New Yorkers are no strangers to blistering summer heat. Extreme heat is the number one weather-related threat to American lives, and the threat is only increasing because of climate change. This year promises to be another dangerously hot summer, and it comes as many people remain sheltering in their homes to do their part to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Seniors and people with pre-existing health conditions are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and illness caused by extreme heat.

With these challenges in mind, it’s vital to understand low-cost ways to keep cool and to know your options if you need help staying safe in extreme heat conditions.

  1. Draw the blinds on windows that face morning and afternoon sun and close windows during the day. Choose blinds with a white reflective side in order to keep your home cooler during the summer.
  2. A fan will only cool you if it is under 90°F. During hot days, you can create a breeze by placing a fan in a window so the air is blowing out. At night, turn the fan around in the window so the room is cooled by the night air. Fans use 93% less energy than window A/C units.
  3. If you cannot afford to run your A/C constantly, set the cooling temperature to at least 85°F so it will keep the home at a safe temperature. Closing off parts of your home that you do not need to cool can help your A/C run more efficiently. Don’t forget to close your closet and bathroom doors!
  4. If you have a freezer, moisten a few old cloths or towels. When you get too warm, place them over your neck to provide temporary cooling relief. Your freezer will also run more efficiently if it’s full of frozen items, keeping your home cooler and reducing your utility bills. Avoid cooking with the stove or oven during hot days.
  5. Check out New York City’s cooling plan, which can be found here. Currently, all cooling centers and spray showers are shut down due to the pandemic. New York City has promised to expand their cooling center program by finding additional neighborhood sites and using non-traditional venues, such as sporting facilities and auditoriums. Unfortunately, as the weather heats up, details are still scarce.

In addition to these tips, there are a number of programs and resources to help keep cool during the most dangerous temperatures.

Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)

  • Provides a single window A/C unit once every ten years.
  • There must be a household member with a diagnosed medical condition that is worsened by extreme heat.
  • Household income must be less than or equal to 60% of state median income.
  • Apply here

ConEd Monthly Emergency Summer Cooling Credits

  • Monthly credit valued at approximately $34
  • Must receive benefits from specific governmental programs (HEAP, SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, etc.) to qualify
  • Apply here


  • Grant amounts up to $200
  • Must have a disconnection notice on their Con Edison accounts
  • Must not have received EnergyShare benefits in the past four calendar years
  • Household income must be less than or equal to 60% of state median income.

If you’re looking for additional information or help applying to these programs, please contact the Center’s Community Energy Advisors at 646-760-4030.