Energy-efficiency measures are the best way to reduce your carbon footprint while saving on the utility bill. Energy-efficiency tools and practices have come a long way in the past decade and those operating multifamily properties have the most to gain when it comes to taking advantage of the cost-savings aspect of energy efficiency.
At the San Diego County Apartment Association, we know that our members often have more immediate pressing issues to address when it comes to building maintenance, but retrofitting a building now can save a lot of costs to both building operators and tenants down the road.
It’s a trend that’s catching on across the region. SDG&E, for example, recently selected Grand Villa Apartments in Escondido to serve as its Multifamily Energy Efficient Community Project.
“Our goal is to raise awareness about SDG&E’s multifamily retrofit offerings — the Multifamily Energy Efficiency Rebate program and Energy Upgrade California Multifamily program,” said DeDe Henry, SDG&E program manager.
“We want to give multifamily property owners and stakeholders a tangible example of how they can use these programs to further improve tenant comfort, decrease energy expenses and reduce costly turnovers and vacancies at their properties.”
There are some methods and times in a property’s life cycle that work best for energy-efficiency improvements. Properties, for example, that are scheduled to undergo roof, air conditioning or window replacements also are good fits for energy-efficient upgrades.
Here are some other useful steps to consider:
• Many upgrades can be made outdoors. Outdoor lighting can be replaced with high-efficacy pin-based fixtures. It is also helpful to program outside light fixtures to turn on only when needed. Motion-activated fixtures or fixtures that turn on only in the absence of natural light, are good choices.
• Planting large, shady trees around the property can help keep the units cooler, especially if placed by windows or entrances. This is one of the most affordable ways to keep a property cool, but be mindful that tree placement may create security concerns.
• Most pools have energy-efficiency potential. Changing a pool pump to a variable speed pump will save on water and energy, and solar water panels placed in the pool use the power of the sun to heat the water.
• Of course, solar panels on the roof of a building (including clubhouses) are a good idea when it comes to long-term savings. While the initial investment can be a deterrence, property owners should keep three things in mind: there are several state and federal tax incentives for those investing in solar energy, the cost of installation is a one-time cost and the cost-savings will be significant and lasting.
• Speaking of the sun, it is one of the most important factors when working to keep a unit cool in the summer. Installing double-paned windows helps keep the heat outdoors, and tinted windows also help reduce the sun’s heat indoors, which lower your need for air conditioning. Weather-stripping helps when refurbishing windows.
• Energy-efficient appliances can save a lot on electricity and water bills. Replacing old refrigerators, dishwashers and washing and drying machines can lead to significant savings.
• Insulation is also a factor to consider when trying to lower the costs of gas and electric bills. Insulation is the barrier that will regulate the flow of heat in and out of the building and units. Good wall insulation makes a huge difference when it comes to how much energy is needed to heat or cool a place.
Insulation upgrades is one of the most cost-effective measures for any property manager. SDG&E offers home-insulation rebates that can save up to 25 percent on winter heating costs.
• Another important heating consideration is the furnace. Modern furnaces, such as multistage or multispeed furnaces, can lower heating bills.
• Turning down the temperature on water heaters, insulating water lines and using low-flow fixtures for showers and baths, are important steps to take, too.
• There are plenty of small, inexpensive steps you can take, such as using energy-efficient lightbulbs.
As you can see, there are many options for the eco- and cost-conscious property owner and manager. Many properties are becoming more energy-efficient. Remember, there is no change too small!