The Time To Conserve Energy Is Now

By Laura Khouri, senior vice president, Western National Property ManagementToday’s apartment owners and property managers are placing a greater emphasis on energy conservation — not only to cut costs, but also to lessen the environmental impact of their properties. Since there may also be legislation requiring more environmentally sensitive equipment, water-saving devices and additional conservation measures, managers and owners should address this issue now, rather than waiting.Green lifestyles are becoming more common in today’s day and age, with a growing number of opportunities to conserve in the world of multifamily property management. Here are a few easy strategies to assist owners and managers in their quest to conserve energy.Utility Billing ServicesIncreases in energy costs are often seen at a higher rate than rent increases, creating a negative impact on the bottom line. Utility billing services help manage and reduce operating costs, encourage conservation and protect rents. Residents tend to be more conscious of their energy uses when billed individually. One such provider, California Utility Billing Services (CUBS) handles resident billing, utility cost monitoring, payment processing and comprehensive reporting for communities to encourage conservation and responsible use of natural resources. The California Utility Billing Services’ goal is to help communities control rising utility costs by providing resident utility billing with easily accessible tools and reports. To make this easier, most utility billing services provide customized training to the community staff to get the most out of the programs. The minor costs associated with utility billing services are often offset by the lower rates charged by utility providers. Energy-Efficient ProductsEnergy-efficient products are now widely available and often offer rebates upon purchase. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy aimed to help save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Energy Star’s website offers a number of tips and tools for apartment owners.Energy Star offers pre-recorded training sessions on dozens of topics to help jump-start an energy management program and achieve successful results. One of the online sessions discusses Energy Star’s Change a Light, Change the World Campaign, which encourages individuals to sign a Change a Light pledge and replace at lease one light in their home with a compact fluorescent bulb. Campaigns, such as Change a Light, Change the World, are a good way to not only reduce the risk of global warming and save costs, but also to promote green-friendly activities and events within multifamily communities.Energy Star qualified products use anywhere between 10 percent to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models so are the right choice for multifamily properties, but even if residents are to provide their own appliances, owners can do their part by mailing out monthly conservation tips and recommendations to residents. Energy saving tip cards can be downloaded or ordered at no cost from energy-saving marketing and outreach programs such as Flex Your Power. The two-page cards can be sent to residents as reminders on how to save energy at home. Flex Your Power web banners, logos and links are also provided at no charge and can be placed on community websites to help gain awareness.Energy Star also offers rebates for the use of energy conservative products. Apartment owners and property managers can simply enter a particular zip code and the Energy Star website will provide a number of different appliances that will save money and energy. More information about Energy Star can be found at www.energystar.gov and more on Flex Your Power is available at www.fypower.org.Water-Saving DevicesThe Irrigation Association is an organization dedicated to promoting efficient irrigation and provides a number of benefits including educating the public on water-saving practices, tips on how to install and maintain an automatic irrigation system and guidelines to finding a professional irrigation contractor.The Irrigation Association has named July Smart Irrigation Month to help spread the word about smart practices and new technology. This is another great opportunity to share water-saving tips with residents and promote conservation measures that are being done within their communities.New equipment, such as “smart irrigation controllers,” helps reduce outdoor water use. Smart controllers monitor water levels by linking directly with weather services, track the dryness of the soil and can be programmed to work with most varieties of vegetation. These are powerful pro-environmental tools, as over-watering not only wastes water, but also ruins plants, invites disease and can cause insect infestations. This is an example of a technology that while costly to purchase and install, will cut costs in the long run through savings in water, savings on vegetation replacement and savings through avoiding insect infestations and mold, which are extremely expensive to remedy. (More information about smart irrigation systems is available at www.irrigation.org.)Laura Khouri is senior vice president of Western National Property Management, a company that manages more than 28,000 multifamily units throughout the western United States. She may be reached at lkhouri@wng.com.