July 14, 2016

This blog was originally posted on WeGoWise.com and has been lightly edited.

Energy retrofits in a multi-family building don’t have to be big, expensive or time-consuming projects. Some upgrades can cost as little as $5 upfront, take less than an hour for building maintenance to install and start saving you money and energy right away. (Hint: we know an easy way to track energy savings, so you can ensure your retrofits are paying off.) Even low-capital changes can give your portfolio a competitive edge in the market, attract investors, keep tenants happy and increase your return on investment (ROI). Who knows, maybe you can even put that money toward bigger energy retrofits in the future!

Ready to start saving? Here are 6 low-capital investments you can make in your buildings now:

1. Tune Up Your Portfolio

Regular maintenance of your buildings’ equipment and systems can help ensure they’re running as efficiently as possible and extend their lifespans. Depending on the square footage, a tune-up can cost as little as $2,500 and yield as high as a 200% internal rate of return, according to ENERGY STAR®.

Cost: $2500+
ROI: 200%

2. Automate Your Energy

Energy automation through building management systems can help your portfolio reach higher levels of efficiency. Automated energy means you can slash the amount of time spent manually adjusting temperatures and lighting, as well as save up to 30% on energy costs, says the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The cost of installing a building management system depends on the size of the building, but can start at just $2 per square foot.

Cost: $2+ per square foot
Savings: 30%

3. Install Efficient Lighting

Lighting consumes between 10 to 30% of the energy in multi-family housing and commercial buildings. By swapping out old, inefficient lighting with LEDs or CFLs, you’ll use up to 75% less energy, plus they’ll last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Starting at about $10, LEDs and CFLs currently cost a couple of dollars more per bulb than incandescents, but you can often earn back your initial investment in just a few weeks.

Tip: If you’re not ready to replace all of your lighting with LEDs and CFLs just yet, find the areas of your portfolio where you can make the greatest impact with your budget by starting with your most lighting-intensive buildings.

Cost: $10+
Savings: 75%

4. Save Water

Low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators and high-efficiency toilet and urinal wash valves are three low-capital improvements that can often pay back your investment within one year. While the cost of a new low-flow toilet can cost several hundred dollars, replacing just the bowl and flush valves of a common flushometer toilet model can cost just a few dollars and potentially save hundreds of gallons of water a year per toilet. Similarly, faucet aerators and efficient shower heads can cost as little as $5 to replace and save a building thousands of gallons of water per year.

Cost: $5+
Savings: 10,000+ gallons of water per year (Dollar value varies based on water costs in your area)

5. Weatherize

It takes time, energy and money to heat and cool your buildings, so why would you let that air escape? (You might as well be flushing your money down an inefficient toilet!) Heat and air conditioning can easily disappear through unsealed cracks and uninsulated parts of your buildings, while a lack of weatherization can cause HVAC systems to work even harder to keep up, wasting still more money and energy. Depending on the type of materials used in your buildings, insulation can start at around $10 per square foot, while air sealing costs even less. Both are effective solutions that can improve the comfort of your buildings and save you up to 15% on energy costs.

Cost: $10+
Savings: 15%

6. Utilize Data

Sometimes it’s obvious to see which buildings are wasting the most energy and water, but most of the time, it involves poring over utility bills and tracking spending through endless spreadsheets. The good news? There’s an easier way: Energy software can track your energy and water use in real time to help you to determine where retrofits make the most sense for your portfolio. Plus, through data, you can easily measure and increase the impact of any retrofit to make sure they are living up to their promised savings.

Cost: From just $10/building/month
ROI: Planning retrofits with a data-driven strategy can yield 2.5x the savings of an uninformed strategy.

Kate Flaherty joined the WegoWise team as the Marketing Specialist in February 2016. She started her career in non-profit management and now enjoys using her marketing skills to grow 'cleantech' solutions.

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