More than 45% of water use in the average home occurs in the bathroom. Encouraging residents to conserve is a great start but implementing a Water Conservation Program is guaranteed success.
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
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 2: Complete 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 4: Hallway 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!