program, eligible Con Edison customers can get free modlets – short for modern outlets – that let them control their air conditioners when they are away from home.

For the utility, the problem is that many of its customers leave their air conditioners running all day so they don’t come home to a hot apartment. And it’s no small problem. There are more than 6.5 million window air conditioners in New York City and a million more could be installed within the next five years. In the summer, as much as 20% of the city’s electricity goes to power them.

Customers can program the modlets to turn the air conditions on and off automatically at certain times, or manually control them with a smartphone app. For example, customers could use the app to turn on their air conditioner at home as they’re leaving the office.

In addition to controlling the air conditioners remotely, the app also shows customers how much money they’ve saved with the program.

Customers give the utility power to change the temperature
Customers can also allow the utility to slightly adjust the power used by the air conditioner when electric demand is nearing capacity. The utility promises to do that only during extreme cases, and even then it says their homes or apartments would only be a degree or two warmer than they would be if the air conditioners were running on full power.

Last summer, there were six days that qualified as heat events and Con Edison says that capability allowed it to cut power demand by 22%.

One might expect a lot of resistance to a program that allows the utility to adjust someone’s air conditioner, but the program is entering its fourth summer and Con Edison says more than 90% of the residents who take part are happy with it. Enrollment also grew 70% last year.

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Originally posted at Smart Cities.