Communities undertake major projects to improve their building with goals that include increasing value and reducing expenses. Often overlooked are more basic projects that can be equally valuable.
Focusing on energy reduction or improving equipment performance delays the need to replace major equipment such as boilers. Savings translate to lower condo fees, a more stable financial situation and increased comfort.
One way to do this is by focusing on the building envelope. A building’s roof, walls and foundation separate the climate controlled interior from external weather. It is designed to resist water, air, noise, light, cold and heat. Masonry with insulation is the most effective way to reduce energy loss although residents desire more and larger less energy efficient windows requiring more maintenance.
Internal heating and cooling are controlled and managed by the building’s HVAC system, insulation and boilers. Doors, windows and gaps throughout the infrastructure can allow undesirable air movement and loss of energy.
One approach is to consider energy loss as uncontrolled air flow. Buildings are designed to fully control air flow. Any air flow that is uncontrolled – old windows, old or damaged caulking, damaged gaskets (strips of rubberized material at the top and bottom of windows that act as a sealant against air when the window is properly closed), doors and other openings where air can travel unrestricted – should be controlled. Residents will likely complain of drafts when uncontrolled air flow is a problem. Gaskets and caulking don’t have a long life and require regular replacement.
Certain building systems which can cause unnecessary energy waste have easy and relatively inexpensive solutions.
Older heating systems are energy inefficient. Hot water radiator systems and boilers, common in condo buildings built prior to the early 1980s, were installed when energy was inexpensive. Residents, unable to adequately control the heat in their suite, will open windows which is a huge waste of energy. Upgrading radiator controls can be an inexpensive solution.
Boilers heat and circulate water. Old and unmaintained boilers are inefficient and waste energy. Many are replaced long before their 40+ lifespan is reached to improve energy efficiency. Older boilers, at best, are about 80 percent efficient. Newer boilers can operate at between 92 percent and 95 percent efficiency in how they heat and circulate water.
Window Air Conditioners
Window air conditioners waste an incredible amount of energy. Many don’t fit well in their space and lack insulation. They allow hot air in during summer causing the unit to work harder. Cold air enters during winter creating cold drafts and reducing efficiency of the heating system. It is best to remove these systems during winter months and reinstall each summer. Upgrading systems can be more economical than high energy bills.
Central Air Conditioning
Central air conditioning systems (HVAC) can be a challenge to control and balance. Some areas of a building get too warm while other areas are too cold. Settings should be adjusted each season to maintain even temperatures. Smart thermostats for suites and common areas can help. They will track usage and can automatically adjust temperatures for heating and air conditioning. It is a simple matter to program a system to lower room temperature when everyone is at work or asleep, and raise it in the morning.
Replacing older lighting systems with LED lights can be a big energy saver. They require less maintenance which can reduce staffing and other costs.
Public Area Airflow
Every entranceway to a building, from front door to garage, is an opening for heated or cooled air to escape. Having a vestibule, where one set of doors close before a second set opens, can make a difference.
With the cost of electricity expected to continue increasing, finding ways to reduce electricity use is the best way to reduce the largest expense in most condo corporation budgets.