ConEd Residential Gas Rates & Meters

A week ago or so we had a call from our contractor – a guy from ConEd was at the job site talking to the contractor, the plumber and the electrician – and according to him we couldn’t do things the way our architect spec’d. We were planning on two gas meters – one for each unit with heating on our gas meter. He said you couldn’t get a gas meter for an apartment unless it had gas heating. That’s odd, since every apartment I’ve lived in in New York had separately metered gas that didn’t include heating. He also mentioned we could get a better rate if heating was on it’s own meter.

We thought it over, did some investigation and got back to him. Then he got back to us saying he was wrong – that we could have separate meters for each unit. But questioning everything got us to thinking about whether we were happy with our configuration.

Our initial configuration was based on the premise that the best way to encourage energy efficiency is to have people pay for what they use. If it works for electricity, why not do it with gas? With all the questions I started running some numbers…

Take hot water. We expect the tenant will have to spend about $200/year in gas for hot water, but if it were electric it would be $800. Drying clothes and cooking is probably that amount again. That’s only about $33/month for gas, but it’s $133/month for electric – so we can save our tenants $100/month by having gas instead of electricity for hot water and drying. That savings is reduced a bit because ConEd charges $16.80/month just for the meter and the first 3 therms of gas. So the real savings is only about $85/month, but it adds up and lower utilities will keep our tenants happy.

Now, we could just pay for the tenant’s gas – it’s only maybe $35/month (that’s what architect Peter Holtzman does himself and what he recommends). But the thing is, that’s only if the tenant uses their utilities responsibly. We’re not really encouraging conservation if we pay for whatever the tenant uses. So the bottom line is we want to keep the tenant’s gas on a separate meter.

But the discussion with the guy at ConEd raised another question – do we want a dedicated meter/line for heating? If you combine all your gas usage in one line you’ll pay about 79 cents/therm. Dedicated heating lines start at 69 cents/therm for the first 90 therms, then go down to 53 cents per therm. For really large buildings that use a lot of gas the rate gets down to 41 cents per therm, but townhouses don’t use that much gas. I did some searching on Brownstoner and it looks like well-insulated 3,000 sq. ft. townhouses pay about $300/mo for gas heating for the coldest months. We’ll have about 4,000 heated sq. ft., so our bill will be about $400/month. Running the numbers a dedicated line will bring that down to $300/month – but that savings is only during the coldest months. Total yearly savings would be maybe $400. BUT you have to pay an extra meter charge. I haven’t confirmed it, but I think the meter charge is only during the months that require heating. So that reduces the savings by about $150/year. So total savings is about $250/year (guesstimate).

We’re going to ask our contractor/plumber whether there would be an additional charge for the 3rd meter for heating. If takes more than a few years to recoup the cost we’ll just forget about it. But if it’s inexpensive (or they’ll throw it in) then we’ll put it in.

If you’re thinking about a separate line for heating it’s not worth the trouble unless you’ve got a fairly big townhouse. We’re at about 4,000 heated sq. ft. and it’s a coin toss. If you’re at 5,000 sq. ft. I’d definitely recommend it. If you’re place isn’t properly insulated I’d also recommend it. However, if you’re around 3,000 sq. ft. it’s probably not worth the trouble – the cost of the meter will just about wipe out the savings you get from lower rates.

UPDATE:

I’ve tried pretty hard to get an answer from ConEd about whether a dedicated meter for heating makes sense and I can’t find anyone who can answer the question (!) Hardly anyone at ConEd understands their rate structure and the one guy who seemed to know the most seemed to think I was crazy for asking the question. Then he started talking about how many gallons of oil buildings use that typically have dedicated meters for heating. The gallons of oil comment just floored me. Though I think it comes from selling gas service to buildings that currently use oil  (he was a sales guy). He was incapable of talking in terms of size of the building – units, square feet, etc. He couldn’t even tell me what a typical, well-insulated 2 family or 4,000 sq. ft. house pays in heating on cold months. How can they not know that?

I’d really like to know how much to expect in utility bills every month, but it seems it’s just going to be a mystery until it actually happens. Architect Peter Holtzman was nice enough to tell me he paid $2424 last year for all types of gas for his 3 family townhouse on Astor Row. But then a townhouse owner on the Upper West Side said in the comments below that he paid about $800 for just February alone for his 5,000 sq. ft. 3 family. That’s a pretty big range of possible costs. So who knows?

I give up. They seem to just want to put in two meters – one for each apartment. We’ll just stick with that. The separate line for heating seems like a huge uphill battle that’s just not worth the effort. I guess if our heating bills are absurdly high we can investigate installing a third meter down the road. My guess is the bills won’t be all that bad, but I’ll always wonder if they could be a bit lower.

