Category Archives: Electric Conservation

Electric Retrofits: What You Need to Know

If you own or manage a building with master metered electricity that is not submetered, you are likely getting zapped!

The average monthly cost for an apartment’s electricity usage is approximately $1,419 per year or about $118 per month. That equates to, not including common area expenses, a $23,600 electric bill just on interior usage for a 200 unit community.

If you haven’t considered submetering, now may be a good time to evaluate your options. Submetered apartments save between 15-25% on electricity versus non-submetered apartments. In addition to promoting conservation, many owners see a return on investment in less than 18 months.

Master Metered Electricity
A multifamily building with one master meter installed by the provider, or multiple in the case of garden style buildings, captures both common and interior usage for that particular building’s usage. In this scenario, the owner pays the entire bill directly to the provider.

Submetered Electricity
Submetering measures each individual apartment’s usage. The submeters are installed off the main line in a position that will capture all usage for lighting, appliances and HVAC where applicable (may require separate metering). The resident’s specific usage is billed back and allows for a fair and equitable solution to recoup interior electric expenses.powerstrip

Is Submetering the Right Choice for You?
The building’s electrical configuration will determine what type of submetering solution you will need so it is critical to know what to look for before investing.

Below are key items to evaluate:

  1. Locate the distribution panel. Is it in a common area closet, basement, outside or in each apartment?
  2. If the distribution panel is located in a common area closet, does the distribution panel have a circuit breaker for each unit so that each can be turned off by itself at the panel? For example: 12 units per floor or 12 units per building.
    • If each unit can be turned off individually at the panel, it makes sense and is less disruptive and expensive, to submeter at the panel. The submeters are installed either in the distribution panel itself or right next to it.
    • If you can’t turn off one unit at a time, the submeter must go inside the unit next to the distribution panel, usually in or near the kitchen. A flush mount meter is recommended for aesthetics.
    • If the apartment distribution panel is in a closet, a protruding submeter can be used.
  3. An outdoor distribution panel follows Steps 1 and 2 but requires a different, weather grade submetering solution. For example: An outside NEMA enclosure to house the meters.
  4. Determine the Amp Rating on the main distribution panel: 20, 50, 100, 150, 200 or other.
  5. Are the apartments labeled on the distribution panel? If not, this will need to be audited and identified prior to installation.
  6. Determine the phasing for the distribution panel: Single-phase, three-phase, Delta phase or other.
  7. How many wires feed the distribution panel? 2, 3, 4 or other?
  8. The number and location of the building(s) will determine how the electronics needed to read the meters will be installed. A site map is important. Certain topography (mountains and hills) requires careful placement of electronics so reads can be collected. Basements may require more signal strength.
  9. Determine where the data collector (a small computer that collects the reads) will go. An interior, dry and sometimes climate controlled space is required.

After conducting the above analysis, you are now ready to choose a submetering solution. A Request for Proposal (RFP) may be the easiest way to gather comparable proposals.  An RFP allows vendors to propose solutions based on your requirements so you can compare hardware specifics, pricing and labor. Remember that a licensed electrician should be included in the labor pricing and a drywall/painter as well if installing within the apartments.

Solutions by Electric Configuration

  • Distribution panel: The distribution panel is in a common area or basement and each apartment can be turned off at the panel. Mini meters are the best and least expensive solution. A mini meter is small, designed for residential application and generally works for 100A, 200A, and 400A electric submeters. They are perfect for metering electric consumption or production for nearly any 120V 2-wire or 120/240V 3-wire application.
  • Individual unit turn off: The electric for an apartment can only be turned off individually within the unit – A mini meter will still likely work plus an indoor flush mount enclosure. Additional expenses for drywall and paint work will need to be considered.
  • Outdoor application: An outdoor rated MMU (Multiple Meter Unit) is typically the best solution. An MMU allows for multiple outdoor submeters to be installed at the exterior distribution panel in a weather grade enclosure. Another option is to use socket style meters. There are pros and cons with these in that they rely heavily on available building space and if meter sockets are already available or would need to be installed.

Be prepared to bring in reliable electricians to help you select the highest quality and most cost effective submetering solution. They will also determine the best configuration for your building type. The payoff is well worth the effort – greatly increasing revenue and property value while also encouraging conservation.

Kate Forsyth
Director of Energy Management for Minol
410.292.7132
kforsyth@minolusa.com

About the Author
Kate joined the Minol USA 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. While with AvalonBay, Kate successfully lobbied for the passing of the submetering law in Massachusetts in 2005.

