Bang For Your Buck!


TRC Energy Services participated in the new on-floor, live demonstrations at the recent San Diego County Apartment Association’s Rental Housing Educational Conference and Expo. Knowing many property owners and managers are interested in making energy efficiency upgrades but just don’t know where to start, TRC team member Lisa DeMarco gave a presentation that stacked up various upgrade options based on the level of investment and expected modeled energy savings. In other words — which upgrades provide the most “Bang for Your Buck!”

In case you missed the presentation, here is a quick recap!

First, a little background on why saving energy is important — AB 32 was signed into law in 2006 with a target to reduce GHG emissions in California to 1990 levels by 2020. At that time, 2020 seemed far off, but now it is only 3 years away! If multifamily property owners and managers collectively strive to save energy at their multifamily properties, together we can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state.

Every property owner and manager in San Diego has access to the Energy Upgrade California Multifamily program which offers incentives for making energy efficiency upgrades to multifamily properties. When you are ready to get started, your very first step is to have an energy assessment at your property. This comprehensive study of your property will identify your property’s physical needs, the largest energy users and take into account your property’s climate zone (coastal vs. inland) and provide details on which retrofits will most benefit your particular property.

Since 2012 we have had roughly 3,500 units come through the program and this is what we’ve learned:


The most common and cost-effective measure is a lighting retrofit (interior and exterior), which gives most multifamily properties the biggest bang for their buck.

By that we mean the least amount of money invested to see the biggest amount of modeled energy savings. (As you scroll through each measure, notice the dollar signs and stars on each icon representing the amount of investment required compared to the expected modeled energy savings).

You will see the most savings if you convert your properties to LEDs, which have a significantly longer lifespan than incandescents and use up to 80% less energy than traditional lighting.

With LEDs you can expect lower wattage, longer life and less maintenance.

Central Domestic Hot Water Controls

Here in San Diego, the number one energy user at a multifamily property is typically hot water.

If your property has a central domestic hot water system — one system (large tank) serving many apartment homes — then that system is likely recirculating water 24/7.

The next biggest bang for your buck would be to install central controls that take into consideration time, temperature or demand. By adding central controls you are turning off the hot water system’s recirculation pump when it does not need to run.

This is a great retrofit to maximize a smaller investment while making a big impact on your property’s energy use.


The next area where you can really affect some change in energy reduction and make a nice impact for your residents is new appliances —dishwashers, washers and refrigerators.

With dishwashers and washers you will not only save energy but also water.

Older dishwashers purchased before 1994 use more than 10 gallons of water per cycle, while new models use less than half of that. ENERGY STAR clothes washers clean clothes using 35% less water and 20% less energy than standard washers.

A new refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR label uses 40% less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001.

Domestic Hot Water

So, back to domestic hot water — because again this is typically the highest energy user for multifamily properties in San Diego.

It doesn’t matter if you have a central or individual tank – we are now talking about retrofitting an existing system with a higher efficiency system.

With this measure, you are going to see a bit more investment but you are going to see excellent results.

If you are replacing your domestic hot water system — or have a suspicion you should — you definitely want to reach out to us.


Our next upgrade provides a great return, but it will require a bit more investment — and that is dual-pane, vinyl windows.

Because new windows not only save energy but also keep comfort levels high and noise levels low, both managers and residents report back high satisfaction at properties that have made this investment.

Heating and Cooling

This may be surprising — but in San Diego heating and air conditioning will typically provide the least amount of return on your investment, depending on whether your property is located inland or coastal. But sometimes replacing your HVAC is out of necessity and can be a popular retrofit because it makes your residents more comfortable and can help lower their utility expenses.


We get a lot of inquiries about solar and even though it is not part of the Energy Upgrade California Multifamily program, we are all for solar.

But this is our pro tip: Reduce before you produce! By researching the measures above and making your energy efficiency retrofits first, you can reduce your overall solar needs before making that investment!

In Closing

  • Incorporating energy efficiency into your retrofit can increase your overall property value and return on investment (ROI).
  • Lower utility costs and increased comfort can result in higher resident satisfaction—that means fewer complaints, costly turnovers and unwanted vacancies.
  • Prospective residents consider a property’s energy efficiency when making their decision about a new rental home—energy efficiency gives you a competitive edge.

Incentive funds are available first-come, first served and these funds are limited. Now is the time to call if you are planning any type of renovation or remodel this year — you can maximize your budget and expand your scope of work to include energy efficiency upgrades using these incentives. To learn more or pre-qualify your property please call: 1-866-352-7457 or email:

%d bloggers like this: