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Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 06:53 am PT (09:53 am ET)

ConEd will help NYC residents connect their air conditioner to their iPhone for free

With another sweltering summer in the offing, New York utility ConEd is once again looking to ease the load on its aging power grid by offering customers a free outlet adapter that will turn a standard window-mounted air conditioner into a WiFi-connected unit that can be controlled from an iPhone.




As part of ConEd's coolNYC program, customers can sign up to receive up to five free smartAC kits — which normally retail for $120 each — from New York-based ThinkEco. The smartAC plugs in between the wall outlet and a window unit, connecting the outlet to the cloud and enabling remote control using a companion iOS app.

Using the app, consumers can turn individual window units on or off at any time and adjust the temperature, even after they have left their apartment. The app also keeps track of power consumption and attempts to quantify the effect of easing off the thermostat by equating energy savings with reduced carbon dioxide emissions and gasoline consumption.

Additional cloud-based software can be used to configure each smartAC kit to operate on a schedule. The target temperature could be automatically increased five minutes after a consumer typically leaves for work, for example, and decreased a few minutes before they usually arrive home.

The program does come with one stipulation: consumers who receive the kits must agree to participate in ConEd's demand response program, which will automatically raise the target temperature of connected units when the utility believes demand will be highest, easing load on the grid. ConEd says they will notify users one day before any event — of which they anticipate up to five throughout the summer — and that consumers can opt out of each event individually.

As an incentive for participation, consumers will also receive a $25 gift card at the end of the summer. Interested ConEd customers in New York can sign up at www.coolnycprogram.com/signup/.