Prioritize Your Energy Upgrades to Maximize Your Investment

By Melissa Buckley

In what order should I pursue energy efficiency upgrades to get the most bang for my buck?

With some forethought and planning, you can incorporate energy efficiency improvements into all types of renovations, and in turn increase property value, tenant health and safety, and lower energy and water bills.

Whether you are considering a whole-building renovation or plan to make individual upgrade measures, follow the energy efficiency loading order below to achieve more significant energy savings for a better price. The order encourages you to reduce the need for energy first through maintenance and existing equipment improvements, and then replace equipment with high performance models when they reach the end of their useful life. This approach optimizes cost effectiveness, maximizes energy savings and comfort, and often results in the need for smaller appliances and systems. Read on for a basic overview of the loading order and what you can do to cut energy costs across your property.

Building Envelope (walls, ceiling, floors)

Keep the good air in and the bad air out. Seal cracks and leaks in walls to reduce infiltration and drafts, and add insulation to restrict the flow of heat and cold. If possible, consider replacing window seals and stops. This will help conditioned or heated air stay where it is supposed to, rather than draft in or out.

Hot Water, Dishwashers, Clothes Washers (40% of a multifamily building’s energy use)

First consider no- and low-cost water saving measures, like pipe wraps and low-flow faucets. If your budget allows it, replace and upgrade water heating equipment and dishwashers.

Space Heating (22% of a multifamily building’s energy use)

When combined with the water heater, space heaters can account for over 60 % of a multifamily building’s total energy use. Maintain equipment to extend its life and efficiency—change filters when recommended, and consider adding programmable thermostats to maximize tenant comfort and lower cost. Seal and insulate ducts to improve heating and cooling efficiency.

Lighting (11% of a multifamily building’s total energy use)

Switching to energy efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to noticeably cut your energy bills. You can install timers and motion sensors (compatible with the energy-efficient bulbs you want to use), to save money by reducing the amount of time the lights are on when not needed.

Appliances and Electronics  (17% of a multifamily building’s total energy use)

Of all appliances and electronics refrigerators, computers, and cooking units use the most energy. When replacing units, systems, and appliances, consider the ENERGY STAR® brand—a well-maintained, more efficient unit means less out of your pocket in the long run.

Factor in not only the price tag, but also the ongoing cost of use during the appliance’s lifetime. Encourage tenants to turn off and unplug computers, TVs, DVD players, and other small electronic when not in use.

Central and Room Air Conditioning (2% of a multifamily building’s total energy use)

Air conditioning significantly impacts California’s statewide energy system reliability. When people use air conditioning only for a few of the hottest days each year, utility providers must incur high costs to bring peaking power plants online to meet increased electricity demand. Over-sized, older, less efficient equipment and under-used controls waste energy and place stress on the State’s energy system. Consider using interior fans instead of or in addition to air conditioners to spread the cooled air through the space.

Renewable Energy Generation Systems (solar hot water and photovoltaic)

Consider renewable energy generation systems (solar hot water and solar energy systems) last, after you have installed all cost effective means of reducing energy use.

Appliance repairs or replacement, structural damage, health, safety or comfort issues, repositioning, and buying or selling all provide property owners with an opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of a property. TRC Energy Services provides a free, public service on behalf of SDG&E to administer the Energy Upgrade California Multifamily program, and guide property owners to the right incentive or rebate offering.  As a result of this public service, multifamily properties across San Diego have reduced energy use by an average of 17%. Through a short phone call we can determine if a property can qualify for incentive and rebates to lower utility costs for the property, benefitting both the owner and the residents. Call 866-352-7457 to learn more.

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