Con Ed pushes efficiency at Hispanic Chamber

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For Cynthia Suarez, who owns the restaurant La Casa del Gaucho in East Elmhurst, electric bills can be around $3,000 a month, but she is hoping Con Edison’s Small Business Energy Efficiency Program will allow her to keep more in her wallet after she turns on the lights.

“I’m really happy,” Suarez said when she heard about the program. “If I can really save all the money that they are telling us, it’s going to be really helpful.”

About 30 people crowded into a room March 9 at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Queens, at 76-11 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights. Representatives from the electricity company described in Spanish and English their new, free inspection program. For businesses that use less than 100 kilowatt-hours a month, Con Ed offers a free inspection of their homes to indicate to businesses how they can be more energy efficient, suggesting things such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, low-flow aerators which regulate water usage, high-pressure rinse sprayers and a water heater thermostat setback, which controls the temperature of the water heater.

“If you choose to do the upgrades, Con Edison will pay 70 percent,” said Letty Torres, field supervisor for Con Ed.

Christian Astudillo, LEAD surveyor for Con Ed, said the company has done 200 to 225 of these surveys for small businesses in Queens. They take an average of about a half hour to two hours to complete. He said he has inspected businesses from small delis to dentist offices with multiple locations. The cost of the upgrades depends on what the business needs, but Con Ed always pays 70 percent and pays it at once.

“It’s not a rebate,” Astudillo said. “It’s an immediate thing.”

Patricia Mahecha, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said she became aware of this program when she used it to get inspections for the chamber and her insurance office in the same building. It cost $1,400 to install new lighting in her insurance office, but Con Ed picked up $980 of the expense, leaving her with a $419 bill that would save her an estimated $742 annually.

“We wanted to share this experience with all the new business owners,” Mahecha said.

She said she is planning to do another event with Con Ed in May.

Jean Hemmerman of Con Ed said the program not only helps business’ bottom line, but is beneficial to the environment. She said about 10 to 15 people at the event signed up for an inspection.

Astudillo said those interested in a survey should contact him by e-mail at More information about the program can be found at

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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