Have you registered for 2018 Apartmentalize?

NAA is now Apartmentalize!

The Minol team looks forward to seeing you at Booth #2431

For more information or to register, please visit www.naahq.org/apartmentalize


Minol on the Road in Michigan

Minol has a busy March in Michigan! We hope to see you at one or both tradeshows.

IREM/DMAA Tradeshow
Tuesday, March 21
Burton Manor
27777 Schoolcraft Rd
Livoinia, MI 48150

Property Management Association of Mid Michigan
Tuesday, March 27
Crowne Plaza Lansing West
925 S. Creyts Road
Lansing, MI 48917

These may seem like simple tasks but all require significant time and effort, as well as a trained eye to know exactly what to look for and when. In addition, dealing directly with utility providers can be challenging if you aren’t accustomed to navigating the processes.

1) Utility rate errors. You may not be charged the correct rate. Check the provider website and compare the posted rate schedule to your bill. If your building is multifamily and you are being billed a commercial rate, it is likely higher than a residential rate. Also, there are some rates based on occupancy. These occupancy numbers on occasion on are reverted to a factor of “1 occupant” if the numbers aren’t updated by the owner. The result is a rate increase. Rates may also be based on meter size. Find out sizes of your meters and compare with your bill to make sure it is reflected correctly. Contact the provider to find out if the meter associated with the account qualifies for a lower rate. If the building does qualify for a lower rate, you may be able to request up to a 5 year credit of the incorrect rate you were charged

2) Utility providers have charged the account taxes. In several states utility taxes aren’t allowed to be charged and yet, the provider charges them anyway. For example, Texas utilities  were charging tax on utilities. If you find taxes on your bill, contact your PUC or attorney to find out if the type of tax on your bill is allowed and how far back you can request a refund if applicable. If you’ve been incorrectly charged, you can estimate the taxes you’ve paid and send a request for a refund to the provider going back 5 years or more.

3) Meter read error. If your consumption has increased more than 15% over the previous month and the previous year, same month, you have a problem. First check to see if the previous read is the same as the end read last month. If not, there’s a definite meter read error. Next, assuming no known leak or work requiring water (like filling a pool, power washing, etc.) has been done, look for a leak. Check to see if the meter is running when the building is unoccupied or residents are likely sleeping. Have a qualified maintenance supervisor check the meter after midnight and take a video if the meter is moving. Utilities are quick to say there is no leak without thoroughly investigating. You will need proof either way. If no leak is apparent, request a re-read of the meter. Be sure to have an onsite maintenance team member there when the utility company re-reads the meter to verify their findings.

4) Estimated reads. Estimated reads can have a very negative impact on your budget by hitting you with an expense that is too high or low. Estimating too low may result in an immense true-up expense on a future bill. Stay vigilant about calling the provider and requesting a “true read.” The provider may be having trouble accessing the meter. Schedule an appointment and meet the meter reader to ensure your read gets correctly trued up.

5) Erroneous deposits. If you are charged a deposit, always investigate it before you pay. Even if this is a new property you may not need to pay a deposit if the same owner name has credit in excellent standing with the utility provider. Call the provider and they will look up the credit standing for the legal entity name. If you can’t get the deposit waived, find out how long the deposit hold will be and make a calendar note to reach out for a future refund.

6) Charging late fees during the grace period. If you have a late fee on your bill, check your records to see if you paid by the due date. If you have proof of the payment date, call the provider and request the late fee be removed.

7) Multiple bills for the same account/same period. If you receive two or more bills for the same account in a bill period, call the provider for an explanation. Unless the dates line up perfectly, there’s a duplicate bill issue to be credited.

8) Bill use/cost duplicate. The use or cost amount of the bill is exactly the same as the previous bill. Unless this is a flat rate bill versus a bill based on actual consumption, it may be an estimated bill. Call the provider and ask for an actual consumption based bill.

9) Overlapping bill periods. If the beginning or end dates are the same as the previous bill overlap you may be charged twice for those days. Call the provider and request a credit for the overlapping days.

10) Zero usage on bill. The meter is likely not working or the provider’s process isn’t catching the read and charging you. Don’t let this for more than one billing period or you will eventually receive a large true up bill.

Don’t let your revenue go down the drain or out the window! By not auditing utility bills, many portfolios are paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra fees and incorrect rates. It’s worth your time to get to know your bills or assign a skilled analyst to manage it for you.

Preventative HVAC Equals Energy Savings

No Cost and Low Cost Preventative HVAC Equals Energy Savings

Heating and cooling accounts for approximately 56 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. building, making HVAC the largest energy expense hitting your bottom line. HVAC systems that are not regularly maintained quickly turn into energy gluts that can decimate your utility budget. Systems not properly cleaned and repaired can use up to 25 percent more energy just to function.