5 thoughts on “ConEd Residential Gas Rates & Meters

  1. First, I wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your blog. I own a 3 unit 5,000 sq ft. 3 family brownstone on the UWS. Each unit (including our space) has its own gas meter plus there is one for the heat and hot water. Maybe it is because it at commercial rates, but our heat/hot water bill can reach $1,200 in the colder 5’ish months and typically is around $350 in the warmer months. Our building is well insulated with new windows. I am not sure where the $400 per month numbers come from. It could be our furnace isn’t efficient, although I’ve asked heating contractors and been told it makes no sense to upgrade (to get the $1,200 down to $400 a month, saving $4,000, would probably be worth it, but they say it isn’t possible). Our own apartment’s gas bill runs $30 a month and includes a gas dryer, commercial-style oven, and a backyard gas grill. I thought that Con Ed would require a 3rd meter to service the common heating/hot water, if for no other reason that they can then extract the commercial gas rate. I wonder if that may have been what the Con Ed guy was trying to say. Remember, since you can write-off the expense associated with heating the rental apartment, and including it on your meter may confuse matters, there may be a reason to have a 3rd meter.

    • @Jonathan – I was going off the comments on the Brownstoner post about monthly heating costs. Look at the comment by “brooklynrulz” on January 30, 2009 11:02 AM and 11:04 AM…

      “$300 for January, cold month. 4-story, 2-fam brownstone, recently renovated. New high-efficiency Weil-Mclein gas boiler. Baseboard radiators on garden floor, hydronic heat on parlor and upper floors. New windows, which makes a HUGE difference. Garden apt was 70 day, 66 night. Upstairs apartment: Weekend was about 70 during the day, off at night (and by morning it would still be in the low 60s); weekday was set for 70 for just a couple hours in the morning, and a couple hours in the evening.

      “Building is attached. Insulation was put in both the front and back walls, and the roof, as part of the renovation. 3150 sq ft total (all 4 floors).”

      Are you steam, hot water or forced hot air? Steam boilers are all low efficiency. You might also have an over-sized boiler. Boilers only get top efficiency when they’re under heavy load. And you might also have really high ceilings… If you’re at 5,000 heated sq. ft. based on what’s above your bill should be around $500/mo if you had similar efficiency to the guy on Brownstoner (or less with a dedicated meter for heating).

      If you have hot water on the same line with heat then you don’t get the lower rates. As I understand it, you can only get the lower rate for heat only – they even turn off the gas in the summer (when you’d still need hot water). You might want to put hot water on your gas line and then have ConEd reclassify the other line as heat only.

      I’m still a bit confused about gas lines and meters…

  2. We have a natural gas hot water baseboard system (circa 1970’ish) with each of the 5 floors being its own zone. For example, our Feb 2011 bill had us using 544 therms for the month and the Con Ed bill, which is divided up into delivery and fuel was $415.87 and $395.66, respectively. Thats lower than memory served, but in my head I was probably adding the electric bill for the common halls ($179. 34 that month). The other factors that might make our bill higher are: our tenants (there are two floor-thru apartments) have control over their own thermostats and, rest assured, aren’t putting the temp down to the 60s in the evening or during the day when they are out, our family complains the house is cold when it is below 70F (the Brownstoner thread author seemed aggressive — and for us, unrealistic — on lowering thermostats off hours) & our ceilings are fairly high (ranging between 9 ft. on the garden level to 13 on the parlor.

    • Ah… The delivery charge wasn’t something I was factoring into the equation, but it would have been factored into the equation when the guy commented on Brownstoner.

      Architect Peter Holtzman told me his ANNUAL gas bill for EVERYTHING is $2,424 for one of the Astor Row townhouses configured as a 3 family where he pays the entire gas bill for all units. He has 4,700 sq. ft. including walls and livable the English basement. So that, plus the numbers on Brownstoner lead me to believe things were at the lower end of the spectrum when houses are properly insulated.

      I’ve been trying to get in contact with someone at ConEd who can answer my questions. The guy who’s coordinating the install doesn’t understand gas rates – he told me to call customer service. Customer Service couldn’t answer the questions – they gave me the email address for someone else. But that guy didn’t want to (or couldn’t) answer my questions either, so I’m being referred to someone else. Hopefully I’ll have a more definitive answer in the next couple days.

  3. I know this post is a couple yearsold but I think its amazing after my prof. Dan told the class about your blog. That even now while trying to find answers for my families brownstone issues. I still manage to find your blog. Thanks for the great information. I havent checked out the rest of your blog but would it be possible to share your plumber/contracters infomation? We are currently looking for one. Thanks

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