SPECIAL REPORT: Webinar Outlines What it Takes to Implement Successful Submetering

In a recent webinar organized by Multi-Housing News, speakers provided advice on the key components of an effective submetering program.

By Keat Foong, Executive Editor

New York—Need tips on submetering, or a full-hour course? In a recent webinar organized by Multi-Housing News, speakers provided advice regarding the key components needed for an effective submetering program in any apartment community. The webinar was titled “Smart Submetering: Managing a Successful Program.”

“As we all know, submetering continues to be one of the most effective tools that an apartment company can implement in the quest to reduce utility costs and energy consumption by residents,” said the moderator Diana Mosher, editorial director of Multi-Housing News.

Howard Behr, vice president of business development and submetering services group, NWP Services Corp., provided a short course on “Submetering 101,” information regarding regulations that are driving submetering, and tips for installing and reading meters.

Tom Spangler, a multifamily industry consultant, delineated submetering best practices, and offered advice on implementing a submetering program and finding a partner.

Behr explained there are two components of submetering technology that are often confused by property managers: the submeter, which measures the consumption; and the electronics, which transmit the data. He said meters last 10 to 15 years, with an average life of 12 years, whereas the electronics have a life of seven to 12 years, with an average nine-year life. Behr noted that there are limitations on submetering in many areas, and laws can vary according to the city, county and state. He also said that meter estimates, which are often required when the meter read fails, are a high-risk proposition.

Spangler said that the best approach to submetering is to have a well-maintained submetering system that is working well, and the next best is a RUBS program. The worst-case scenario, he noted, is to have a failing submetering system under which the estimated bills can be “way off” or mall-functioning meters read slowly. Spangler warned that failing meters can be a “huge potential liability” in view of the contractual agreement between the property and the renter.

Spangler said that property managers must “take ownership” of their submetring program. They must anticipate problems, and educate their staff about submetering and the equipment: what is installed, where the equipment is located and how the bills care calculated. It should not be “a fire drill” each time a resident walks in with a question or a complaint about his reading or bill, said Spangler.

Spangler recommended that property managers partner with submetering companies that are full-service providers. “As time goes on, and the program expands, you would be glad you did,” he said. The provider’s legal team need to know the regulations in each locality. Spangler said he would not advice companies to partner with low cost providers. Behr agreed that property managers be careful not to necessarily choose equipment that is the cheapest.

In the question and answer, Spangler said that Return on Investment on submetering systems can be “very quick.” Property owners can obtain their investment back in the first year.

A recording of the webinar is available here.

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