Though the snowy weather hasn't hit Illinois hard yet this year, the cold is coming and we will see our energy bills rise. The energy amount it costs to keep building and common areas warm and well-lit can make a significant dent in your budget, especially when the temperatures plummet and the days become shorter. Fortunately, there are many simple things or changes you can do to reduce your energy costs.

While some of these require preparation in the summer or fall, it will ultimately be worth it once the wintertime comes around and you are well-prepared for whatever comes your way. For example, you should clean, tune-up and repair heating systems, boilers and furnaces, and replace their filters if needed. Completing those tasks will keep heating systems working efficiently throughout the winter. Read our article, Winterizing Your Community Association, for more ideas on fine-tuning your heating systems and preparing your building for the worst weather. 

You should also ensure gutters are cleaned each fall thoroughly to ensure that water can flow freely during the winter months. This is because trapped water can freeze and damage the gutters themselves, but it can also cause ice dams and roof leaks, resulting in energy loss.

Even if you did not have the chance to take these precautions, it is not too late to do other things to save on energy costs this winter. Here are a few steps you can take to help your condo save money on energy and keep your budget in check.

Conduct an energy audit. The first simple step is knowing exactly how much energy you use. Suneel Gupta, director of energy and sustainability at FirstService Residential, says, "Most local energy providers perform energy audits, usually at no cost, to help your condominium identify ways to lower usage and costs." Providers might suggest that you improve or replace insulation, apply window film or install energy-usage monitoring systems in common areas, says Gupta. A quality property management company will also have the resources to help your condominium identify areas where you can save money on energy. These may include investing in energy-efficient heating systems and LED lighting. Make energy conservation a priority. Educate your staff on the importance of energy conservation and how it can benefit the community in the short and long run. Train them on ways they can reduce usage and costs for your condo. If your condominium association is professionally managed, your property manager should already have energy- and cost-reduction plans in place for your building or community. This should include proactive efforts such as renegotiating utility rates, developing policies to emphasize energy-efficient products and equipment and leveraging bulk purchasing programs to reduce commodity costs. It is also important to get residents involved in energy conservation. For example, your board can create an energy committee to identify ways to reduce energy usage and costs in and around your condo. Educate your residents. Although energy use in individual units does not affect the condominium association's budget, residents will be keen on learning how they can save on their bills, too. Your board or property manager can send emails, e-newsletters or other digital correspondence to residents that promote the association's commitment to saving energy, as well as provide conservation tips they can implement at home. A professional property management company should be familiar with ways to help residents save. "Knowing about these initiatives and tips will help you to save on your energy bill as an individual unit owner and preserve the reserve fund available to your condominium," explains Gupta. "This allows more funds to be distributed toward facility updates and maintenance, which benefits the whole community." Here are some other simple tips offered by the Illinois Smart Energy Design Assistance Center. Space heating and cooling: 1. Keep blinds and drapes open to allow heat in during the day. 2. Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely. 3. Set your thermostat to the lowest comfortable temperature. Water heating: Reduce the temperature of your water heater to the "warm" setting. Wash clothes on the "cold water" instead of the "hot water" setting. Lighting: Properly position lights to better illuminate the entire activity area without creating distracting glares or shadows. Refrigerator: Check that the temperature inside your refrigerator is between 35°F and 38°F. If you are renovating your kitchen, do not position your dishwasher next to the fridge. Dishwasher and laundry: Wash only full loads. Most dishwashers have a built-in heating element to dry dishes, so be sure to use the "no-heat" feature. When using your clothes dryer, be sure you have a full, but not oversized, load. This is more energy-efficient than drying smaller loads. Using the "permanent press" (cool-down) cycle will reduce energy as well. Turn it down. When they are not in use, heating indoor common spaces can be a massive waste of energy and money. Look at the occupancy patterns and amount of energy use, and program the thermostats accordingly. You may be able to turn down the heat in storage units, meeting rooms or a movie room at night or at other times when they are not in use. However, do not turn off the heat entirely in any room. This can lead pipes to freeze, creating even more significant problems! Read more about how to maintain your pipes and keep them from freezing during the winter here. Turn it off. While the heat should never be shut off during the winter, the lights certainly can be. A great consideration to add to your condo association is installing motion-activated sensors or programming to ensure that lights are turned off entirely when they are not in use. As mentioned previously, you can look into buying LED lights, which are more energy-conscious and longer-lasting. Although there is not much you can do regarding the harsh cold weather, using these guidelines can reduce the bite that winter energy use takes out of your condo association's budget. For more energy-saving guidelines and tips, contact FirstService Residential, Chicagoland's leading property management company. Keywords: Energy conservation, heating systems, property management, energy use
Monday January 01, 0001