Frequently Asked Questions
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Important Questions To Ask When choosing a Submetering Company
Q: Does the vendor use proprietary submetering products that tie you to their billing service?
A: Guardian Water & Power submetering systems are non-proprietary. This gives our clients maximum flexibility in vendor selection and control.
Q: Does the vendor employ their own installation and service technicians?
A: Many submetering companies do not employ their own technicians. At Guardian, we staff our own department of field estimators, installers and service technicians at our regional offices. We believe this helps us maintain a consistently high level of installation and service quality.
Q: Does the vendor maintain their own testing and repair facilities?
A: Because we maintain our own testing and repair facilities, we can provide quick diagnosis and system repair services. Companies that do not maintain their own facilities must rely on outside, less responsive, service providers.
Q: Does the vendor provide low-cost run-time systems?
A: In many situations, a run-time system can be a low cost alternative to more expensive gas submeters.
Q: Can the vendor integrate run-time systems with RUBS allocation techniques?
A: At Guardian, we have developed techniques that combine run-time technology with RUBS allocation factors. This can help maximize utility cost recovery.
Q: Does the vendor provide meter kits for owner installed systems?
A: Guardian radio frequency meter kits are pre-programmed and pre-wired for easy installation. We also provide on-site amd toll-free 1-800 technical assistance for owner installed systems.
Q: Does the vendor offer installation financing options?
A: Guardian financing plans allow property owners and managers to realize the immediate benefits of submetering without the initial capital investment.
Q: Can the vendor interface their utility software with your property management software?
A: Our IT Department can quickly link your property management software with our system for efficient electronic date exchange.
Q: Does the vendor provide monthly monitoring and billing options tailored to your desired level of management control?
A: At Guardian, we make every effort to match our clients specific needs with our service offerings. To do this, our monthly service options begin with basic (Level One) meter reading and data transmission. We incrementally build on Level One to provide a total of five levels of monitoring and billing service.
Q: Does the vendor provide alternative bill presentation and payment options?
A: Guardian bill presentation formats include e-bills, online account access, hard copy statements and summary reports for property invoicing.
Q: Does the vendor provide management training and resident education programs?
A: Our Utility Submetering Reference Guide is our basic education and training document. Our account representatives use the guide online and on site to provide a smooth transition to submetering.
Q: Does the vendor have access to legal advisors with significant utility regulatory experience?
A: In the early years of our business, we consulted with various regulatory agencies and participated in efforts to help solidify the legal foundation of utility submetering in the United States. Guardian's legal counsel includes a former state utility commission chairman. As a member of the Utility Metering and Conservation Association, we participate in UMCA's national submetering regulatory data base which provides current regulatory information regarding state and local submetering legislation.
Benefits of Submetering/Conservation
Q: What is submetering?
A: Submetering is the process of distributing utility costs to individual residents in mutli-unit rental properties. Costs are distributed on the basis of actual usage measured by a submeter that is installed in each rental unit.
Q: What utilities can be submetered?
A: Multi-unit rental properties with a single master utility meter (water, gas, or electric) can be individually equipped with submeters so that each resident's utility usage can be periodically measured and billed.
Q: What properties can be submetered?
A: Guardian Water & Power provides submetering installation and billing services for apartments, condominiums, shopping centers, manufactured housing communities, offices, and warehouses. Any multi-unit property that is master-metered can potentially benefit from utility submetering.
Q:What is the difference between submetering and allocation?
A: Advances in metering technology have made it possible to economically convert master-metered rental property to individually submetered units. However, in some properties it is not possible to install submeters. In those properties, it may be possible to allocate utility usage to each resident on factors such as the size of the apartment, number of occupants, or number of bathrooms. A commonly used term in the industry to describe utility allocation is RUBS which stands for Ratio Utility Billing System.
Q: What are the benefits of submetering and allocation?
A: Studies conducted by the National Multi-Housing Council and the National Apartment Association have documented the linkage between utility conservation and separate billing for utility usage. For example, these studies indicate that individually metered apartments experience an 18 to 39 percent reduction in water consumption compared with master-metered properties that include water expenses in rent. Properties that use a RUBS allocation formula had a 6 to 27 percent reduction in water usage. Utility submetering benefits the resident, the property owner and the environment. Residents benefit because submetering gives them more control over their total housing costs. Residents also benefit because they are directly responsible for their own usage, not misuse by others. By reducing utility expenses, property owners achieve higher operating margins and property values. Submetering and allocation also helps protect property owners from unbudgeted utility expenses. Because utility submetering and allocation results in significant reductions in utility usage, the environment benefits through water and energy resource conservation.
