When you live in the Chicago area, spring can seem to take forever to get here. Energy costs to keep buildings and common areas warm and well lit can be a big hit on your budget when the temperatures plummet and the days are shorter.

Fortunately, doing a few simple things can reduce your energy costs. Some of these require preparation in the summer or fall. 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.
You should also clean gutters thoroughly each fall to ensure that water is able to flow freely. Trapped water can freeze. Not only can this damage the gutters themselves, but it can also cause ice dams and roof leaks, which will also result in energy loss.
Even if you didn’t have the chance to take these precautions, it’s not too late to do other things to save on energy costs this winter. Here are some steps that you can take to help your condo save money on energy.

  1. Conduct an energy audit. The first step is knowing exactly how much energy you use. According to Suneel Gupta, director of energy and sustainability at FirstService Residential, “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 in which you can save money on energy. These may include investing in energy-efficient heating systems and LED lighting.
  1. Make energy conservation a priority. Educate staff on the importance of energy conservation. 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 an energy- and cost-reduction plan 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. 

    But don’t stop there. It’s 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.
  1. Educate your residents. Although energy use in individual units doesn’t affect the condominium association’s budget, residents will appreciate learning how they can save on their own 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 simple tips offered by the Illinois Smart Energy Design Assistance Center.
  • Space heating and cooling: Keep blinds and drapes open to allow heat in during the day. Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely. 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 refrigerator.
  • 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.
  1. Turn it down. Heating indoor common spaces when they are not in use can be a waste of both energy and money. Look at patterns in occupancy and energy use, and program 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, never turn off the heat completely in any room. This can cause pipes to freeze, creating even bigger problems!
  1. Turn it off. Although the heat should never be shut off, lights can be. Consider installing motion-activated sensors or programming a timer to ensure lights are off when rooms are not in use.
Even though you can’t do much about the biting cold, following these steps can help you 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.

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Monday February 06, 2017