Completing preventative maintenance on HVAC systems is well beyond cleaning the coils and changing filters. There are many sources for excellent checklists, including the EPA and the manufacturers of the systems you have in place.

Below are some essential steps that can be done in house to assess the condition of the system, as well as other conservation opportunities for little or no expense. The steps can be used on central or individual HVAC systems:

  1. Use manufacturer data sheets to start your check. If you no longer have the hard copies, look online. These sheets will show optimum performance guidelines and steps to keep the system in excellent working order.
  2. Watch that thermostat or time clock! Scrutinize the settings and timing to be sure someone isn’t tampering with them to increase unnecessary energy use. Is your system set to reduce energy usage when occupancy is low such as evening hours in offices, business centers and common areas?
  3. Is anything blocking air intake/exhaust returns or anything being stored around the system that could impede proper air flow to the system?
  4. Do you have proper insulating blinds and shades on windows to reduce heat loss in the evenings in offices and common areas? Are they in good repair and being closed nightly?
  5. Outlets are a source for air loss. Use safety plugs on all unused outlets to prevent heat loss.
  6. Clean all dirt on working and movable components. This includes coils, fan motors, ducts, grilles, drain pans that may be blocked, dampers, heat exchangers and the general exterior of the system as well.
  7. Open access doors and check for loose wiring, turning components, fire dampers, valves and replace as needed. Run the system through a heating cycle and check to see that automatic dampers and valves are opening properly and closing tightly.
  8. Check to see that the fan is rotating in the proper direction and the speed equals the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  9. Replace any loose or worn belts or correct belt tension. Check for drive misalignment.
  10. Verify indicated temperature against actual outtake temperature.
  11. Discontinue use of unneeded exhaust fans, check pump suction and discharge pressures: Do they match manufacturer requirements?  Reduce impeller size for greater energy savings where it doesn’t interfere with manufacturer recommendations.
  12. Install timing devices to reduce heating during low occupancy hours. Close air ducts in little or unused areas not subject to freezing pipes.

Once you’ve completed your preventative maintenance, make sure you set up a log to keep track of your work and the system’s operating standards.  Next, compare your energy use (not cost as rates fluctuate) to the same month in the previous year taking into account heating degree day variables. Your goal is to mirror the manufacturer’s use metrics for your particular system and maintain or reduce energy usage year over year or identify when the system needs to be repaired or updated based on the energy results. 

By taking the time to thoroughly check your HVAC system, you will not only save energy but late night emergency calls from disgruntled residents and uncomfortable explanations to owners about why their building isn’t being maintained. Preventative HVAC is time and energy well spent!

Source: EPA

Minol USA and Zenner USA Support Hurricane Relief Efforts

ADDISON, TX – November 2, 2017 – Minol USA and Zenner USA, leaders in the utility metering and utility billing industries, made a $20,000 donation to the One America Appeal fund to provide much needed relief to those impacted by hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“Our sincere thanks to Minol USA and Zenner USA for their kind donation to the One America Appeal. This has been a truly devastating hurricane season, and even though these catastrophic storms are no longer dominating news coverage there are too many Americans who need our help. Thanks to Minol USA, Zenner USA and the other 80,000-plus donors to this cause, we are trying to help where it is needed most,“ said Jim McGrath, spokesperson for One America Appeal.

Launched by all five living former American presidents, One America Appeal, is one of the few organizations that ensures 100 percent of every dollar donated goes to hurricane recovery. Minol USA and Zenner USA’s donation will be divided amongst the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Rebuild Texas Fund, Florida Disaster Fund and Unidos Por Puerto Rico.

“Many of Minol’s customers are directly impacted by these devastating storms. We hope this donation will assist them as they rebuild structures and lives,” said Wilmar Basson, President of Minol USA.

“A company is defined by its professional successes but more importantly by its compassion. The Zenner team is honored to help in the recovery efforts,” said Rich Sanders, President of Zenner USA.

For additional information on how you can help, please visit www.oneamericaappeal.org

About Minol USA

Founded in 1952, Minol pioneered the utility submetering industry. From submetering and billing to energy management and conservation, Minol provides a suite of innovative solutions that maximize revenue and enhance NOI. For additional information, please visit www.minolusa.com

About Zenner USA

Zenner USA, a division of the international Minol-Zenner Group, is a manufacturer and distributor of high-quality water meters and heat meters for the measuring of consumption. We bring more than 100 years of experience in measuring technologies and 50 years in billing to each client we serve. For more information, please visit www.zennerusa.com

Increase Asset Value with Water Conservation Retrofit

It’s no surprise that multifamily properties often have high water consumption. Resident habits, pools, laundry rooms and sprinkler systems all contribute to increased usage and as a result – costly utility bills.

Common reasons for high water usage:

  • Residents often aren’t aware of leaks or don’t report them when discovered – 20% of all toilets leak at any given time.
  • Water conservation tips aren’t provided to residents (many residents see no relationship between the amount of water they use and their cost to live in the property).
  • Older fixtures.
  • Poor or aging plumbing.

