By now, we’ve all heard about rising oil prices—and are seeing their impact on our energy bills. Co-op and condo owners in New York have seen their energy bills climb to record highs and there’s no relief in sight, so buildings and their owners are looking for ways to lower their energy bills.
“Obviously anyone who gets a direct electric bill has seen the impact that oil prices have had and how much electricity costs have gone up,” says Lewis Kwit, owner of Manhattan-based Energy Investment Systems. “We expect electricity rates to go up between 18 and 40 percent [within] the next three years based on the price of fuel. Con Ed has said 18 percent, but I have heard more—and it will happen sooner rather than later.”
Building managers and administrators don’t have to take this news lying down, however. While some solutions are physical—like making structural or systemic improvements to a building with the aim of reducing energy waste and making what is used go as far as possible—others are more behavioral and count on the building’s staff and occupants to help keep costs down. The latter approach could include anything from encouraging residents to turn off lights in unused rooms to taking shorter showers to conserve water.
According to the professionals, one of the problems in multifamily buildings is that people don’t see a direct connection between their “good behavior” and their utility bill. They tend to think no one else in the building is being conscientious, so why should they? It may help if a conscientious board can show residents that if everyone did do their part, they would see a measurable difference.
“The real issue here is that most everyone knows what is wasting energy in their own apartment, especially if they are paying for it directly,” says Warren Zaretsky, vice president of marketing for U.S. Energy Group in Flushing. “On the other hand, we seem much more cavalier about wasting the landlord’s electricity and all the other energy and resources paid for by the landlord—or by the common expenses of a co-op or condo.” There are plenty of things for a building to do to save on energy costs, but it’s important that managers and boards first talk with a professional about what can be done.