Since utilities account for approximately half of our condo fees, the phase 1 and 2 boards set up an energy audit committee to look at ways to reduce energy costs. This committee found these opportunities, which your boards will be exploring further:
With individual metering, instead of paying a flat rate for electricity as part of your monthly condo fees, you would pay for the amount of electricity you actually consume. The committee looked at a study of a building similar to ours in Toronto that installed individual meters. They found that just the increased awareness of how much electricity you are using resulted in the average resident saving about 20% on their in-unit electricity consumption. Individual metering also gives you more control over your monthly expenses. If you make more effort to conserve, you can save even more. Those who conserve would no longer have to subsidize the heavy electricity users. In the past, we have found that installing individual meters would have cost thousands of dollars per unit. However, the committee found new technology that is now available that makes this much cheaper. One option, from a local company Triacta, would allow us to install individual metering at a monthly cost of $7.53 per unit. It's expected that Ontario smart meter legislation will require all condominiums to install individual meters by 2010. However if a sufficient majority of unit owners wanted to switch to individual metering, this change could be made any time by vote of unit owners, allowing us to start saving sooner.
The energy audit committee investigated films that can be applied to the windows to help cut air conditioning costs. For example, 3M's PR-series films reduces solar gain in the summer when the sun is high, while still allowing some passive solar heating during the winter when the sun is low. The product also cuts UV light, reducing fading or yellowing of furniture and finishes in your unit, and reduces nighttime reflections on the insides of your windows. If we were to have such a film installed, we would take great care to select a product that has minimal impact on the exterior appearance of the building. We would have to install it on either all or no windows on a given side of the building, to maintain a uniform appearance. The cost to have this product installed is about $13.50 per square foot. As an example, this works out to $80,000 - $90,000 to do the west facade of the phase 1 building. The next step is to determine how much cost savings we can reasonably expect from this, and whether there is sufficient interest from a majority of unit owners to make such an investment in the building.
These have the possibility of saving energy and money by turning down the heat or air conditioning when not needed. We are currently investigating the cost and benefit of having these installed in all units. If installed, such thermostats would come initially set to a schedule that would turn down the heating or A/C during the day when people are typically away. You would, of course, be able to change this to continue to have control over the temperature in your unit at any time of the day.
In addition to these opportunities, the committee recommended having a professional audit done to identify any other energy savings opportunities. The boards will be proceeding in having this done. The energy audit committee also investigated other possibilities, such as using timers on common element lighting, but found that these things would not result in significant savings.