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Published on
May 18th, 2023

The Most Common Complaints About Electricity in NYC Apartment Buildings: Avoid These Frequent Condo and Co-Op Problems

Success as a property owner in NYC is about keeping tenants happy and obeying building codes and regulations. While this prospect may sound easy in theory, the execution is challenging, especially considering the age of many buildings.

Many buildings are pre-war and require significant upgrades to most systems, including the electrical. Some of the most common complaints about electricity in NYC apartment buildings stem from age. Discover common issues with electrical systems and how to avoid or fix them.

4 of the Most Common Complaints About Electricity in NYC Apartment Buildings

1. Old Buildings Are Out of Touch With Current Codes and Materials

Before you purchase an old building, keep in mind any upgrades to the electrical systems needed now or in the future. The city often updates the electrical code to meet the demands of modern life and appliances. Code changes might involve outlet placement, circuit wiring, proper wiring, and other issues.

Beyond the electrical code, property owners must consider the energy code. The city and state are taking strides to reduce emissions. Apartment and commercial buildings are among the largest polluters in the city, forcing drastic regulatory changes to how they consume energy.

The energy code is a tool to reduce the strain on the already overburdened electrical grid. Newer regulations discourage the use of incandescent fixtures and lighting; for older properties, this can signify a significant cost and upgrade.

Many pre-war buildings still have cloth wiring. In most cases, you need to replace cloth wiring because it represents a significant fire hazard. Likely replacements for this outdated material include metal-armored and plastic-sheathed wiring.

2. Old Properties May Not Meet Current Load Demands

One of the most common complaints about electricity in NYC apartment buildings is frequent outages. While planned outages happen at times, most occur because of an overloaded grid or breaker panel.

In older NYC buildings, the supported electrical load is often insufficient for modern living. Some older properties only have 40 amps per apartment because construction occurred when electrical demands were much lower. In some residences, tenants only had three or four outlets; such designs and output won’t cut it today.

A one-bedroom apartment with air conditioning and modern appliances needs a minimum of 100 to 150 amps. NYC code requires this minimum amperage.

If you own or are considering the purchase of a pre-war building, assessing the electrical load of the property is essential to its future use. You can consult Bolt Electric to learn more about load requirements and schedule an assessment to determine necessary upgrades and costs.

The cost to fix some of the most common complaints about electricity in NYC apartment buildings will vary depending on the upgrade. For example, some upgrades may require making changes to individual apartments. While these changes occur in separate apartments and each on its own may be inexpensive, many upgrades across several units can become costly.

Alternatively, the installation is more complex when the entire property needs an upgraded system to allow for higher loads. It is not uncommon for costs to exceed $25,000 in multi-unit properties. Talk to a Bolt Electric technician to learn more.

When considering upgrades to your existing system, don’t forget about metering. If you want each unit to pay its share of electric costs, install individual unit metering instead of building-wide.

3. Old Buildings May Have Outdated and Insufficient Outlets

A lack of proper or sufficient outlets is among the most common complaints about electricity in NYC apartment buildings. When tenants do not have enough outlets, they may turn to unsafe solutions, such as chaining multiple power strips. Also, if a building is old with limited access to three-prong outlets, tenants may use cheater plugs or adapters, which are not the safest option.

Pre-war apartments almost always need more outlets installed for modern conveniences and necessities. In our current technologically advanced society, apartments must have enough outlets for computers, televisions, kitchen appliances, and more. A modern tenant needs more than the pre-war standard of three to four outlets.

Also, most appliances and devices come standard with three-prong cords, meaning all apartments must permit such connections without tenants needing to resort to adapters.

Kitchens and bathroom outlets should have ground-fault circuit interrupters. GCFI outlets are necessary consumer and building safety devices that protect individuals from fatal or severe electric shock. Also, the GFCI reduces the likelihood of electrical fires by interrupting the electrical current if the outlet gets wet.

4. Old Properties Demand Higher Electrical Costs

As a property owner, you know outdated systems cost more to maintain and operate than new energy-efficient options. Unfortunately, regardless of current regulatory demands, upgrades are not cheap, meaning selectivity is crucial to saving money.

Still, finding solutions to the most common complaints about electricity in NYC apartment buildings is vital for reducing tenant turnover. As a property owner, you want to balance costs, upgrades, and profit potential.

A few of the best changes to make to older properties — after essentials like wiring and panels — include things like HVAC, ceiling fans, LED light bulbs and fixtures, and, somewhat surprisingly, insulation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, increasing or improving a building’s insulation can reduce utility costs by nearly 15%. Installing smart thermostats can cut costs even further by allowing greater control over heating and cooling systems.

If a property owner wants to cut down on a building’s energy consumption and move closer to compliance with Local Law 97 mandates, they can invest in renewable energy. Solar power is one of the best ways to reduce strain on the NYC grid, though it is also an expensive option for many owners.

Resolving the Most Common Complaints About Electricity in NYC Apartment Buildings

Contact Bolt Electric for Upgrade and Repair Options

Resolving the most common complaints about electricity in NYC apartment buildings takes time and knowledge. Old buildings often require assessments and mandatory repairs before installing new systems. It is challenging to determine which repairs and upgrades should come first. Contact Bolt Electric at 212-734-5000 to schedule an inspection and understand your electrical needs.

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