Q. I’d like to make some energy-efficiency improvements to my properties, but my residents pay the energy bills. How does this pencil out for my business?
A. Property owners and managers invest in energy efficiency for a variety of economic reasons. Consider the approach of American Property Management, in Portland, which recently installed attic and floor insulation and new windows on its 50 units at Port St. Johns Apartments. American Property makes energy improvements to four or five of its properties every year.
Owner Joe Weston knows that raising the re-rent rate at Port St. Johns by $10 per month won’t cover the cost of the upgrades. But energy efficiency pays off in other important ways. “Energy improvements have offered an excellent way to keep our crews busy in this down economy by investing in our properties’ long-term value,” said Weston. “And our residents like the improved comfort, reduced noise and lower energy bills. They’re happier, and a happy resident is a good resident.” Happy residents can contribute to lower turnover, and as Weston put it, “turnover is so very costly.”
The bottom line is that energy efficiency offers good value—particularly long-term, and with financial incentives that are available to help defray the cost.
Start with a free consultation from PGE
Portland General Electric offers a free energy-efficiency consultation to evaluate your property’s opportunities to save energy – improvements for HVAC systems, insulation levels, in-unit appliances, windows, common-area lighting, and water use. The energy consultation can help you decide which upgrades are best for your property. Request yours at www.PortlandGeneral.com/EnergyConsult.
Insulation makes units more comfortable
PGE recommends that you insulate before you replace windows because insulation is more cost-effective and can reduce energy use by up to 20 percent. Insulation is rated according to R-value: the higher the better.
• Insulate attics to R-38. Attic and roof insulation usually is the least costly and offers the greatest energy savings. If attic insulation is R-18 or less, bring it up to R-38. Use an experienced contractor and install sufficient attic ventilation.
• Insulate underfloor to R-30 unless your property has a basement. If crawlspace insulation is R-11 or less, bring it up to R-30. Water pipes in the crawlspace should be insulated for freeze protection. Crawlspace ventilation also is important, and install a black plastic ground cover to control moisture.
• Wall insulation should be R-11 to R-15. If your property’s walls have no insulation, consider insulating to at least R-11 by drilling a 2-½ inch hole at every stud cavity and blowing insulation into the wall cavities. This typically is done on the building’s exterior, making wall insulation less practical for brick and stucco buildings. Wall insulation is an excellent noise barrier, too.
Replacement windows and doors offer multiple benefits
New double-pane windows can improve comfort, curb appeal and marketability,while reducing condensation, drafts and noise.
Upgrade common area
This can be one of the most cost-effective improvements and also results in brighter, safer, more pleasant surroundings. If you have T12 fluorescent lamps, replace them soon because replacement T12 lamps will no longer be manufactured after July 2012.
Don’t overlook in-unit
ENERGY STAR® qualified dishwashers and clothes washers can trim resident energy bills, while saving you substantially on water and sewer costs. These improvements are a great way to upgrade your units to retain long-term residents and attract new ones.
Replace baseboard and
electric wall heaters
These heaters are inefficient and expensive to operate. Consider replacing them with new, ductless, zoned comfort systems that can save up to 60 percent on heating costs. These systems also provide summer cooling – a feature increasingly sought by residents. For information on ductless systems, visit www.PortlandGeneral.com/Ductless.
Get cash incentives from
An excellent way to help make your project pencil out is to take advantage of cash incentives from Energy Trust of Oregon. Cash incentives are available for many of the upgrades listed above. Learn more at www.EnergyTrust.org or call 1-877-510-2130.
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