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  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.


Water Submetering Best Practice Series: Part 1 of 3

Preparing for a New Construction Submetering Installation

I travel quite a bit for my job and it’s a rarity when I look out the cab window on my way to a client meeting that I don’t see dirt being moved. The construction market is hot for multifamily, university and affordable housing. While some markets are seeing a slight slowdown, particularly those heavily driven by the energy industry, most are still in boom mode.

Multifamily Executive still projects 2015 new construction to rise 76 percent above the historical average to 211,000 units. This would represent the highest level of new completions in a calendar year since the 1990’s. To put it in perspective, in 2012 new completions totaled just 79,000 units.

With so many projects and tight deadlines, submetering is often overlooked in the initial planning process – even in states that require submetering on new construction such as Texas, Georgia and California. Planning early not only saves time and money but headaches for your Project Management team.

If you are a contractor, your goal is to complete the project on time and on budget. If you are an owner or management company, your goal is to recover utility expenses that otherwise hit your bottom line. With rising water costs and shortages nationwide, water meters are becoming a standard fixture in new construction. One of the biggest pitfalls for not planning that impacts both parties is the costs involved when the plumber has to go back and installSubmetering Benefits tubes and couplings in each unit after he’s already completed the initial work.

Best Practices for a Seamless and Cost Effective Submetering Project

Plan Early
Don’t wait until the building is framed. The best case scenario is to include the request for submeters in the architectural plans. Also, make sure to identify which contract the submetering installation will be under – General Contractor, Mechanical Engineer or Plumber contract. You will then want to work closely with them to select the best meters for your project.

Choose Wisely
When selecting meters, make sure they are designed for horizontal installation. Work with your project team to insure sufficient room has been provided for the meter so read accuracy is not effected.  Another critical component is the AMR system. Always choose a non-proprietary AMR system to avoid technical and financial challenges as your system ages.

Central Boiler Systems
Are you installing a central boiler system? If yes, each unit must have a single entry point for both cold water and hot water with shut off valves. If you are not installing a central system, you will only need a single meter for each unit. Make sure the meter is easily accessible. Typically, next to or above the hot water tank is the best location for optimal performance.

If you are using gas to heat the boiler, make sure you meter everything so the owner can recapture gas costs associated with the water systems.

Valve Location
Valves must be in an accessible area. Preferably, valves are located outside the wall in an accessible area so the system can be maintained. If they are in the wall, access panels must be able to open. Otherwise, if valves are completely inaccessible, the building must be shut down to perform maintenance.

Tubes and Couplings
Don’t forget tubes and couplings need to be installed by a plumber during rough plumbing. These are sent by your submetering provider to the plumber or GC. It is their responsibility to install during rough in.

Timing is Everything
Do not put in a meter right before the plumber flushes out the lines. Lines get flushed when they are ready for their certificate of occupancy.

Hold the Phone
Make sure you have an Ethernet connection. Analog phone lines are being phased out and you don’t want to find yourself with an outdated connection.

Start Planning for Submetering Early in the Project
The sooner you plan, the better chances for a seamless installation. There is no financial benefit to having your plumber install a submeter versus your submetering provider. It is best to have your submetering provider manage the installation since they will need to install the transmitter and calibrate each meter to the appropriate transmitter. Properly commissioning the system to insure the transmitter is connected to the assigned unit is imperative to make sure the owner is billing the correct unit.

Be prepared to bring in reliable partners 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.


Phil NePhil-Neeveseves
National Director of Multifamily Solutions

Phil Neeves, a 20-year veteran of the submetering industry, is regarded as one of the leading industry experts in heating and cooling cost allocation systems.

Prior to joining Minol, Neeves served as Vice President of Central Region for ista North America. His experience includes 16 years in the submetering industry and 14 years as an owner/partner of a full-service real estate company specializing in syndicating multifamily apartment communities nationwide. Neeves extensive expertise in submetering and energy allocation has allowed him to successfully guide clients through utility metering conversions for both conventional financed and HUD insured properties. He served three years on the Board of Directors for the National Submetering and Utility Allocation Association (NSUAA) and is a Lifetime Member of the America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals.

