From simple and inexpensive to extensive and pricey, there are a variety of products and techniques that will reduce energy costs in your building.
Many prospective tenants seek the latest in energy-efficient improvements and expect as much with their rentals. As a property manager, updating your building’s amenities can satisfy the needs of tenants, attract new clientele and increase the property value.
Start With a Plan
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, simple insulation and air sealing techniques can reduce a home’s heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent. When deciding to make your facility more energy efficient, even the smallest updates can save money on property maintenance costs as well as on monthly utility bills.
“Doing these types of remedial repairs is what increases the value of the property and the quality of the tenant,” says James Tungsvik, MPM, RMP, a member of the national board of directors at the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM).
Knowing which improvements are right for your property is key. The first step is to conduct an energy audit. It’s important to know exactly where your money is going before you decide which systems to replace. This can be done by examining past bills and looking for seasonal trends, or spikes, in costs.
“Just conducting an energy audit typically results in energy savings of 15 percent per year,” says George Elvin, a professor of architecture at Ball State University.
Once you conduct your audit, consider these retrofits for your property:
With the rising costs of energy, it’s important to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Installing weatherstripping is one of the most economical decisions you can make in your sustainable retrofit plan. Weatherstripping doors and caulking windows ensures there is no space for air to escape and can help property managers save on monthly bills.
These repairs range from simple DIY improvements to more involved installations. Either way, weatherstripping is a low-budget option that can save property managers at least 15 percent in energy costs each year. Spending approximately $500 upfront for effective weatherstripping can offer a 50 percent return on investment in the first year alone. So you will see savings by year two.
Depending on the amount of sealing and insulating necessary for your windows, ducts and doors, there are many weatherstripping options to choose from, including caulks, adhesive foam insulation and rubber doorstops.
If you want more than simple remedies for additional energy savings, installing sun-shielding blinds or window shades is a logical next step. This option will reduce heating and cooling costs and can be an attractive addition to your facility.
Though this is a more expensive retrofit — blinds can range upward of $200 — it can have a surprisingly early ROI, depending on climate and your audit. In addition, according to Tungsvik, payoffs for these aesthetic retrofits also can help with turnover.
“Bigger payoffs come over time; you can’t always put your hand on it,” he says. “[Property mangers] can rent upgrades quicker, owners get to see less time on the market, and you’ll have better-quality tenants.”
Another important aesthetic improvement is the installation of energy-efficient windows. According to Elvin, almost $10 billion worth of energy is lost every year through inefficient windows. The new energy-efficient models have undergone significant improvements to ensure less air leakage, warmer window surfaces and decreased condensation.
Though this is a relatively big-ticket item, the payoff is equally as great. Purchasing Energy Star-certified windows can save as much as $400 a year when replacing single-pane windows.
In addition to saving money on utility bills, there are many practical benefits to installing new windows. Not only will the majority of energy-efficient windows cut down on drafts and overheating, but many also come equipped with a protective coating to protect furniture and valuables from harmful ultraviolet light.
Promoting Your Property
Robert Owens, co-founder and president/CEO of OR&L Facility Services, says there are long-term financial gains when you switch to a green management program. Operating expenses decrease, and buildings committed to an energy-efficient approach are “seen as progressive and responsible members or the community, which will have lasting public relations and building marketing benefits,” Owens says.
However, it’s not possible to be a green leader in your community without hiring the right professionals. Use certified engineers and HVAC technicians who are familiar with the industry’s new energy management software systems and best practices and can make educated decisions about upgrading your facility.
“Buildings use 40 percent of our nation’s energy,” Elvin says, “and energy-efficiency retrofits are our No. 1 weapon for fighting carbon emissions and global climate change while also saving a whole lot of money.”
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