No matter where your high-rise building is located, rising energy costs can have a drastic impact on your community association’s budget. A condominium that spends 40 percent of its operating budget on common-area energy will be affected by even a small spike in price. A 10 percent increase in utility costs means that energy takes a full 44 percent of that association’s budget! Pretty scary, isn’t it? But all is not lost! Conserving energy can help your association save money and optimize your high-rise’s annual budget.
What if it is possible to reduce your common-area energy usage by 20, 30 or even 40 percent? You might be thinking, “That sounds great, but it’s impossible! How could our building ever be able to reduce energy expenses by that much?”
According to Suneel Gupta, director of energy and sustainability at FirstService Residential, it is possible–if your high-rise building association invests in a well-thought-out energy management program. “A lot of commercial buildings have implemented energy management programs,” he says, “but it’s pretty much been unchartered territory for high-rise buildings.”
Chris Normandeau, director of FS Energy, said that, “We manage condos that are saving 30 percent on their energy costs every day, which translates to saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, all while maintaining or even improving the lifestyle they’ve come to enjoy. While this used to be a territory that only commercial entities focused on, today, we strive to deliver this value to the associations we manage.”
Now Is the Time for Condos to Invest in Energy Management
Gupta explains that a combination of factors–including hotter summers and rising electricity costs–make this the right time for high-rise and condominium buildings to invest in upgrading their systems and equipment to save money on energy costs.
Gupta emphasizes the importance of always starting with an energy action plan. “This way, you’ll be sure that your various retrofits will all work together,” he says
Consider these five primary areas when creating an energy action plan for your community:
- Change common areas to LED lighting. One of the most significant ways to save electricity–between 10 and 20 percent–is by converting your building’s incandescent and fluorescent lights to LED lighting in all common areas (garage, hallways, lobby, exterior, etc.). Skypoint, a high-rise community in Tampa, Florida, underwent a two-phase lighting upgrade that saves so much energy (approx. 441,924 kilowatt hours and $48,600 each year) they were recognized by the Florida Public Service Commission with the Triple E Award.
- Give your air conditioning system a checkup. Improving the efficiency of your building’s air conditioning is a relatively simple undertaking. However, it can reduce your building’s electricity usage by 5 to 10 percent (saving your community thousands of dollars per year), with a one- to three-year payback. Normandeau said that, in Florida, FS Energy has saved buildings up to $50,000 a year by upgrading their air conditioning systems.
- Install temperature setback thermostats. By utilizing programmable thermostats, users can conserve energy when the space isn’t in use. For example, if your high-rise building has a meeting space that isn’t used overnight, why heat or cool it as though people are in the room? Setting your thermostat a few degrees higher or lower can make a difference in energy costs, and the programmability of the setback takes the worry of forgetting to change the temperature off your hands.
- Optimize your cold water booster pumps. By installing a control device on the water pumps, you can operate your pumps at lower speeds while still providing the water pressure your building needs. This can result in electrical savings between one and five percent with a one- to five-year payback. Neptune, a Toronto high-rise managed by FirstService Residential, optimized its water pumps and expects to save almost $38,000 a year.
- Consider cooling tower fan controls. Many fans on cooling towers have a variable frequency drive, more commonly known as multiple speeds. And sometimes those fans work needlessly hard. Reducing their use, through something like a speed drive, will still keep the building cool but reduce energy consumption by as much as 20 percent.
Determining which programs are most appropriate for your condominium building and how much you will save can be challenging. A professional property management company that is experienced in planning and implementing energy management programs can make that job much easier.