Getting your block’s energy saving program on the fast track

Any owner of a property within a strata scheme gets the annual report for the block (usually in hard copy) which will detail the annual electricity spend. Any owner can take this information and become the “energy reduction champion” for the block.

There are now two different paths which an energy reduction champion can take to get an energy reduction program moving in their block.

1) The Slow Way

* Visit 4 different websites and wander through all the material on offer

* Attend an evening meeting with experts to get some guidance on what to do and how to do it

* Make phone calls to a dozen different companies

* Escort half a dozen representatives from these different companies into your building at pre-arranged times

* Request a dozen quotes for products and services

* Request another 1/2 dozen quotes from those same tradespeople to get alternative quotes

* Arrange and attend at least three Executive Committee meetings of the body corporate (Owners Corporation)

* Create at least 4 different spreadsheets trying to calculate different payback times for different projects

* Send over 20 group emails to an Executive Committee of the body corporate (Owners Corporation)

* Contact Executive Committees in 4 other apartment buildings to see what did and didn’t work for them

* Get all members of the Executive Committee on the same page as to which projects should be included in an energy saving program

* Get all members of the Executive Committee on the same page as to what order the projects in an energy saving program should be run

* Do over 100 “back of the envelope” calculations to justify why the block should or should not proceed with energy saving projects


2) The Fast Way

* Spend 10 minutes on a website which has an energy saving calculator and roadmap generator for strata buildings

* Forward the automatically generated report on email to all members of the Executive Committee to stimulate discussion on commencing an energy saving program

Rainwater tanks – the up and the down

We have a storm water catchment system in our building with the pipes funnelling through our underground carpark.

Wouldn’t it be great to add a rainwater tank in the basement carpark and then use this to water our gardens?

Yes, it would be nice from a water efficiency perspective but have you considered the additional energy costs of pumping the water?

At Freesia gardens, we did the sums and it was a project which wasn’t worth proceeding with.

Water is still “cheap” compared with the rising energy costs which have doubled in the last 7 years.

The Juice on Boost

If you have common hot water for your apartment block it can be powered a number of different ways.

Cogeneration systems are rated the most efficient central hot water systems to install. After this gas-boosted solar, heat pump systems, electric-boosted solar and then gas.

It is a major infrastructure project to change your common hot water system type after the property developer has installed it.

At Freesia Gardens, we investigated changing our system from gas with 3 storage tanks to solar + gas.

Unfortunately, the new piping to get the water from the ground floor up to the roof, 7 storeys above to run it through a new solar system on the roof was not feasible. This also would have added additional water pumping costs to our energy bill.

Instead, we are going to invest in a new roof to put over out outdoor boilers to extend their life. With each of the 3 boilers costing $11k to replace it is an important piece of infrastructure which we need to protect.

The problem we face is rising gas prices in the state of NSW.

Looking good in the gym

We want you to look your best in the gym.┬áThat’s why commercial gyms are full of mirrors and floodlit lighting.

If anyone has started using the 24hr fitness gyms, you will notice that all the lights and equipment turn off until someone with swipe access enters the gym. Then everything comes on and the gym fires into action.

If you are fortunate enough to have a gym in your apartment block, a simple sign can be placed on the exit door asking the residents to turn off the lights when they leave.

Don’t worry, the next person who enters will turn the lights on as very few people train in the dark.

The Pow-wow on Power Factor Correction

The highest recorded demand for electricity from your network within a 15 minute period is measured in kVA or kilo volt amperes.

These high levels of demand can incur penalties in your power bills, typically for high rise apartment buildings.

The solution can be to install a “Power Factor Correction” unit in your switch room which manages your Peak kVA demand for you.

One building we worked with installed one at a cost of $25k. Some other buildings have been able to get away with solutions as cost effective as $6k.

The main problem is “real estate” in your switch room. Can you physically fit one of these units mounted on the wall.

With all the NBN providers adding comms boxes to the switch room, you might have to prioritise that remaining space.

The skinny on pool blankets

Physical pool blankets do reduce evaporation from a pool, reducing the energy used to keep the pool heated. They also have the added advantage of reducing the leaves which end up in the pool.

However, the installation of the pool blankets do not typically give a fast payback time compared with other energy saving projects.

There is a new technology which is a “liquid” pool blanket. This is a biodegradable substance which can be injected into the pool via the pool filter which creates a “film” on the top of the pool, increasing the surface tension.

This reduces evaporation from the pool and heat loss. Stay tuned for the payback time on this innovation.