Managing a property’s water expense varies based on the individual owner as well as city and state regulations. An owner may choose to invest in a submetering system that measures each unit’s actual consumption. If a submetering system is not an option or outside of the owner’s budget, an allocation method may be used to calculate usage and distribute charges among the residents. For some properties, such as affordable housing, residents are not billed for their water usage which can pose a heavy burden on already taxed budgets.  An effective water conservation program not only reduces consumption but has the potential to lower monthly water bills by up to 40%.

How an Affordable Housing Community Saved $500,000

An affordable housing client faced an increase in residents along with a decrease in funding and grant support. The management team decided it was time to explore solutions that would conserve both resources and dollars. The solution: Minol’s Water Conservation Program.

More than Shower Heads and Flappers

Minol developed the Water Conservation Program to minimize excessive water consumption within communities. This unique and innovative program utilizes a combination of high-quality components and a proven methodology developed more than 30 years ago.

The evaluation process to identify eligible properties is complimentary and begins with a Minol team member analyzing specific property survey information and 12 months of water usage. As the team identifies properties that need help, Minol rebuilds property components at its own expense through its Pay-Out-of-Savings Program. Minol’s investment is recovered through the savings generated, which is typically within 12 months. “The Pay-Out-of-Savings component was a key differentiator from other water conservation programs we had researched. We saw savings within months of implementing the program,” said a client representative.

Program Implementation and Results

The client provided property and water usage information for 162 properties with 15,007 units to Minol for evaluation. The Minol team identified 31 properties with 3,418 units that qualified for the program. The client chose to implement their water conservation plan in four phases. All toilets were retrofitted with highly-effective toilet flappers, while low-flow showerheads and aerators were also installed.

The team is very pleased with the results Minol’s Water Conservation program has yielded for their communities.

Will Your Property Qualify for Pay Out of Savings?

The criteria below are typical qualifiers. A simple survey and analysis can determine if your property qualifies. 

  • Property is older than 5 years
  • More than 100 units
  • Owner pays water (or water is allocated)
  • Water/sewer bills are more than $250 per unit annually

Electric Bills Shouldn’t Keep You in the Dark

Rubber stamping electric bills is a secret no one wants to talk about; not you, not the company you work for and certainly not the utility company who bills you!

Electric bills can seem mind boggling when your area of expertise is managing buildings versus kWh and demand fees. You need answers now and utility companies are usually as illuminating as a blown generator. Understanding the anatomy of a bill sheds visibility on why your expenses are in or out of line with your budget.

First, there are four basic types of charges:

  • A Service Charge is a catch-all fee that’s charged on every bill for operational costs such as printing, overhead, customer service and maintenance.
  • The Energy Charge is a standard measure of a unit or kilowatt hour (kWh). The kWh = the measure of electricity you use x the length of time you use it.
  • A Power/Fuel Cost Adjustment is a way for utility companies to charge back operational expenses that fall out of budget. Example, if the expense of running a power plant is more than budgeted, your bill will be adjusted upwards by a proportional share to cover those expenses.
  • Demand Charges can be a large part of your electrical bill. A demand charge is based on when you use your energy and whether you’re using it during a ‘peak’ demand time. If you have a bill related to a piece of equipment that requires significant energy during specific periods of ‘peak’ time, this could adversely impact your bill.  Whereas, if your equipment uses relatively equal energy all the time, your bill would be less impacted. Peak demand use = big bills.

The last critical piece to understand is the rate structure and whether it’s correct or the best option available. There are seasonal rates, tiered rates, time of use rates, and now “real time” rates on smart meters. In addition, there are commercial rates and residential rates. By finding your rate type on your bill and reading the utility provider’s rate structure you can better understand what you’re paying and why:

  • A seasonal rate goes up or down based on the time of year. For example: A utility may charge a higher electrical rate in summer versus winter.
  • Tiered rates generally charge customers more if they use more and less if they use less.
  • A flat rate is simple; it won’t fluctuate based on usage and time. It always stays the same.
  • Time of use does fluctuate depending on when you use it. For example, a utility provider may charge more for residential clients in the mornings and evenings when most people are home and using the most electricity. Or, a commercial client may be charged a higher rate from 9 AM to 5 PM when office equipment is at its peak use.
  • “Real time” rates on smart meters are based on the actual time you use the electricity against the actual cost a utility spends at that same time to generate the electricity.

Armed with basic knowledge you can better dissect your bill. You may even find that you qualify for a lesser rate, such as a commercial or residential rate based on your usage patterns. Maybe you can adjust a high energy consuming piece of equipment to run at a cheaper time without impacting performance? Aim a strong light at your next big electric bill and see if there’s an opportunity to take power over your utility expenses.