Summers bring extreme heat and humidity to the state of Florida. Understandably, this creates extra stress for homeowners as they watch utility bills soar. Similarly, this presents a challenge to association boards and managers with goals of reducing costs and conserving energy.
Energy conservation and managing community environmental footprints are crucial, and in light of this board members are realizing that they 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. Community association 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, Florida’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

Inform homeowners about local, regional and national programs designed to offset expenses to encourage proactive behavior. For example, several counties in Florida offer homeowners free do-it-yourself energy kits, access to zero-interest loans and thousands of dollars in rebates tied to energy audit recommendations. Take it a step further and go “green” by sharing program details via email newsletter campaigns and community message boards.

2. Conduct an energy audit

Offer communities a comprehensive view of ways in which they can improve water conservation and energy efficiency via a professional energy audit. Audits offer recommendations about weatherization strategies, including better common area insulation and insulating window film. Additional tips may also include how to address energy-wasting behaviors, reduce water use with low-flow fixtures and improve irrigation strategies, and the benefits of replacing high-maintenance shrubs and flowers with low-maintenance plants. Small landscaping changes can make all the difference and means big savings in warm climates like Florida!  If your community is ready to take the plunge, 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.
A good, solid energy audit takes into account both short- and long-term financial benefits for the community and will have you consider easy, low-cost solutions along with longer-term capital projects. Alternative financing solutions for associations should also be considered.

3. Leverage economies of scale

Professional community association 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. The right management partner can save you time as well as money, and should be able to offer suggestions about additional ways to curb energy spending.

4. Utilize the services of an energy management company

There are many ways to reduce your community’s energy costs and a professional energy management team can help you. Some of the best community association 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 Florida 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. Overall, this energy program initiative is expected to reduce operating costs by $11 million next year throughout FirstService Residential’s portfolio of communities, and some select high-rises may realize anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 a year in energy savings.
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 live in a community and would like help with conducting an energy audit or developing a unique energy savings plan, call FirstService Residential at 877-278-6468 and ask about FS Energy.
Thursday April 03, 2014