Month: March, 2016
People we work with often ask us why this energy management stuff really has to be so hard. Can’t it just be automated, kind of like Turbo Tax? We totally understand. A user friendly app that ties up energy management in a neat little bow would be ideal, but can it be done? We say no. Why?
Let’s break it down.
Real estate owners and managers need a tool that is built to scale. Automatically managing energy in a single family home might be a realistic software venture, although it’s still usually just Mom or Dad yelling at the kids to turn off the lights, imploring them to take shorter showers, and turning down the thermostat at night. However, energy management across an entire real estate portfolio is a different ball game. While there are plenty of tools out there that can handle the large volume of data and provide valuable insights (hello, EnergyScoreCards) they can’t actually do the dirty work.
Energy management for a real estate portfolio, like all nuanced fields, has a threshold at which an expert is necessary. Throw in an HSA and a mortgage to your tax return and you’ll be screaming for an accountant. In energy management, there are so many moving parts that a software-only solution is not only unrealistic, it’s undesirable. Technology can and should play an important role, but ultimately a person, an expert, needs to be calling the shots.
Buildings are complex, living, breathing ecosystems. (That dampness in the air could be because the ventilation system isn’t working, but it could also be that the air conditioners are oversized. Fluctuating hot water temperature could be caused by a boiler problem, a mixing valve problem, or crossover flow between hot and cold water.) Not to mention that buildings house people, and people are very tricky, unpredictable variables. (That skyrocketing water bill might be a leaky toilet, but could also be a crazy tenant who leaves the water running for white noise. The gas spike could be a problem with the boiler, but it could also be a tenant who has started using their oven as a supplemental heater.) We’ve seen it all.
With all these nuances, there is no energy management software for real estate portfolios that can do it all on its own. Technology will continue to drive this field forward, but expert humans are going to play an important role for a long time to come. Besides, you wouldn’t scrap the accountant and use Turbo Tax for your business, would you?
Our Top Picks for Energy Cinderella Stories
Every year there’s one small team that slowly but surely rises in ranks, winning upset after upset, while facing off against the biggest names in basketball. The same can be said for certain energy conservation measures which are often overlooked in favor of flashy, high-tech projects. But sometimes, it’s the smallest changes that make the biggest impact. Let’s take a look at our top five picks.
These simple devices are so easy to buy and install we’re not sure why they’re not on every faucet. By restricting the flow of water that comes out of your faucet, aerator implementation is a simple and cost-effective water conservation measure that can also result in major cost savings, especially across a portfolio. (Note: Low flow doesn’t mean crappy – we sometimes refer to the aerators we recommend as “engineered flow”, because they don’t get you any less clean, they just use less water.)
Where to start? Caulk has many useful applications. You probably think about caulking around the tub and countertops as preventing leaks into the floor below, but it also prevents mold and preserves indoor air quality. Caulking around your windows, doors and A/C sleeves keeps indoor air in and outdoor air out. So if you’re feeling the chill on a cold winter night, or when you receive your heating bill, feel around for air infiltration and try a fresh bead of caulk to keep you cozy and warm.
Energy efficient lighting has got to be one of the easiest upgrades out there with the most bang for its buck. The cost of the bulbs themselves are quickly recovered in short payback periods and improved quality of life. That’s right, efficient lighting also means comfortable lighting. Gone are the days of flickery twisty CFL bulbs – get yourself some of the new LEDs and enjoy beautiful light, much longer bulb life (10x fewer bulb changes) and much less unwanted heat, leading to a balanced indoor environment and budget.
If you’ve ever accidentally backed into an uninsulated pipe, you’ll surely understand the value of pipe insulation. Pipes get hot, really hot, and that’s exactly what they’re made to do. What they’re not made to do is retain that heat. This is where pipe insulation comes in. Attaching insulation around every heat and hot water pipe is not only an important safety measure, it also significantly cuts down heat loss, meaning you’ll have lower heat and hot water bills.
Control Your Controls
Sometimes the biggest savings are right under your nose. Many building owners implement building controls of some form. But more often than not, once the controls system is in place, it’s left to operate on its own without much oversight. Checking in on your controls is the best place to start when something isn’t working, but it’s an even better practice to check in when everything seems to be working fine. You never know what you might see. After all, a proactive approach to energy management is the real Cinderella story every year.