Energy is a big deal in strata communities, with utilities making up between 10% – 30% of the running costs of an average strata building. So, the argument is there to invest in future savings now, by spending a little.
There are a variety of ways body corporates can save money and reduce energy usage. While most require an initial investment, this is more than made up by the ongoing savings into the future.
How Your Body Corporate Can Save On Energy
The most popular energy saving investment is undoubtedly efficient lighting.
Most modern buildings feature lights in the common areas that automatically shut off when nobody is around. The choice of lights themselves is also important; incandescent bulbs should be avoided in favour of Light Emitting Diode (LED) and Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) bulbs.
For body corporates, upgrading lighting in common areas to work on sensors, and switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, has some short-term costs, but will save property owners significant amounts of energy in the long-term.
Installing LED light bulbs, timers, push button lights, sensor lights and replacing outdated appliances to more energy efficient alternatives will be a great investment decision for your community.
For apartment buildings that have a central hot water system, this alone can account for a staggering 50% of the energy used in the common property! Up to 70% of this energy can be lost between the boiler and the apartment, thanks to poorly insulated pipework.
To reduce this figure, consider insulating your hot water systems and pipes, as well as checking for and repairing any leaks.
A pool cover or blanket is an essential accessory to reduce energy use. For heating, consider solar as the preferred options, followed by gas as a second preference.
If your pool pump does not carry at least a 5-star energy rating, consider upgrading it.
Heating and Cooling
Most systems for heating and cooling have been specifically designed to work best at given settings. Often, these settings will be changed by somebody (setting the temperature slightly lower in summer, or slightly higher in winter), with the result of significantly higher energy consumption.
Instead of changing the recommended settings, it is better to consult the system’s design or maintenance professional to assess and recalibrate the setup or perform routine maintenance (such as re-gassing an air-conditioning unit or replacing the filters).
Other options include: installing insulation, sealing draughts, and glazing windows.
To reduce the energy cost of moving air around your building (generally this is achieved with the use of fans), assess whether fans can be switched off when not used, or whether the fan speed can be reduced but still achieve the necessary circulation.
There are a variety of options available to strata complexes looking into solar power.
- Solar for common areas
- Separately metered system for each unit
- Solar powered embedded network
Installing solar can vary in complexity and cost, depending on which option you choose. The main hurdles for this project include getting approval from the majority of Owners, raising the funds (generally on top of current levies) and the feasibility of installation (roof area and exposure to sunlight).
Fix existing issues
Any conversation about bringing down your body corporate utility costs must factor in maintenance. There’s no point overhauling energy practices in your community if it’s all going to be hamstrung by faulty equipment.
Communities can get ahead of the curve by ensuring that all energy using equipment is up to date in its maintenance schedule and ensuring things like air conditioner units are maintained regularly to ensure efficiency.
Likewise, check hot water pipes for leaks: assets that use water should be regularly monitored. Energy is wasted when water is pumped through the system only to be leaked out again.