While state and local governments implement energy-saving incentive programs and more buildings are either being retrofitted or built with next-generation energy-saving technology, the habits of unit owners and shareholders still impact a building’s bottom line on energy costs. This is particularly true during the colder months, when lowering thermostats, switching off lights, and not opening windows while the heat is on are obvious ways to cut energy costs though these tactics are not always observed by residents.
People are creatures of habit for better or worse. That’s why getting the word out to residents and encouraging them to develop good energy-use habits can be tough: folks don’t always recognize what’s not already on their radar screen. So boards and property managers must lead the effort, by researching ways to reduce energy consumption and by encouraging residents to conserve—and in so doing save themselves money. The task may seem big, but it’s basically just the management team doing its homework and communicating info to residents; following up with reminders and new information regularly; and planning for future energy efficiencies.
Manageable though it may be, this is not a task that can be accomplished and forgotten, since the battle to cut waste and improve efficiency is ongoing and unending. So, board members and property managers would be wise to consult a variety of resources before devising an attack plan to eradicate energy inefficiencies. The benefits—and savings—are in the details.
Seeing Is Believing
Boards and managers can help to educate residents about saving energy, but how they do it should depend partly upon the makeup of the building’s residents and how they pay for their energy usage. Individual payers of utilities, as opposed to those paying utilities through a general maintenance fee in which the utilities are not itemized, may be motivated differently.
“Who’s paying the utilities? Is the co-op or condo owner paying their own utilities or not?” asks Jill Wasser, a consumer program specialist for the New York State Public Service Commission. “If utilities are being paid through a maintenance fee, maybe the residents are not seeing the cost of wasting energy. People will pay attention if you say, ‘Your maintenance fee will drop if we install high-efficiency lighting.’”