By Harry Apostolos, CEO
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is an old business adage. It means that unless you measure something you won’t be able to tell if it’s getting better or worse. You also won’t be able to manage for improvements.
The measure-manage concept is especially true when discussing utility expense management. In the multifamily housing industry, utility expense management starts with submetering. Submetering systems generate the data needed to calculate consumption-based utility bills.
Interval submetering transforms submetering data into actionable information that lets residents and managers more effectively manage utility expenses.
The benefits of submetering have been clearly documented. Industry studies show that utility usage drops up to 39% when individual submeters are installed in each apartment unit. These studies compare resident consumption patterns in metered apartments receiving monthly utility bills vs. unmetered apartments where residents are unaware of their actual utility usage and the cost associated with that usage.
Those residents who receive a monthly utility bill based on metered service consume significantly less than those in un-metered apartments. But what if residents (and property managers) could see actual usage before the next monthly bill arrives? Could actions be taken to drive utility usage even lower and to build better resident relations?
Advances in measurement and information technologies now make it possible to transform monthly utility bills into daily (or more frequent) consumption snapshots. Properties equipped with radio frequency submetering systems and appropriate backend software applications can transmit individual or property-wide snapshots for viewing on computers or smart phones.
The accompanying graph shows an apartment resident’s cumulative water usage as of December 15th compared with cumulative usage on the 15th day of the 12 preceding months.
By comparing current month-to-date consumption with prior month’s usage, residents can make adjustments in their usage or detect possible maintenance problems – before the end of the billing period. This helps residents lower their utility charges and promotes resource conservation.
“We’ll look for large usage spikes in occupied units and alert residents before the end of the billing period,” says Steve Hess, President of Kohr Royer Griffith Inc. “If the spikes continue for several days, they will set up a maintenance call to see what’s going on. We’ll also look for vacant units that show water usage, which usually means a toilet is running.”
For property owners and managers, interval submetering helps build better resident relations and better bottom lines. To illustrate the point, the following chart ranks 30 apartment units from highest to lowest water usage during the first 15 days of December 2011.
CSN Realty, a real estate investment and property management firm located in Deal, New Jersey, uses consumption rankings like the one above in two ways:
“First, we look for vacant units that show water usage,” said Matthew Marshall, CSN’s Senior Finance Manager. “Vacant units that show usage usually mean a toilet is running. Leaks like these that go undetected for weeks eat into our bottom line. Guardian daily consumption profiles help us avoid costly leaks. Second, we also look for large usage spikes in occupied units and alert residents. If the spikes continue for several days, we set up a maintenance call to see what’s going on,” says Marshall. Building better resident relations is an important part of CSN’s utility expense management program.
Guardian Scan+® is an interval submetering service that helps reduce utility expenses in multifamily properties. Property owners, managers and maintenance personnel can access this new information service at Guardian’s website. Guardian Scan+® provides utility usage profiles on a unit-by-unit basis in continuous 24-hour time increments. “We designed Guardian Scan+® so that property managers can quickly identify water leaks and vacancy heat loss,” said Robert Kennedy, Guardian’s System Development Manager. “Leaks and heat losses that would otherwise go undetected until release of the next monthly property report, can now be proactively identified.”
“Not everything that counts can be counted” is another old adage which means that there are some important things that can’t be measured. However, in the multifamily housing industry, utility expenses definitely count, and they can certainly be counted in daily increments with interval submetering to reduce utility expenses and promote conservation.
Guardian Water & Power is a leading provider of submetering and utility cost recovery services for multifamily and commercial property owners. Guardian services include submetering system installation for water, gas and electric, billing and collection services, regulatory research, rate analysis, utility billing auditing, loss detection and control services.