Illuminate Your Lighting Efficiency

Shedding the Light on Energy Savings

The EIA says 50-75% of your utility expenses are for electricity and of that, approximately   21% is just lighting. If you spend an average of $100,000 annually on one building that adds up to $21,000 just to keep the lights on! By simply making your lighting 25-50% more efficient, you could save up to $10,500 each year.

It sounds easy and it is. Below are some steps to get you started:

Step 1:   Determine how much you are using and spending

lighting-tipIt’s critical to know what you are doing now so you can assess opportunities for energy savings later.  You will need 12 months of common area bills that include the building’s interior lighting.  This should include all account numbers, billing date cycles, number of days in each bill, usage in kWh and demand kW, and expense. At the end of each month, calculate the rate by dividing expense by usage. This will give you a base analysis for where you are now versus when you initiate your lighting cost avoidance program. If possible, include a hyperlink to actual bill images to be referenced later as needed.

Step 2Complete a building lighting audit

You need to know what type of lighting you have, how often it’s in use and where it’s located.  A building diagram with notes is very helpful.  It is best to do the audit both during and after business hours. Below are some examples of questions to answer:

  • Are lights off in unoccupied spaces? (Stairwells, parking levels, fitness centers, business centers, party rooms, offices, basements).  There may be opportunities for reduced or sensor lighting.
  • Are lights in the models on sensors or timers to be off when unoccupied?
  • What are the model, types, and usages for your lighting fixtures in the main hallways and business areas?
  • What are the hours when lighting is used in business areas, hallways, basements, storage, garage, fitness, and business rooms?
  • Are you installing energy efficient lighting in vacants when turned?
  • Do you have the number of fixtures, number of lamps per fixture, type/number of lamps per ballast, wattage?
  • What dates were fixtures installed and what is their condition?
  • What is the daylight availability (windows near lighting)?
  • Are the tasks performed in the space (critical or secondary)?

Step 3: Low hanging fruit: Consider where you can change lighting hours, add motion sensors, timers, light reducers and use energy saving lamp bulbs.

This is the easiest, least expensive step you can make.  You know you can’t rely on people to remember to turn off lights but for a small expense you can make sure lights not used are off or energy reduced during day light hours or evening hours. Sensors, light reducers or timers in models, business centers, fitness facilities, basements and storage areas are key energy savers.  Even in the garage and stairways, you can usually install light reducing devices that will use half the energy when not in use without violating any safety requirements. Make sure you rid every lamp of incandescent light bulbs – these not only use more energy to light the space, they put off 2-3 times the heat and last a fraction of the life of an energy efficient bulb.

Step 4Hallway lighting

Hallway lighting can easily account for a large chunk of your common area electrical bill.  By choosing the best lighting for the task you can reduce your usage by 20-50%. If the fixtures are well-maintained, it may be worthwhile to research your options for replacement bulbs that would fit and be more energy efficient. If it’s time for replacement, you may pay for the new fixtures in energy savings within a reasonable time. A simple pay back analysis can help you determine what your best option might be:

To calculate a simple payback on your investment, divide the cost of the new fixtures by the annual cost savings using current rates. You have already determined your annual usage and rates in Step 1.  Now, you can apply the energy savings by installing the new equipment to the usage once

you have that number divided by the cost of the investment.  Easy Tip: Hallways and ceilings painted in light reflective colors increase the light glow and help reduce energy usage.

Finally, once you’ve completed Steps 1-3, it’s recommended to consult with lighting experts on your findings and determine the most efficient next steps toward energy savings. You and your budget will be glad you shed some light on your energy expense!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kate Forsyth
Director of Energy Management and North East Sales Representative
410.292.7132  Ι  kforsyth@minolusa.com  Ι  linkedin

Kate Forsyth_thumbnailKate joined the Minol USA 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 more than 150 properties. While with AvalonBay, Kate also successfully lobbied for the passing of the submetering law in Massachusetts in 2005.

Top 10 EASY Ways to Save Energy in Common Areas

Preparing for another winter is not something we want to think about while basking in the last days of summer, but it pays to plan! The Farmer’s Almanac forecast was spot on last winter and it looks like a cold winter is in store for many of us in 2014. Preparing for colder temperatures is essential to avoid budget busting utility bills for your common areas such as hallways, gyms, lobbies and business centers.

