Just the other day during a freakish springtime scorcher, I wearily eyed my two air conditioner units and wondered how soon it would be until I have to resurrect them from storage (i.e. the corners of my bedroom and living room), dust them off, and mount them in my windows. How long until the sweltering season of sky-high electric bills commences? Blargh.


Although I try (try being the operative word here) to take it easy as possible on my somewhat aged window units and experiment with alternative methods of cooling my fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Brooklyn, it’s not always easy. I need comfort. I'm weak. So be it.


I also can’t really afford to over do it and leave ‘em running full-blast 24/7 during the most godawful sweaty spans of summer given that electricity rates in the city are high and my ACs are older and on the inefficient side (as with all electronics and appliances, I won’t replace them until they completely poop out, which explains why I still have a massive CRT TV that’s only a few years old but is already completely outdated). 


Given my tortured relationship with non-central air, news that NYC’s electric utility, Con Edison, has partnered with ThinkEco — the developer of an innovative plug-in smart outlet called the Modlet — to launch a summertime energy-savings program geared specifically towards New Yorkers reliant on AC window units for their summertime cooling needs … well, it really caught my attention.


Through the voluntary, incentive-based coolNYC program, Con Ed will distribute ThinkEco Modlet smartAC kits to large apartment buildings across the city later this spring. (You can also sign up to receive one for free, here.) The smartAC kit will include a standard, easy-to-install Modlet along with a smartAC thermostat, a remote control device that communicates between the Modlet and a user’s personalized online ThinkEco account.


Essentially, the trio of Modlet, smartAC thermostat and Web-based app will allow participants to remotely turn on or off or adjust the temperature of AC window units remotely from a computer or through ThinkEco iPhone or Android apps. Users will also be able to preset their window units to operate on an established schedule. For someone like me who dreads coming home to a boiling apartment, but who is also hesitant to leave an AC running for hours while I'm away, this is a biggie. I can’t imagine anything more delightful than turning on the AC via my phone while waiting for the bus home. Additionally, during peak usage events, the technology will allow Con Ed to step in and automatically — and remotely — adjust a unit’s temperature.


For the program, Con Edison and ThinkEco are hoping to have 10,000 smart-ified, Modlet-equipped AC window units (there are more than 6 million window units in Con Ed’s service area) up and running in an effort to reduce summertime energy consumption in the city by five megawatts — enough juice to power 5,000 homes.  


Says Erik Katz, CEO of ThinkEco, in a recent press release:


The coolNYC program is proving how New York City residents are highly receptive to using smart consumer-oriented products that save energy and enhance personal convenience. As electrical demand continues to increase, we need to ensure a way to relieve pressure on the grid in the absence of new capacity.

Sounds good to me. Head on over to the coolNYC homepage to learn more and to answer a few questions to see if you're eligible to receive a free Modlet smartAC kit at the end of May. Added bonus: participants will receive a $25 “thank you” at the end of the program. Don't live in NYC? ThinkEco plans to make the smartAC kits available outside of the city as well. Or, you can also purchase a Modlet a la carte to help curb wasted electricity associated with other household devices. They're $50 a pop and available directly through ThinkEco or at Best Buy. Any dedicated Modlet users out there care to share their experiences with the device?

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

New Yorkers: When AC season hits, will you be a 'modlet' citizen?
The green gadgeteers responsible for the Modlet and Con Edison partner to launch coolNYC, a grid-relieving, energy-saving initiative revolving around remote-con