Is Energy Taking a Big Bite Out of Your HOA’s Operating Budget?

Posted on Friday June 23, 2017

If your community or building is located in Illinois, increasing utility rates are only adding to the challenge of managing your condo or homeowners association (HOA) costs. As it is, energy already accounts for a large part of your operating expenses. And you can’t do much about the need for heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer and lights all year round. So is there anything you can do to lower your utility costs?
 
Fortunately, there is. By working with a property management company that has in-house energy expertise, you can reduce both your energy usage and cost. Some mid-rise and high-rise condominiums in Chicago and Evanston are already turning to energy professionals within their management company to help them comply with mandatory energy benchmarking. As a result, they are becoming more aware of their energy usage and learning ways they can make their buildings more efficient.
 
Implementing energy efficiency measures is a great place to start. However, Robert Meyer, director of engineering services at FirstService Residential’s FS Energy subsidiary, says that there are additional things you can do to make your energy dollars stretch even further. He recommends the following four strategies, which he and his team have applied to help many of our managed properties in Illinois lower their energy costs.
 
  1. Perform energy bill audits.
    Incorrect fees, defective meters, calculating errors or inaccurate pricing can result in costly mistakes on your utility bills. Energy experts can uncover these errors by analyzing your community’s billing statements for rate and usage discrepancies. In addition, they can perform ongoing audits to make sure that you are getting the best rates month to month.
     
  2. Consider the value of demand response programs.
    Because excessive electrical demand can cause outages, electricity is often more expensive during peak demand periods. As much as 40 percent of your monthly bill may be going toward demand costs if your HOA or condo association uses most of its electricity during those times. If it makes sense for your community, shifting your major loads to nonpeak times when electricity is less costly can significantly lower your bill. You can even install control systems that limit your demand during peak times.

    Meyer explains that some electric companies also offer their large clients “load-shedding” incentives. With load shedding, your association agrees to reduce demand by running your generators for a set amount of time when there is a need to conserve energy due to an event such as a heat wave, power plant repair or storm.
     
  3. Participate in an energy aggregation purchasing program.
    Combining your energy use with that of other properties can result in lower rates for electricity and natural gas than the utility companies’ standard rates. However, you must be part of an aggregate group that has the buying power to negotiate discounts, such as a large community management company. As a subsidiary of FirstService Residential – the largest management company in North America – FS Energy is able to provide this to its Illinois customers.
     
  4. Improve training and technology.
    A well-trained staff can help to ensure the effectiveness of your energy-efficiency projects. Your community management company should offer the education that your maintenance staff needs to keep equipment operating at its best and should explain how your building or community staff can apply efficiency best practices. FS Energy, for example, supports its clients by holding quarterly training sessions, including seminars on lighting, heat-timer controls, benchmarking and systems oversight.

    Of course, the best training can only go so far if you are working with inefficient equipment. Conduct an assessment of your equipment, as well as your lighting, to determine where it makes financial sense to retrofit or replace existing systems with more energy-efficient options. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that installing controls makes more sense than replacing entire systems. The goal is to optimize savings without sacrificing residents’ comfort. For example, you could use motion sensors to reduce electricity in rooms that get little use.
 
With a bit of planning and creativity, your energy expenses don’t need to leave you sweating – even in the middle of a Chicagoland summer. Learn more about how a community management company with in-house energy expertise can help you lower your utility costs. Contact FirstService Residential, the leading community management company in Illinois.
 

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