Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.


 

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Minol Announces the Release of the Minomess 130 Polymer

Lighter weight and more cost-effective water submetering solution for optimal
Utility Expense Management

Addison, TX – June 24, 2015 – Minol announced the release of the Minomess 130 polymer water meter today at the National Apartment Association’s Annual Conference. The Minomess, specifically designed for multifamily and commercial usage, provides owners and managers with a cost-effective solution for managing their utility expenses.

In the past decade, U.S. cities have seen a trend toward higher water bills. A few of the driving factors are excessive consumption, increasing water costs, decaying infrastructures and droughts. According to a recent Circle of Blue survey, the price of residential water service in 2015 is uMinomess Polymerp 6 percent in 30 major U.S. cities; a 41 percent rise since 2010. With utilities accounting for 15% or more of an owners’ overall expense, submetering has become a necessity in sustaining positive cash flow throughout the portfolio. Three states, Texas, Georgia and California, require submetering on new construction with more states likely to follow suit.

“Studies show that submetering may result in a 10-26 percent reduction in that utility’s consumption,” said Corey Hauser, Vice President of Meter Data Management for Minol. “Installing a submetering solution not only increases property value and revenue but promotes conservation by measuring individual consumption and proactively identifying leaks. The Minomess polymer gives owners an even more cost-effective metering solution to maximize the value of their assets.”

The Minomess polymer meter is a single-jet meter for cold water applications. The polymer meter body provides a lighter weight and more cost-effective submetering option. The Minomess polymer and Minomess brass for hot or cold water application are both ANSI/NSF 61 certified and comply with AWWA C712, ISO 4064 and G13IT19001-ISO9000 performance standards.

Minol’s in-house Meter Data Management Team successfully maintains 1.5 million hardware components nationwide by proactively managing daily meter health for water, gas and electric systems. Traditional AMR systems are designed just for meter reads. Minol’s MDM solution provides two-way data to insure accurate data which results in accurate billing.

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

It’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!

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Meter Point of Use Solutions

What to Do When Traditional Submetering is NOT an Option
Stacked and older plumbing doesn’t have to prevent you from measuring resident consumption

You have seen the statistics and let’s face it you don’t need statistics to validate what you already know.

A study conducted by the National Multi-Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA) found an 18 to 39 percent reduction in water consumption in submetered dwellings compared to units that include water expenses in their rent.

Point-of-Use-Meters2

  • Measures individual consumption.
  • Controls utility expenses.
  • Increases property value.
  • Improves NOI.
  • Identifies potential leaks.
  • Promotes conservation.

The reality is for many portfolios with older properties, submetering is cost prohibitive due to older or stacked riser plumbing. You want to recover your property’s water expenses but due to regulatory restrictions – no individual consumption measurement, no recovery – you will find yourself out of compliance and in hot water with your regulatory commissions.

Water Conservation strategies such as modifying resident usage through conservation tips and rebuilding your existing water fixtures with more efficient models reduce your water expenses but what can you do if you want to bill back for actual water consumed?

Option #1: Do nothing and continue to hope somewhat will invent a new submeter for old plumbing.

Option #2: Re-pipe your entire building which is intrusive to residents and very expensive.

Option #3 – Invest in your assets by installing Point of Use Meters and start recovering your utility expenses.

Massachusetts properties spend an average of $850-$1,000 per unit/annually on water expenses.
Installing MPUs can yield a payback in less than 24 months.
Point-of-Use-Meters

The i-meter from MeterLogix allows for point of use metering while maintaining aesthetics. The meters are small and easy to install out of view. A custom designed interface card sums up input from up to eight i-meters.

An MPU or “point of use” water submeter can be used in any building regardless of their plumbing style. The difference between an MPU and a traditional submeter is that an MPU is installed on every water point in the unit (toilet, dishwasher, bathtub, shower, etc). MPU meters are permitted in states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut where submetering laws are stricter.

The rising cost associated with water is now in line with electricity and gas consumption. The result is a heavier burden on a property’s budget and more importantly profitability. Today, more and more portfolios are making the decision to bill back water consumption which results in a healthier NOI and environment.


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!