In 2011, New York City, as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign to make the city healthier, adopted new heating oil requirements to reduce the dangerous air particles that contribute to respiratory and other illnesses, says Ira Meister, president and founder, Matthew Adam Properties. While not as well publicized as the mayor’s campaign to eliminate super-sized sodas, the impact of the oil regulations is being felt significantly more by New York City co-ops and condos.
The law calls for the elimination of #6 oil – the dirtiest and most pollution causing oil – by 2015. By then, buildings must convert to lighter #4 or #2 oil or natural gas. Newly installed boilers would have to use the lighter #2 oil or natural gas or their equivalent and by 2030, #4 oil will be phased out.
“In recent years, even before the new city regulations, buildings were converting to natural gas, which is cleaner, requires less maintenance and in recent years has been significantly less costly then oil,” Meister says. Some buildings, depending on their configuration, have switched to dual-fuel options where either oil or gas can be used, depending on the price.
Many buildings have yet to switch to #4 or #2 oil and gas
“We have noticed, as we talk to boards of buildings we do not manage, that many properties have not started the process of complying with the new regulations,” Meister says. Since July 1, 2012, buildings have had to convert to a cleaner fuel before their three-year certificate of operations expires. All properties must be in compliance by January 1, 2015.
“Some buildings have been lax in rushing to the deadline,” Meister says.
The least expensive short-term solution is to convert to #4 oil, which will probably require a tank cleaning and some minor boiler changes. Converting to natural gas can be much more costly and depends on whether the boiler is compatible with gas and the need, very often, to line the chimney as the thinner carbon monoxide produced by natural gas can seep through cracks in the lining. Another concern is whether the building is in a zone where Con Ed supplies natural gas.
The City has streamlined the permit process, allowing permits to be obtained in days instead of weeks
To encourage early compliance, the city streamlined the approval process by reducing the number of documents requires to be filed. Licensed boiler installers can submit one unified form to city agencies and certify that the fuel grade conversions were documented and the necessary work was properly performed without the need of more complex design submissions. This will reduce the estimated upgrading cost per boiler to $7,000 from $10,000. “Additionally,” Meister says, “the city streamlined the permitting process, allowing permits to be obtained in days instead of weeks.”