The Greenhouse Gas Story Explained – Part 1 in a 3 Part Series

Scientific leaders have long been concerned about the effects of greenhouse gases (aka GHGs). The existence of GHGs was discovered by Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, in 1896 when he first proposed that fossil fuel combustion may result in increased global warming.  Graham Bell continued to warn in 1917 that “[The unchecked burning of fossil fuels] would have a sort of greenhouse effect” and “The net result is the greenhouse becomes a sort of hot-house.” While its effect continues to be a hot topic for debate, the science behind the emission of green gases is based in fact, as is the Environmental Protection’s Agency regulatory stance.

The debate about the greenhouse effect primarily began with the Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that GHGs could be regulated by the EPA if it was determined these gases were harmful to humans. In 2009, the EPA proved that increased temperatures would lead to an increase in infectious diseases, water scarcity, damage to plants and animals grown for food, wilder weather patterns and other negative effects to natural processes. One year later, the EPA began tailoring regulations to lower the amount of GHGs allowed to be emitted.  Between the years of 2011 to 2014, the EPA began to require states to draft State Implementation Plans (SIPs) to lower emissions. In 2020, each state’s clean power plans will be in effect.

How is the greenhouse effect defined?

In an ideal scenario, the earth absorbs about 50% of the sun’s heat and the remainder is reflected back into space by clouds; however, fossil fuel burning (natural gas, coal, oil) creates gaseous compounds that hold infrared radiation causing thermal radiation (heat). The result is the earth’s surface temperature rises above normal levels because less of the sun’s heat can be reflected back into space. It is believed that even one degree can make a big difference to planetary conditions.

How might this impact a business?

The ruling by the EPA in 2009 requires that any corporation or institution that emits more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year must track and report GGreenhouse Gas EffectHG emissions to the EPA.  Many small businesses will not fit this criterion; however, larger multifamily projects may meet the criteria. In order to know whether you fall under the EPA’s regulation, you need visibility which requires tracking utility usage in a meaningful, accurate way. The second step in this process is to upload that data into the EPA’s e-GGRT Data Reporting System annually.

There are 3 scopes of emissions that need to be measured and reported to the EPA. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are required to be reported to the EPA.

Scope 1 Emissions:  These types of emissions are referred to as “direct emissions” and are created on site by the owner or controlled by the corporation or institution.  This would include the production of electricity, heat, steam in boilers and furnaces, as well as energy leaks. It also may include the transportation of products with corporate owned vehicles. Approximately 90% of the businesses required to report to the EPA fall into this category.

Scope 2 Emissions:  These types of emissions are referred to as “indirect” emissions.  These result from the purchase of utilities by a corporation or institution from a utility company.

Scope 3 Emissions:  These types of emissions are anything not covered in scope 1 or 2 and mainly refer to purchased materials, transportation and fuels or the use of sold products. This type of emission reporting is optional.

The point of all this data gathering and analysis is to move forward in 2020 with State implementation Plans (SIPs) to reduce carbon emissions. By tracking and reporting what is being emitted now we can work on ways to significantly reduce emissions. States are deeply involved now in drafting their proposed plans to further regulate how much carbon waste can be released by a corporation or institution. Investigate and educate your stakeholders on the proposed state regulations so you can plan accordingly. The majority of large businesses have started drafting business plans to implement carbon emission reduction now with hard deadlines for capital improvements, alternative clean energy sources or innovative changes in business strategies. Your business will soon be required to operate differently and more efficiently. Now is the time to prepare for a cleaner future.

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth is Director of Energy Management for Minol. She can be reached at 

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.


  • 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.

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.

Thank you and I look forward to talking with you!

Kate ForsythKate Forsyth
Director of Energy Management

North East Sales Representative

Minol USA

2710 Westchester Avenue
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Phone 410-292-7132
Fax 469-791-4765 | toll free 877-791-4765   linkedin

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!

Water/Sewer Billing Transition

Water/Sewer Billing Transition from TCEQ to PUC: What Does it Mean for Your Billing Program?

Click here to read more.


Critical Thinking

A Pragmatic Approach to Critical Thinking in 5 Easy Steps
The Benefits of Evidence Based Decision Making

Early in my career I was told that I wouldn’t be promoted to the next position because I had not demonstrated an ability to critically think. I had no real idea what “critically thinking” meant; however, being underestimated is a great motivator for me so I began exhaustive research on the subject. After outlining the concept into clear steps, I then had the opportunity to apply what I had learned to a decision the company was trying to make regarding whether to outsource a process or continue to do it internally. The results that came back were impressive and when I walked my supervisor through my findings she was pleasantly stunned. I was promoted shortly thereafter and have used this valuable skill ever since to make solid business decisions.

