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6. Tips for residents and buyers
If you are a resident in an apartment building, an energy retrofit can mean important improvements to your comfort and safety.
- Better lighting can make areas like stairwells and parking garages safer
- Improved heating and cooling systems can keep the building from developing hot and cold zones
- Better windows and building insulation can reduce drafts in winter or heat gain in summer
- Better systems can also avoid moisture build up and mould problems that can affect your health
Will my rent increase? The answer to that question is landlord specific. The landlord will have to take into account a number of considerations, including the competitive nature of the market and the depth and breadth — and resulting cost — of the retrofit. In addition, the landlord has to apply for a rent increase and that may or not be granted by an independent body that reviews the information with a view to making any increase fair to all parties. Many apartment owners are also moving to sub-metering (individual electricity metering for each unit as opposed to a single meter for the whole building). Many tenants worry that sub-metering will increase their occupancy costs, but, in fact, by encouraging more careful energy use, sub-metering can actually result in savings if rents are properly adjusted to reflect that tenants are now taking on direct responsibility for their electricity usage. The net outcome of sub-metering may also depend on factors like the age of appliances and whether the unit has electric heat. Any move to sub-metering should be accompanied by a plan to install EnergyStar-rated appliances and high-efficiency lighting. In buildings with electric heat, the landlord must commit to keeping the building in good repair or improving the structure so that heat being paid for by tenants is not being lost out of leaky windows or poorly insulated walls.
Condo / Co-op Residents
If you are a condo owner or co-op member who is getting shocked by your utility bills, it might be time to talk to your fellow owners and board about upgrading your building’s energy performance. Experience tells us that most existing condos can dramatically reduce their utility bills (and greenhouse gas emissions) by upgrading heating and ventilation equipment, improving lighting systems, and sealing and insulating the building itself. Many of these upgrades can be quickly paid for through utility bill reductions and will improve each unit's market value. A good place to start is by reviewing the materials from our Power of Green Seminar in November 2010.
New Condo Buyers
Are you thinking about buying a new condo? Almost half of the monthly maintenance fees for the average condominium are for utilities (gas, electricity and water). To make a good condo purchasing decision, you need to look beyond the granite countertops and assess the building’s overall energy performance. Did you know, for example, that an energy-efficient condo may use 30% less energy than one simply built to meet building code standards? Lower energy consumption also reduces the building’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. To assess the energy performance of a condo, ask your sales agent:
- Does the building have EnergyStar™-rated lighting and appliances?
- Does it have energy efficient windows and extra insulation on the building exterior?
- Are its heating and ventilation systems state of the art (e.g., heat recovery ventilation, geothermal, deep lake water cooling, combined heat and power system, etc.).
Long-term energy costs are going to have a big impact on the real costs of purchasing a condo, so get answers before you buy or ask builders for a list of energy saving features in their building!