The severe winter weather in New York and Chicago this year created extra stress for homeowners as they watched monthly utility bills soar. In Florida, the upcoming summer months bring extreme heat and humidity, which presents similar challenges for energy conservation and responsible financial planning. It is time for homeowner association (HOA) boards and property managers to begin thinking about the challenges homeowners have ahead.
Realizing that energy conservation and managing HOA community environmental footprints is crucial, board members have a responsibility to homeowners to exercise financial prudence and proactively seek ways to manage rising costs.
"By helping residents reduce their energy costs, properties are more likely to gain buy-in for critical capital projects. HOAs and multi-housing property managers can, and should, take concrete steps to help homeowners – and the association – save money and conserve energy responsibly,” says Tal Eyal of FS Energy, the energy management division of FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company.
Here are four proactive measures that your board can implement today to save money on energy costs this year.
1. Provide resources to help improve home efficiency.
Informing homeowners about local, regional and national programs designed to offset expenses encourages proactive behavior. For example, one county in Florida offers homeowners free DIY energy kits, access to zero-interest loans and thousands of dollars in rebates tied to energy audit recommendations. Similar programs may exist in your home state or county. A great way to share program details is via email newsletter campaigns and community message boards.
2. Leverage economies of scale.
Professional property management companies with a national reach can negotiate better utility rates and secure discounts on fixtures and appliances, including high-performance Energy Star® appliances - then pass the savings onto your board and the homeowners within your community. Furthermore, the right property management company can save you time as well as money, and should approach you about looking for other ways to curb energy spending, such as conducting an energy audit.
. Conduct an energy audit.
A professional energy audit gives communities a comprehensive view of actions they can take to improve water conservation and energy efficiency. Audit recommendations provide advice about weatherization strategies, including better common area insulation and insulating window film. Auditors may also include tips for changing energy-wasting behaviors and suggestions for reducing water use with low-flow fixtures and better irrigation strategies, or replacing high-maintenance shrubs and flowers with low-maintenance plants. Small landscaping changes can mean big savings, especially in warm climates like South Florida. If your community is ready to undertake more significant energy-saving improvements, consider implementing automated systems that monitor energy use, and then use that information to develop energy-saving guidelines for your community’s unique usage patterns.
An energy audit should take into account both short-term and long-term financial benefits for the community. The most cost-effective strategies consider easy, low-cost solutions along with longer term capital projects. Alternative financing solutions for associations should be considered.
4. Reduce your costs.
There are many ways to reduce your community’s energy costs, and a professional energy management team can help you. Some of the best property management companies have partnerships with professional energy management companies, and can be proactive in helping your community design a long-term strategy to improve energy-cost management. For example, FS Energy helps clients in New York, Florida and Chicago to reduce costs and carbon emissions by analyzing a building’s energy use and comparing it to similar properties to determine the best opportunities for improvement. FS Energy also integrates an Energy Aggregation Purchasing Program to reduce natural gas and electricity costs. The collective program in New York City has reduced the carbon footprint of their buildings by 68,630 metric tons, or 15.6% – while also realizing $23 million in cost savings. FS Energy expects similar positive results in other markets in North America.
It is essential that board members develop energy conservation plans for common areas and administration facilities that address sustainability and economy. Identifying opportunities to manage energy use more effectively puts homeowners in control of their finances and their personal impact on the environment. Most importantly, communicating the advantages of responsible stewardship benefits everyone, supports association goals and strengthens community participation.
If you are in a New York, Florida or Chicago community and you would like help with conducting an energy audit or developing a unique energy savings plan, contact FirstService Residential and ask about FS Energy by simply filling out this form