Energy management, consumption and conservation are generally overlooked in strata properties unless there is a qualified facilities manager or resident who is a champion for their community. There are many easy potential savings that reduce energy costs, maintenance costs and improve the environment of our communities. We often refer to these as the “low-hanging fruit” – ripe and easy to pick. Utilities also frequently provide incentives for upgrades that have a significant impact.
Heat and Hot Water
Two simple in-suite changes that impact common utilities include low-flow shower heads that reduce hot-water consumption and timers on gas fireplaces.
Strata corporations are frequently under the impression they have no control over strata lot maintenance and operation, yet the Strata Property Act provides strata corporations with the ability to adopt a bylaw where the strata is permitted to take responsibility for the maintenance and repair of part of a strata lot. The installation of timers on gas fireplaces requires a bylaw amendment to alter the use of the strata lot; however, timers set at one-hour maximum periods will stop owners from heating their homes with their fireplaces while they are away at work, or leaving them burning endlessly overnight. Savings as a result of timers have reduced building gas consumption by up to 35 per cent annually and Fortis BC frequently provides incentive programs for strata corporations to install timers.
Upgrades to Common Property
Common area changes that provide immediate reduction in energy consumption include operational adjustments and component upgrades. Strata corporations with large underground parking areas can easily finance the conversion of parking area lighting to LEDs from their operating budget, and (generally within a three-to-five-year period) enjoy savings to their operating line items. Even with short-term financing, the reductions in electrical consumption offset the capital and, when the loan is repaid, reduce both energy consumption and operational cost. The LEDs also provide a significantly higher level of lighting, increasing safety and security.
Upgrades to boilers, heat exchangers and hot water storage facilities as they require replacement also reduce energy consumption, operating costs, and contribute to a comfortable environment for occupants. Rooftop make-up air units that are temperature controlled by gas or electricity may also be consuming unnecessary energy. Trane has introduced a new model of a hybrid heat pump system for rooftop systems with a significant reduction in energy costs and better climate stability and control in common areas.
With low energy costs and a moderate climate, most residents of Metro Vancouver rarely make a conscious effort to take any drastic efforts to reduce energy costs. As a result we miss the easy opportunities for small changes when we replace roofing, cladding, and HVAC upgrades. In the same manner we take our cars in for servicing and a tune up, we have our energy systems serviced and maintained to ensure maximum performance, reduced energy consumption, and to reduce the risks of failures and emergencies.
In spring 2017, Metro Vancouver, in partnership with CHOA and local municipalities, is launching an energy management program for strata properties. An energy manager will be available to provide strata councils with an overview of their energy systems and an action plan for potential energy upgrades and changes for short- and long-term applications. Watch the CHOA website or sign up for an e-update at www.choa.bc.ca to receive notice of the launch.
Top Takeaways for Energy (and Cost!) Savings
- Install low-flow shower heads
- Install timers on gas fireplaces
- Use LEDs in parking areas
- Upgrade boilers, heat exchangers and hot water storage facilities
- Set up a hybrid heat pump system for rooftop systems
- Engage with the new energy management program for strata properties