In the industry I’m in – resident utility billing – one of the axioms of our business is that property owners can reduce their energy costs by passing some or all of those costs on to residents. And while that is true, and is being practiced by an increasing number of owners nationwide, there are things that property owners and residents can do to reduce their energy consumption, and their related costs, especially as the winter heating season approaches.
Some are obvious, such as replacing filters on forced air furnaces and repairing worn or missing window seals. Others may seem obvious after you’ve read them, but probably haven’t been part of your routine, or your residents’.
My wife and I own some rental units ourselves, where we have employed some practices I’ve learned during my time in the resident utility billing business. For instance, we use thermostats that are programmed for a maximum room temperature of 68 degrees. Residents simply cannot turn the thermostat any higher.
Our units have forced air heat, so we visit with our residents in October and ask them to remove obstructions from in front of (or on top of) heating vents. Furniture and plants are the main culprits, but we had one tenant who put a pillow over one of the floor vents so her cat would have a warm bed to sleep on.
If you have old-fashioned steam radiators, invest in some inexpensive heat-resistant radiator reflectors to mount on the wall behind the radiator.
Fireplaces are, ironically, a potential heating nightmare. When fires are burning they actually suck heat out of the room. If the damper is left open after the fire has gone out, it is virtually the same as leaving a window open. Gas-burning fireplaces aren’t the answer either, given the rising cost of natural gas. The best advice may be to simply plug up the chimney and cover the fireplace.
When was the last time you checked the temperature setting on your water heater? We never set ours over 120 degrees, which is plenty hot enough. You should also insulate the hot water pipes coming out of the water heater.
What ideas do you have that have worked for you?
(Brainoblog would like to extend a special thank you to Dan Witte, Executive Vice-President of Sales, American Utility Management)