Save Your HOA Money through Proactive Maintenance, Utility Credits, and Consciousness Raising
In this week's tip, we help your association save money on utilities.
1. Do big and small maintenance.
"In the past two years, we've reduced our water bill by 75 percent and our electric bill by 25 percent," says David Loughran, president of the 11–unit Promenade House Condo Association in Portland, Maine. "Most of our utility savings have come from being very committed to routine maintenance and identifying several systems that were broken and getting them fixed."
The biggest savings came from hot–water line repairs. "There was a leak in our hot–water line," says Loughran. "It stared out very small and ended up getting bigger and bigger over time. We didn't know this. It had been identified eight to nine years ago, but that and a couple of other things weren't fixed, and they led to really high water bills."
How high? Promenade's monthly water bill was $800. Post–repairs, it's now $200–$250. "That sparked a big discussion on our board about how to reduce all our costs," says Loughran. "Now every year, we have a plumber inspect all the plumbing systems to make sure they're working properly. That goes from in–unit toilets to make sure they're not leaking to our three gas hot–water heaters, our common washers and dryers, and our backflow preventer. Since we've done that, we've avoided replacing major systems and higher utility bills."
There's an additional bonus: Loughran was also able to get a $3,600 credit from the association's water district. "I'd read about its policy stating that if you had something that was causing significant overuse and brought the use into line, it would refund half the overage going 12 months back," he says.
At the same time, the board has also worked on cutting electricity bills. "We replaced all the thermostats in the common hallways and laundry rooms and set up a routine," says Loughran. "In the past, if people were been cold, they'd turned up common–area thermostats. Now we turn on the heat on October 15 and not before that.
"These are common sense things, so the effort was more consciousness–raising," says Loughran. "The best way to make a difference, whether it's on utility bills or anything else, is to get buy–in from everybody involved. If everyone's doing their part, it's easier on everybody. The lesson we learned is that being proactive and fixing the small things has saved on our monthly bills and avoided huge replacements down the line. That hadn't always been the attitude of the association."
Wait! There's more! Read our new article, 3 Ways to Reduce Your HOA's Utility Bills.