Energy burden and air conditioning adoption in New York City under a warming climate


Global climate change has increased the need for cooling indoor spaces, leading to a rise in adoption of air conditioning. This adoption, while decreasing health risks, can increase energy use and pose economic burdens in low income households. Here, we estimate the burden associated with cooling, as well as potential extreme heat exposure without it in the largest city in the US, New York using a coupled weather and building energy model, utility pay scales, and household income data from the US Census.Results show uneven distribution of AC economic burden, with lower income neighborhoods experiencing the largest relative costs. High-burden neighborhoods see the largest climate-driven increases in spite of lower enthalpy increases. These neighborhoods also have the most exposure to indoor extreme heat, which may triple by end of century. Energy burden may pose a barrier to AC operation, with estimated cost in the lowest income households reaching up to 6.1% of income for a 100 m2 dwelling, which could increase to 8% by end of century. We also explore adaptation strategies and quantify their impacts, finding that modifying traditional set points and reflective roofs can reduce energy burden significantly, by up to 20% in the highest burden neighborhoods.


Link to centre authors: McPhearson, Timon
Publication info: Ortiz, L., Gamarro, H., Gonzalez, J.E. & McPhearson, T. 2021. Energy burden and air conditioning adoption in New York City under a warming climate. Sustainable Cities and Society