So what is critical thinking anyway? Critical thinking, in a practical application, is applying a method to help solve a problem or answer a question by eliminating bias, uninformed, partial or even prejudiced thinking. It’s human nature to bring past experiences and current motivations to the decision making process so how do you apply an unbiased and clear thought process to a business scenario?

The five easy steps below can help guide you through the critical thinking process:

A place to think – This seems simple but trying to find a place where you can focus and think is easier said than done! You need a dedicated space to lay out your thoughts so they can be revisited without loss of data. Personally, I find that using my office walls to lay out the process allows me to see a visual flow. I’ve tried a white board and that worked well too but I often run out of space. If you prefer a more technical method, there are many project programs available, but additional training, practice and investment are often required. The important thing is you use the tools that work best for you.

Clarify the question – This is an area where you want to spend most of your effort. When developing the primary question, there should be no doubt what it is you are trying to discover. For example, asking “What can our company do to make accounting more efficient?” is far too broad and unclear. A better question might be “By outsourcing our utility bill payment, will we reduce accounting expenses without sacrificing accuracy”? A sample guide is provided at the end of the article.

Additional questions will inevitably happen. It’s important to park those questions into a separate space and determine their relevance to the original question later. If these questions pass the relevance test, you can place them under functions or processes when appropriate to be answered as you progress through the process. If a question is not going to help answer the central problem, put it in the parking lot to be addressed at the right time.

Outline all the functions – Dig deep. Outline all of the functions of the process currently being used to accomplish the task, the costs associated, departments impacted and any resulting issues or inefficiencies related to the current process. If you’re not the subject matter expert, call in your team mates who are and ask for their feedback. Don’t go beyond this step. Remember that you are only gathering information gathering. Stay away from forming assumptions and only document functions and costs. Take your time because you don’t want to leave off a part of the current process. Start with your top most categories, then move to sub-categories of each process, function and cost.

  1. Processing a utility bill: Start by mapping the entire process by step, time, number of people, hourly rate, overhead expenses per person, postage, IT support, etc.
  2. Calculate the inefficiency costs that can be proven, i.e., late fees on bills. Don’t include any perceived inefficiencies that can’t be proven.

Scrub the information– Review all data collected and challenge any piece that isn’t supported by data you can prove or confirm. Look for opposing points of view. The best you can do to prove a point is to hear the other side and attempt to refute those points with facts. You may learn you’ve missed something vital to the main purpose of your research. This is the stage to discover and address those issues.

Document your conclusions– Use precision, detail and evidence. Ask yourself “If I were to believe the empirical evidence only, what does it say”? Clearly outline the positive and negative aspects of what your findings are. Take a last look for any assumptions not based in fact and discard them. When you have eliminated extraneous information, all this is left should be unfailingly apparent. You should have a highly defendable business case to back up your recommendations and/or decision.

Remember that your goal is evidence-based decision making. People are often resistant to change based on their personal motivations, experiences, and sometimes fear. A great acronym to apply to this process is remember is FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real. By following these steps, your critical thinking will take you past assumptions and into an answer founded in evidence.

Kate Forsyth_thumbnailKate Forsyth
Director of Energy Management and North East Sales Representative

410.292.7132  ι

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.

Critical Thinking Guide

  1. Purpose.
    1. What is the purpose of the project? Is the purpose clearly stated or clearly implied? Is it justifiable?
    2. State your purpose clearly, refine.
    3. Distinguish your purpose from related purposes.
    4. Check periodically to see if you are on target (in the reasoning exercise).
    5. Is the purpose significant and realistic?
  2. Resolve the problem.
    1. State the question or issue clearly and precisely.
    2. Express the question in several ways to clarify its meaning and scope.
    3. Break the question into sub-questions.
    4. Distinguish questions that have answers from those that are a matter of opinion and from those that require consideration of multiple viewpoints.
  3. All reasoning is based on assumptions.
    1. Clearly identify your assumptions and determine whether they are justifiable. Is
      that true? How do we know that is true?
    2. Consider our assumptions are shaping our point of view.