Monthly Archives: July 2017

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

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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.


 

Kate Forsyth
Dir
ector of Energy Management and North East Sales Representative

Kate joined the Minol team in August of 2009. She currently oversees the Energy Management Program with a special emphasis on utility provider bill payment, cost avoidance and green initiatives.

Prior to joining Minol USA, she was employed by REIT AvalonBay Communities, Inc. for more than 20 years where she was responsible for increasing water, sewer, electric and gas collections via onsite associate training; augmenting utility reimbursements by instituting a collection and training process, creating and implementing a new utility recovery program, Hot Water Energy, as well as developing a reinstatement and centralization of the collections programs for AvalonBay’s portfolio which consisted of 54,746 apartments. While with AvalonBay, Kate also successfully lobbied for the passing of the submetering law in Massachusetts in 2005.

 kforsyth@minolusa.com | 410.292.7132

Statistic: EIA 2012 AEO Annual Energy Outlook Table 19; EIA 2009 RECS, Table CE1.1.