Top 7 Low-Cost Energy Saving Tips for Landlords

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Utility spending comprises around 20-30% of multifamily apartment building operating expenses, and as a variable cost it can significantly impact the net operating income of a property. Any sensible landlord will want to keep his or her utility costs to a minimum, but many believe that since they don't have stockpiles of capital improvement funds to invest in large energy projects, there is nothing that can be done. However, before multifamily owners start to despair, the good news is that many strategies exist for landlords to reduce buiding energy and water consumption with low and even no-cost improvements. Below you'll find 7 such energy saving tips for apartment owners and managers. Your checkbook can thank us later!


1)  Replace lighting. There is no excuse for having old incandescant bulbs and T12 ballasts in your building. Invest the money in CFLs, which are often subsidized by your local electric utility, and install high-performance T8 lighting to reduce lighting costs by around 40%. Paybacks are often less than a year. Place occupancy sensors to control common area lighting and avoid unecessary use. Installing LED exit signs saves $40 per year compared to incandescent signs and has a 25 year expected lifetime.

2)  Insulate your heating system. Uninsulated boiler pipes cause significant heat loss through distribution and recirculation systems. Insulate these pipes to save one therm per linear foot, per year (equates to around $1/foot/year). Insulating hot air furnace ductwork can have a similar positive effect on your wallet.

 3)  Turn down the water heater. Some domestic hot water (DHW) systems heat to upwards of 140°F, a scalding temperature that is completely unnecessary. Dialing back the temperature to around 120°F can save serious money, an estimated 3-5% on water heating costs for every 10 degrees your setpoint is reduced. Certain states even have restrictions on maximum DHW temperature under landlord-tenant laws (e.g. Wisconsin is 125°F).

 4)  Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators. Doing this will not only reduce your water bills due to less consumption, but your water heating bills will also decrease due to less demand. Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators typically reduce your water usage by 30 percent and your energy to heat the water by 30 percent to 40 percent. Many utilities offer 1.5 gallon-per-minute pulsating/massage showerheads and 1.5 gallon-per-minute faucet aerators at no charge to multifamily building owners.

 5)  Insulation and air sealing. Improving insulation can have a large impact on heating bills. Hot air rises, so make sure there is at least 12 to 18 inches of insulation above the top floor of your building. Wall insulation can be more expensive and invasive than many other options in this list, but yields high savings, especially in cold climates like the Midwest and New England.

 6)  ENERGY STAR equipment and appliances. Those that receive the ENERGY STAR rating are up to 50% more efficienct than standard appliances. Especially on larger items like washer/dryers and building ventilation systems, using these products can have a large impact on the property's bottom line.

 7)  Monitor consumption patterns. Whether an excel spreadsheet or a low-cost software option, analyzing utility expenses can be a surefire way for a landlord to stay on top of problems in their multifamily building. Billing data tells us a lot about leaks, failing equipment and other issues - the key is to look regularly!

Using these strategies can lead to big reductions in your energy and water bills, so listen up multifamily building owners: there's no excuse to settle for the status quo. Be proactive and increase your properties NOI today!

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