Those Icy Blasts Should Be Past

You know the feeling. You are walking along Main Street or Newtown Lane in East Hampton Village on a hot summer day and a cold blast of air slaps you in the face as you pass a boutique’s open door. Do you shiver and keep moving or are you drawn inside by the icy come-on?

The question could be moot soon: The village board is thinking about banning the energy-wasting practice of keeping doors open while cooling systems are operating. New York City passed a similar law in 2015. Exceptions in the Big Apple are made for restaurants with sidewalk dining, something that could be part of a local law. Property owners, commercial tenants, and the general public will have a chance to weigh in at a hearing for which a date will be set shortly. The law seems likely to pass; this is a village that recently took on plastic drinking straws and banned foam containers for take-out food.

Strict limits on the piles of free magazines that marred the business district will go into effect soon. At the same time, the village board is taking another hard look at noisy and polluting leaf blowers. It will also consider whether to join East Hampton and Southampton Towns in mandating nitrogen-reducing septic systems for new construction projects. Together, it is clear that officials are doing their part to improve the village’s environmental and quality of life stewardship.

Air-conditioning matters. The United States Energy Information Administration, a federal agency, estimates that air-conditioning accounts for about 17 percent of residential electricity spending. Houses with central air systems consume about twice the energy of households with window units. And home cooling in the U.S. releases about 117 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide each year.

Locally it is a big deal, too. PSEG-Long Island oversees the South Fork Peak Savers program in which ratepayers in Southampton and East Hampton Towns with central air systems can sign up to receive a free Nest brand remotely programmable thermostat; rebates of up to $500 are available for customers who already have a Nest or Honeywell Wi-Fi unit to control their home air-conditioning. Participants’ cooling settings can then be changed an imperceptible degree or two, maybe three, during the May-to-September cooling season when there is increased demand. A $25 per summer incentive is paid to participants in good standing, who will likely also have reductions in their power bills. (The incentive aspect of the program was misstated in an Oct. 24 editorial.)

From a macro point of view, the benefits are twofold: reducing demand on the electrical grid during the height of summer and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many East Hampton Village residents are familiar with the dark smoke from the diesel “peaker” generators off Cove Hollow Road. We can assume that no small volume of those noxious fumes goes to power shops that keep their doors open wide. 

New York State and the Town of East Hampton are setting goals and taking steps to rely 100 percent on renewable energy as soon as possible. East Hampton Village can add to the momentum by continuing to insist that businesses can be, in effect, better citizens.