Submeters Save Energy, According to NYC Demonstration

New York--Does submetering at an apartment complex reduce energy usage throughout the property?

Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

New York–Does submetering at an apartment complex reduce energy usage throughout the property? A demonstration in New York City by Cammeby’s International Group, a privately held real estate company, suggests that it does.

The company, working with energy consultant and engineer Herbert E. Hirschfeld, measured the impact of electrical submetering at five of its residential properties in the city recently. Each unit at each of the properties was equipped with its own electrical submeter, replacing the master meter that was previously used, and the study monitored the total usage under the new system compared with the old. The program resulted in a savings of more than eight million kwH per year of electricity throughout the test properties–or a 26 percent savings.

The submeters were installed by a public-private partnership between Cammeby’s International and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which partially funded the cost of the conversion with the goal of reducing overall electrical usage. The properties involved were the Queens Fresh Meadows complex in Queens, which consists of two 13-story high-rise buildings, 67 two-story low-rise buildings and 70 three-story low-rise buildings; Greenpark Sussex in Flushing, which consists of two mid-rise apartment buildings; Trump Village Apartments Sections One and Two in Brooklyn, which consists of two high-rise buildings; and Greenpark Essex in Flushing, which consists of four mid-rise buildings.

With submetering, the measurement and billing of electric use took place in individual apartments rather than the entire development. That allowed electrical costs to be distributed among the residents more fairly, according to Cammeby’s International, but more importantly, the energy savings was more than enough to power 1,100 residential apartments, and carbon emissions were reduced by more than 7 million pounds.

Apparently, paying for one’s own electricity is an incentive to conserve it. But will submetered apartments be competitive with apartments that offer electricity included in the rent? Cammeby’s asserts that they will be, because that feature will appeal to certain renters.

“The issue facing any prospective tenant is ‘What is my monthly expenditure going to be for this apartment?’ and when you add up the rent, utilities, and any other costs, for example, telephone, cable, Internet, and come up with a total cost,”¬†Dennis Hasher, counsel of Cammeby’s International, tells MHN. “Electricity is a controllable cost. Therefore, if I’m looking at the exact same apartment, where one includes utilities and one doesn’t, I have to analyze what the difference is.

“If I’m the type of person who isn’t home often and doesn’t use a lot of electricity, I would opt for the submetered electricity because that gives me the opportunity to save money,” Hasher continues. “If I’m a big user of electricity, I would opt for the apartment where it’s included.”