  1.  Sealing the building envelope (windows, doors, entrance ways and ceilings) is essential to energy and cost savings. Lack of proper insulation is a significant factor in common area heating and cooling loss. winter-outlookAn easy thing to overlook is proper insulation. This can often be done in-house very inexpensively by rolling out new insulation in ceiling spaces. Proper ceiling insulation can save as much as 20% on your heating and cooling bills.
  2. Maintaining central systems is critical. Because heating and cooling accounts for up to 56% of your building’s energy cost, make sure the HVAC is running at peak form BEFORE winter hits. Even if you need to pay an expert to do a winter checkup, it will be well worth the expense in energy savings and verifying your system can handle the upcoming chill. Tips for HVAC preventative maintenance.
  3. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that windows account for up to 25% of a building’s energy loss. The proper use of awnings, blinds, insulated curtains, UV window tinting in southern exposures with large expanses of glass, as well as the sealing of air gaps can have a significant impact on energy loss through windows. While windows with an Energy Star rating is ideal and can have a huge impact on your bills, it is often cost prohibitive for properties without proper budgeting.
  4. The Energy Information Administration (EPI) estimates that 21% of electric bills are related to lighting. Upgrading lighting to energy efficient bulbs is something to consider before the darker days of winter are here. There are many ways to do this inexpensively without resorting to a “capital improvement” level expense. Tips for maximizing lighting efficiency.
  5. Motion sensors are probably the lowest cost and easiest, instant energy saver in common area spaces. Why leave a light on in the model unit, gym or storage areas if no one is in there? Investing just a few hundred dollars in these devices can give you a rapid return on investment.
  6. Resealing doors with new weather stripping and capping unused power outlets are another way to stop the cold from sneaking in. Another place to address in common areas is any vent that central fans or unused air conditioning vents that meet the exterior of the building. When closing the vent is not enough, install shutter seals on the inside of the vent and make a note to remove them in spring.
  7. Phantom power or vampire load refers to energy used by equipment and appliances that are idle. Large appliances, office equipment rarely used and computers left plugged in overnight can account for as much 10% of your electric use. Conservation-TipSimply unplug rarely used items. You cannot find an easier, cheaper way to save energy!
  8. Replace appliances in common areas and offices that are more than 5 years old with Energy Star rated products. That old refrigerator may still work but it is costing you more in electricity annually than a newer, more efficient model. The same holds true for that gargantuan office copier from the 90’s in your leasing office.
  9. Programmable thermostats are AMAZING! These Wi-Fi thermostats can be easily installed, set up and programmed from anywhere. Program them to turn down the heat or A/C during evening hours. You can save as much as 10% or more in HVAC usage.
  10. Water conservation/leak detection is a commonly overlooked opportunity to save as much as 25% or more in water waste.  For example, after 5 years a toilet that was a 1.6 gallon per flush creeps to a 2+ gallon flush!  Have an experienced technician or plumber recalibrate the flush mechanisms. Also, faulty/cheap toilet flappers degrade quickly and leak over time. Replace them at least annually and use a better grade of product.  Lastly, replace old faucet washers that cause drips and aerators with low flow devices.

By taking time out this fall to do this energy savings work you may have a different conversation with your owners when it’s time to review the financial statement.  Instead of facing the heat of “Why are you over budget in utilities”? You will have the opportunity to explain how you achieved such great savings. And that would be a far cooler conversation by far!

Why Degree Days Matter

When Electric Bills Give You the Third Degree
The Scene: Your financials were just distributed. Ten minutes later your email box is blowing up with ALL CAPS emails asking why your electricity expense is 23% higher than what was
budgeted. You look at the bills and the rate is the same but the usage is excessively high
compared to last year and the year before. What happened?

Unless you’re allowing a department store to hook up to your power line, it is likely due to a
change in the weather. Sounds like a good explanation but how do you explain that to your
supervisor or deliver that message to an owner that has unmistakable credibility?  Understanding the impact of degree days is critical.

Explaining Degree Days: Degree days is a measurement that explains the difference between
the average daily mean temperature and what it will take to heat or cool a building or facility to meet the desired building point temperature (BPT).

For example, if the average outside temperature per day is 59 degrees Fahrenheit for a month and your BPT is 65 degrees, than the heating degree days (HDD) = 65-59 X the number of days in a month or period of heating degree days.

Heating degree season begins:  July 1
Cooling degree day season begins:  January 1

65F-59F= 6 HDD x 31 days in the period = 186 HDD in the period

Consequently, if last year the average temperature was 62 degrees for the same period, the
number of heating degree days was less:

65F-62F= 3 x 31 days in the period = 93 HDD in the period

Or, a 50% increase in HDD year over year for the same period.

The same concept applies for cooling degree days (CDD). If the average temperature is above
65F then there will be additional cooling degree days.

75F – 65F = 10 x 31 days in the period = 310 CDD in the period

The prior year, same period;

70F – 65F = 5 x 31 in the period = 155 CDD in the prior year

Or, a 50% increase in CDD year over year for the same period.

For the full article, click here: http://www.minolusa.com/pdf/Why-Degree-Days-Matter.pdf