Building owners, managers and even superintendents are always on the lookout for ways to trim their operating budget's bottom line. Electricity and fuel costs continue to climb year after year and identifying cost savings in this area can become more and more difficult. One way to analyze your building's expenses is to conduct an energy audit, but getting one isn't as simple as it seems.
There are different types of audits, services, and ways to save on energy costs. Here's what building owners, managers, and boards should know before getting an audit - and how best to get one.
The first thing for a customer to understand is there are two separate types of energy/utility audits available, both of which have the potential for savings. The first type of audit is what's known as a physical audit, where a property manager or privately-hired consultant will enter the building and check it for energy-efficient lighting or appliances and otherwise scour the property for energy waste. The positive side of a physical audit is the auditors will likely find places where savings can be made.
The drawback in a lot of cases is that a consultant will often make recommendations for more efficient lights and appliances, resulting in a potentially large out-of-pocket cost for the building and its shareholders. For instance, if every hall light bulb is replaced with pricier but more efficient incandescent bulbs, the cost of replacing each can reach into the thousands. The building may become more efficient, but it may take months or even years to recoup the costs of the new products. The costs of buying a new, more efficient HVAC system - though it will save money over time - often scares co-op or condo boards into sticking with the less-efficient equipment already installed.
But the costs involved shouldn't frighten co-op or condo boards that understand the long-term benefits of replacing equipment. According to Maria Vargas, a spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, all of the more than 40 appliances that already have the Energy Star label pay for themselves in less than five years. "You get to have your cake and eat it too," says Vargas. "Appliances with the Energy Star label allow you to be as comfortable, have the latest technologies, save money on your energy bills, and help the environment."