For many of us, one of the first questions we’d ask before buying a new car is “What kind of mileage does it get?” Yet when we consider moving into a new apartment, we don’t think to ask about the utility bill we can expect when we move in. Services like Home Energy Audits are available to provide guidance before purchasing a new home, but renters in New York City have had little way to distinguish one unit from another that is more efficient. The Watt Score aims to close this gap through a simple analysis that estimates the electric bill for the average building unit.
The Watt Score relies on publicly available information provided by NYC’s building owners through Local Law 84, which requires the disclosure of annual energy use for buildings over 25,000 ft2. When combined with information and from the city’s PLUTO database on the number of units in each building and the average cost of residential energy from NYSERDA, estimating the utility bill for the average tenant in the average month is fairly straightforward.
Though New York City has recently required residential buildings to post signage with a letter grade indicating their energy efficiency performance, this letter grade does not necessarily provide actionable data for tenants. This score is based on the Energy Star rating, which is developed from “Source Energy” vs “Site Energy,” which is closer to the energy usage that shows up on your utility bill. Additionally, Energy Star ratings are based on a building’s performance relative to its peers. The Watt Score is designed to provide insight into the most direct impact energy efficiency has on tenants: the size of their utility bill.
At Watt Score, our mission is to rate every apartment building with a useful energy efficiency score, accessible by anyone. This not only lets New Yorkers consider the total monthly cost of a new apartment before moving, but it also lets current tenants make a compelling case for their landlord to make energy efficiency improvements. Though in New York most tenants are the ones who pay their utility bills, landlords are the ones who have the most power to affect the building infrastructure (windows, insulation, and large appliances) that have the most impact on utility bills. By making the cost of energy easy to compare against neighboring buildings, Watt Score hopes to empower both tenants and landlords into finding energy-saving solutions that benefit them both.