Here’s how to reduce energy costs and water costs in residential properties

Increasing attention is being paid to the energy efficiency of real estate, but there is still a lot of room for savings in the use of energy and water in residential properties. Here are some concrete tips on the things property owners should pay attention to in apartment buildings.

Before thinking about the potential of a property, the starting position needs to be made clear: what is the current energy consumption level of the property, and what energy is consumed?

Construction regulations vary from decade to decade. In addition, the nature of individual properties–for example, whether there is a sauna or parking facilities–affect the energy consumption of residential properties. The use of technology and the behaviour of residents also contributes to variations in energy consumption.

In apartment buildings, heating is the single largest maintenance expense, accounting for about one-fifth of the total. Water consumption accounts for about 10 per cent, and electricity for less than 5 per cent of total maintenance costs.

Realia Management has conducted several energy audits for various residential properties. The company has yet to come across a property without any potential for greater efficiency in energy or water use. Here are some things to consider for reducing energy costs and water costs in apartment buildings:

1. Optimisation of indoor temperatures

Housing temperatures are often unnecessarily high or unbalanced, or both. Residents also easily become accustomed to high temperatures. Optimising housing temperatures is an easy way to influence maintenance costs while also creating comfortable housing conditions. The temperature in stairwells, car parking facilities and storage areas are often almost the same level as in apartments. However, the temperature does not need to be at the same level in these areas. Smart solutions for heating control in properties have also come onto the market in recent years. A reduction of the internal temperature by one degree generates an energy saving of about 5 per cent.

2.  Optimisation of water use

Typically, an unnecessarily large amount of water is used in properties. This puts a strain on the network over a longer period of time and leads to unnecessary costs. This does not only affect older buildings–it is also a problem in newer properties. It’s a good idea to inspect water flow and make the necessary adjustments.

3. Fixing broken building technology

In order for a property to function optimally, the building technology must be in good condition and regularly serviced. For example, non-functioning lighting control can lead to yard lights or parking area lights being left on unnecessarily.  If this persists for a long time there may be a significant energy loss, which is reflected directly in expenses. Residents should be encouraged to report maintenance needs.

4. Optimising set points

Real estate equipment must always work optimally if a property is to be energy-efficient. It is often found that the temperature set points to prevent freezing are remarkably high, leading to high energy consumption in the spring or autumn, for example. The set points and schedules for lighting, heating and ventilation as well as the prevention of freezing are some of the settings that Realia Management goes through when inspecting properties.

5. Investments

Energy efficiency should always be taken into account during renovations and when replacing equipment. This is easily forgotten if one only thinks of hardware costs or does not take long-term considerations into account. If the property is owned by an investor, they will surely consider the profitability of the investment from a real estate strategy perspective. It is also worthwhile to consider the possibility of geothermal heating on an individual basis, as more independent energy prices will be possible in the future.

6. Informing residents

Residents should be instructed and encouraged to ventilate and adjust temperatures correctly. It is also important to remind residents that, leaking water fittings, for example, should be immediately notified for repairs. Residents may not be aware of how valves should be cleaned, for instance. In cases where residents complain about the air quality in their apartment, it may be that they have not noticed that air vents are clogged or that the supply air vents are not open.

These are amongst the factors that Realia Management pays attention to in energy audits, where we also suggest concrete measures to be taken in residential properties. Housing conditions must not be compromised on, however. At its best, energy efficiency measures improve living conditions and comfort while reducing energy costs and creating savings for property owners.

Mari Rajaniemi is an energy leadership professional. Realia Management