By Elizabeth Millar
Concerns over environmental protection have prompted real estate investors to pursue higher standards of energy efficiency. In doing so, they reduce their rental properties’ footprint and secure their reputation as a responsible property owner. And you as the responsible property manager can promote energy efficient upgrades to attract tenants with eco-friendly lifestyles.
But where do you begin in getting your owners on board if they aren’t already leading the charge? If you’re interested in the benefits of an energy-efficient property, you might feel overwhelmed with options. You can choose simple, cost-effective upgrades like new windows, spend a moderate sum on new appliances or invest in solar panels if you have the cash to spare.
Whichever route you take, you’ll find it’s a smart idea to conduct energy audits on your rentals before moving forward. That way, you’ll know which areas of your property need improvement, and which you can leave alone.
1. Conduct Energy Audits on Your Properties
You have two choices when conducting energy audits. If you’d rather save money, you could perform the energy audit yourself, using tools like the Home Energy Saver to guide you in the right direction. Alternatively, you could hire an energy professional to inspect your residential property and provide an assessment.
While you’re likely interested in conducting the audit on your own, you might end up spending more instead of less if you miss areas of your properties which need improvement. An energy professional has the experience to locate these areas, and after they’ve finished, they’ll offer useful recommendations.
2. Organize Your Timeline for Renovations
As we mentioned above, it’s a smart idea to conduct an energy audit on your properties before moving forward with renovations. You’ll leverage the data from your audit to prioritize renovations, choosing to pursue projects based on necessity instead of intuition. Try to answer these questions:
- Where are the greatest energy losses in your rentals?
- Which projects have the highest return on investment?
- How long will it take for these projects to pay for themselves?
- Which renovations are urgent and which can you postpone?
- Are you capable of making the changes yourself or will you need help?
After you’ve answered the questions above, you’ll have a solid framework to build on as you continue. Reference other material with helpful tips for saving money and energy, and as you collect information, begin to polish your plan. Build a timeline, and do your best to remain on schedule.
3. Search for Incentives to Minimize Costs
Some property owners hesitate when they review the costs of energy-efficient upgrades. But there’s no reason to worry, as they could qualify for federal, state, local and utility incentives which will help pay for renovations. Research the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for tax credits and rebates.
For a minimal investment, you don’t need solar panels to make a considerable difference in the energy consumption of your property. Close to 40 percent of all energy usage in a building involves lighting, and the addition of CFL, LED and halogen incandescent light bulbs can earn incredible energy savings at a comparatively low cost.
Planning Your Energy Audit
If you see the appeal in an energy-efficient property, an energy audit is the best place to begin your renovations. After you’ve determined the most cost-effective and practical improvements, you’ll feel far more confident in your decisions. It starts with an assessment of your rental properties.