Q: Are there laws that regulate utility billing in multi-unit properties?
A: Regulations vary not only at the state level but also by local jurisdictions. As a member of the Utility Metering and Conservation Association, we are kept up-to-date on legislative and regulatory issues that affect our industry. In addition, our utility attorney has over 25 years of experience in public utility law and regulation.
Q: Why don't local water utilities meter the water in apartments?
A: Most local water utilities are not interested in individually metering apartments and many other types of multi-unit rental property. First of all, there is a high capital cost for installation of utility meters. Secondly, the local utility has no incentive to read, bill, and collect from several hundred apartment residents when they can more easily and less expensively accomplish he same thing by billing only the property owner. Finally, there is a high labor cost associated with reading on-site meters.
Gas Runtime Allocation
Q: What is a gas runtime system?
A: A gas runtime system measures the operating time of gas-fired furnaces, domestic water heaters, fireplaces and baseboard heating systems. By measuring runtime (and temperature for baseboard systems) we can allocate heating costs to each dwelling unit in the apartment community.
Q: In what type of dwelling units does Guardian install gas runtime systems?
A: We install runtime systems in apartment communities with central heating systems that are not individually piped for gas service. We also install these systems if local utility tariffs or government regulations restrict the use of individual gas submeters.
Q: How does Guardian receive the runtime readings for a dwelling unit?
A: If the dwelling unit is equipped with a gas runtime system, an electronic monitoring device in the unit transmits runtime/temperature measurement to a data collector located in your community's office or utility room. The measurements are electronically routed to Guardian's billing office.
Q: How is the heating bill calculated?
A: The monthly heating bill is based on the runtime (and temperature for baseboard heating) of the gas-fired appliances in your home. Runtime hours are combined with appliance BTU/Hour ratings and the local gas rates in your area to determine your heating costs.
Q: What can I do to keep the gas heating costs as low as possible?
A: Please see the following list of conservation tips that can help keep your natural gas heating costs to a minimum.
Q: Does Guardian offer installation financing options?
A: Yes, Guardian offers two options. Our Lease-to-Purchase Option can be structured on a one to five year lease term with a $1.00 purchase option at the end of the term. Like the Lease-to-Purchase Option, our Capital Cost Recovery Plan (CCRP) offers the advantage of no initial capital investment. Under the CCRP plan, the cost of the submetering system is recovered through our resident billing and collection service.
Billing and Call Center Services
Q: After the submetering system has been installed, what steps does Guardian take to ensure a successful transition to monthly utility cost recovery?
A: Attention to detail is the single most important requirement in the implementation of a successful monthly utility billing program. Our account set-up representatives will coordinate the initial collection of all property data needed to establish individual account records and management documents. A Guardian rate analyst will contact the local utility to obtain rate data and billing requirements so that we can develop rate structure for your property. The rate analyst's primary goal is to be able to replicate the master utility charges through aggregation of the individual submetering charges. This confirms that we understand the local utility rate and also ensures that our billing practices comply with various state requirements. On an ongoing basis, we monitor all rates in the jurisdictions in which we operate and adjust our billing rates accordingly. New owners and managers receive our Utility Submetering Reference Guide that is our basic document for management training. Guardian training includes website access procedures and online account management features. Resident education includes introductory letters that describe the linkage between submetering and resource conservation.
Q: What billing options does Guardian offer?
A: We make every effort to tailor our billing services to the property owner or manager's specific requirements and desired level of management control. Our most basic level of billing service is to simply provide a monitoring service that allows owners and managers to evaluate and manage utility costs on a unit-by-unit basis. Some owners or managers prefer to include our calculated utility charges in monthly statements that they send to each resident. Our function at this level is to calculate utility charges and provide this information to the manager for inclusion in their monthly resident statements.
Our Read-Bill (RB) service takes the actual data collection and calculation information to the next level, which is mailing of individual utility bills. At this service level, we provide residents a Call Center resource to answer specific questions regarding their utility bills. Under our RB plan, residents remit utility payments directly to the property along with rent payment.
Guardian's Read-Bill-Collect (RBC) plan incorporates all the features of the RB program but adds a collection function . Residents in our RBC program remit utility payments to Guardian. We record and process these payments on a daily basis. All payments are reported daily to our secure website location. On a monthly basis, we submit payment of funds collected with an accompanying Resident Reconciliation Report. We offer an intermediate level between RBC.