For condo owners, there’s no better way to contribute to your entire community than making energy efficiency upgrades or helping raise awareness of the importance sustainable efforts can have on the community’s environment and well-being.
Such upgrades are especially important in a condo community as energy efficient improvements not only cut costs for the individual homeowners but can benefit the entire community as well. As an HOA property manager, we strive to improve our network of condo communities by prioritizing such efforts as they help make operations and maintenance efforts more efficient while increasing home values and the quality of life for those who live there.
We encourage you to see if community-wide buy in can not only cut costs for your community’s homeowners, but help you encourage better planning for building upgrades along with allocation of the available budget. Here are just a few options to discuss this spring with your condo board from the GNP Realty HOA property management team.
Design the Right Energy and Water Strategy for Your Property
While we all know that no property is exactly the same as another, sometimes we discuss topics like energy management as though there are one-size-fits-all solutions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your condominium will face energy challenges completely distinct from those just down the street. That’s why it makes sense to start by crafting a unified and integrated utilities strategy before you begin to make changes.
Some of the steps you can perform in order to ensure that you create an appropriate power and water strategy include:
- Conducting an energy audit
- Determining that you are procuring your utilities in the most cost-effective way possible
- Providing ongoing analytics regarding building energy and water use
- Performing a cost-benefit analysis of proposed solutions
- Running feasibility studies of proposed solutions
- Discussing potential changes with residents prior to implementing them
How to Save Energy: Green Solutions for Your Condo
Even if your condo is older and energy efficiency new construction isn’t an option, you can still help create energy efficient apartments and condos in your facility. An obvious first step involves common areas. While management can only encourage changes in resident-owned units, they have much more leeway when dealing with common areas. While we will discuss some of these green solutions in more detail below, common energy-saving steps include installing:
- High-efficiency lighting and ballasts
- Low-flow, water-efficient toilets
- Energy-efficient air handlers
- High-efficiency boilers
- Heat reflectors
- Fresh insulation
- Seals around draft-prone areas
An environmentally friendly/ENERGY STAR checklist really boils down to two things: replacing energy- or water-inefficient appliances with those that perform far better and making sure structural or appliance-related degradation doesn’t lead to energy waste. Efficiency strategies will doubtlessly vary, but their particulars always lead back to these two points.
Beware of Phantom Power: Effects and Costs
Speaking of preventing energy waste, one of the greatest concerns in energy star apartments and energy star homes alike is that of phantom power. Ironically, phantom power is also one of the easiest inefficiencies to remedy. What is it? In essence, phantom power is what happens when devices that remain in a standby mode while otherwise powered off continue to draw current. Media-related appliances such as televisions, stereo speakers, computers, laptops, and gaming consoles are common culprits. However, other types of appliances such as chargers and smart appliances also drain electricity constantly.
While not extensively studied, some academics have begun measuring phantom power’s impact and costs. A study from the University of Oregon’s Department of Architecture stated, “With the growing popularity of ratings systems to quantify energy use in buildings, the ability to effectively measure and minimize plug loads has become increasingly important. Phantom loads by definition are not used to perform a primary device function and thus reducing these loads is one of the easiest ways of cutting plug loads. The present study looked at units at Hilyard House Apartments in Eugene, Oregon. The hypothesis for this study was that more than 25% of total energy use metered would be consumed by phantom power loads.”
Managing phantom power often falls to residents rather than management. The condo association should let residents know that automatic outlet timers are a great way to improve their energy efficiency, and residents should put them to use.
Upgrade Your Light Bulbs
Replacing existing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs is a small change that can make a dramatic impact on energy usage in individual condos as well as common areas. In addition to the reduction in energy consumed (up to 75%!), this upgrade can also make a substantial dent in each condo owners’ energy bill and allow for association fees to be used towards other community improvements, instead of electric bills.
Manage Water More Effectively
Being more mindful about water usage can also contribute to the environment and help cut costs closer to home. Discussing these practices during monthly board meetings, with the support of your HOA property manager if need be, can help improve awareness of the cause and get more people on board with prioritizing community changes. A few different ways that water usage can be reduced in quantity and expense include:
- Using the cold cycle as much as possible when washing clothing
- Installing smart showerheads help reduce the amount of water used per shower
- Turning down the temperature of your water heater
- Purchasing an insulation blanket for your hot water heater to prevent heat loss and stop cold air from penetrating the tank
- Urging condo owners to report leaky taps and running toilets immediately
Replace Your Windows
Upgrading windows is one of the most impactful energy upgrades that a condo owner can make, however, the total investment is usually rather extensive. When windows get old, they lose their ability to seal. This lets cool air out during summer months and warm air out in winter months. At the very least, inquire with your HOA community manager if there are funds available to replace windows in shared areas so that, in part, heat and air conditioning can be retained in common entry and exit areas of the building or facility.
Energy Efficient Appliances
When appliances, such as washers and dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, toilets and even some air conditioners die, it’s wise to replace them with energy efficient versions that can help minimize electricity, water, and other energy resources. In addition, these energy star rated appliances will help cut both shared and community-wide energy bills. Even “smart” thermostats can be pre-programed to adjust the temperature based on the time of day, ambient room temperature and expected use.
Partnering with Your HOA Property Management Company to Make Energy Efficiency a Priority
If your condo board is not currently talking about options to decrease community costs, it’s up to you to bring up the topic at your next meeting. From posting friendly reminders in common areas to getting your entire community’s support for long-term energy efficient plans, every little bit counts!
And speaking of every little bit helping, let’s discuss some quick tips that both condo residents and managers can implement in order to conserve energy while maximizing comfort. These tips include:
- Turn down the thermostat while you sleep. Easing up off the heat not only will help conserve energy, it may also ensure that you rest better. A study in the journal La Presse Médicale found that people in pajamas and using one sheet generally slept better when the temperature was below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Weatherstrip your windows and draft-proof your outlets. While weatherstripping windows is an obvious energy-saving step, draft-proofing outlets with foam gaskets, caulk, or putty also helps.
- Wash your clothes on cold. ENERGY STAR house plans place a heavy focus on efficiency, and an area they dial in on is the laundry room. If a load doesn’t absolutely require it, don’t wash in warm or hot water.
- Seal off your window-unit air conditioner. Window units are far less efficient than central AC, but if you absolutely must use one, ensure that it’s well sealed.
- Shorten up your shower. Sailors practice aptly named “Navy showers” during which they turn off the water while lathering up. You don’t have to change your showering habits that much, but shortening shower time saves water and energy.
- Don’t block air registers and radiators. Blocking registers keeps room temperatures lower or higher than they should be.
- Don’t rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Not only does pre-washing dishes impede your detergent’s cleaning action, it wastes a significant amount of water.
- Keep your blinds down in the summer. Want to make sure that the AC isn’t constantly cycling? Draw the curtains!
- Attend to leaky faucets or constantly running toilets. ENERGY STAR program requirements for some water-based appliances require automatic leak detection. It’s no wonder why: Leaks waste immense amounts of water. Don’t ignore dripping faucets or constantly running toilets.
- Put rugs down on wood floors. Rugs not only look great, they also keep your feet warm when everything is cold outside.