Baby, it’s cold outside! For many people, shivery weather and shorter days aren’t the only things causing an icy chill. Energy takes a big bite out of everyone’s budget each winter. Many people pay steep costs to keep their homes warm and well lit – the same goes for homeowners associations (HOAs) and condo and community associations, which also often pay higher costs each winter to keep temperatures comfortable and lights on in common areas.
So what can condo boards or community associations do to steady or even reduce costs this winter? Let’s start with what you can do in the summer and fall before winter begins.
- Clean, tune up and repair heating systems, furnaces and boilers to make sure they won’t be working harder than they should.
- Clean gutters so water can flow freely. Otherwise, water can become trapped and freeze, which can damage your gutters and cause ice dams and possible roof leaks.
- Make sure all windows are in good condition and that caulking/seals around them are preventing leaks.
Once Old Man Winter arrives, there are a few more ways your association can reduce usage and costs for the season.
- Make energy conservation a priority. Train your staff on the importance of energy conservation and how they can reduce costs for your association. A good property management company will provide professional guidance for that training. If your HOA or community association is professionally managed, your property manager should already have an energy and cost reduction plan in place for your building or community. This should include proactive efforts such as renegotiating utility rates, buying energy-efficient products and equipment and using bulk purchasing programs to reduce commodity costs.
Don’t stop there! Get your residents involved in energy conservation. Create an energy committee to find ways to reduce energy use and costs in and around your building or community. Your board or property manager can send messages promoting the association’s commitment to save energy, as well as provide conservation tips that residents can use at home.
- Turn it off – or turn it down. No matter where you live, energy costs take a bite out of community association budgets all year long. Whether you’re heating a lobby in Toronto or cooling one in Florida, you’re spending money on climate control. You can’t change the weather, but you can take simple steps to keep costs manageable.
Chris Normandeau, director of FS Energy, the energy management subsidiary of FirstService Residential, suggests that your board track how your residents use common spaces. “Take a look at patterns of when rooms are used and how much energy is used in your common areas, and program thermostats and lighting around that,” he recommends. “If no one is in the clubhouse from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., there’s no reason to heat that space like it’s being used. Turn the heat down, but never turn it off completely so the pipes won’t freeze.”
You’d be surprised how often people leave lights on in unoccupied rooms. Install motion-activated sensors or a timer to make sure you aren’t burning unneeded lights – and money!
- Conduct an energy audit. How much energy does your building actually use? Are there steps you can take to increase efficiency and lower costs? An energy audit will tell you for sure. Most local utilities perform energy audits to help your building or community identify ways to lower energy use and costs, usually at no cost to you. They may recommend improving or replacing insulation, applying window film and installing energy monitoring systems in common areas.
For specialized support, you can work with an energy consultant. A recognized innovator in this field is FS Energy. FS Energy creates Energy Report Cards to measure and benchmark the energy use of FirstService Residential’s managed properties in New York City, Florida, Georgia and Illinois. By benchmarking your property’s Building Energy Rating Guide (BERG) score against similar buildings in its database, FS Energy can tailor strategies to lower your energy use, carbon emissions and costs year-round.
Conserving energy doesn’t have to be hard! Following these simple steps can help reduce your association’s energy costs all season.