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Innovator helps building managers cut operating costs.

Gerald Pindus, president of U.S. Energy Controls, Inc., is a man with a cost-cutting message. He tells owners and managers of privately-owned multi-family buildings, public housing and co-ops that computer technology can help them reduce two of their largest expenditures - the costs of heating fuel and water.

His message has proved persuasive. His company's computerized energy and water management systems have resulted in considerably lower operating overhead at over 2,000 properties in New York City.

The technology has come a long way since the 1970's, when Pindus, with the help of a team of computer and oil-burner experts, designed the first of a series of microprocessor-based control systems that restrict boiler cycling to periods when building interiors actually need heat.

Since then, the systems have been augmented to include water monitoring and alarm systems; a Fuel Delivery Sentry that monitors and records the delivery of fuel oil; the use of Windows '95 based telecommunications; and engineering support for customers who may need assistance in diagnosing and correcting problems in their heating and domestic water systems.

From the outset, U.S. Energy has tested its systems exhaustively before bringing them to market. Initially, the company's prototype fuel computer was installed in apartment buildings managed by the Pindus family, and its fuel-saying capabilities were carefully documented before the system was offered for sale in 1977.

"In one of our buildings, the fuel computer saved us $35,000 the first year it was in place. That kind of performance gave us a big competitive edge when we first offered the system for sale in 1977," Pindus said. "As property owners, we recognized the needs of our market, and took pride in bringing property owners a means of reducing their fuel bills. This orientation to the needs of the real estate market is responsible for most of our sales originating in word-of-mouth recommendations."

Back then, most multi-family buildings relied on a timing device that allowed a boiler to cycle as long as the outside temperature was below legally prescribed levels. That meant that boilers could continue to cycle, hour after hour, long after apartments had been heated to a comfortable level. Tenants would then throw open their windows to let the heat escape. During the heating season, as Pindus travels from borough to borough, he still sees some apartments with windows wide open. Besides wasting heat, this results in unnecessary wear and tear on boilers.

U.S. Energy's systems utilize temperature sensors inside as well as outside a building to feed information to a computerized monitoring and control unit. When outside temperatures fall to the legally prescribed level, the control unit permits the boiler to cycle. As soon as inside temperatures reach a desired level, the unit shuts the boiler down. As a result, tenants are comfortable round-the-clock and fuel bills are reduced - at some buildings by 40 percent or more. Pindus says what U.S. Energy does best is save fuel without sacrificing tenant comfort.

Water metering has given a big boost to U.S. Energy's sales. The company's computerized controls now indicate whether water consumption has risen above a baseline. At some buildings, alarms are being installed to warn supers when water usage rises above the normal amount determined by the computerized control system. The systems also indicate hidden leaks in condensate return lines, which otherwise go undetected and waste thousands of gallons of water a day and require the burning of extra fuel to heat the replenished boiler water.

Residential real estate managers constitute an important market segment for U.S. Energy. The company's computerized controls enable them to manage the heating systems at all of their buildings right from their offices. They can phone the systems at each of their buildings to set or change heat and hot water temperatures. They can also receive on-demand PC printouts of system parameters, including fuel and water consumption, as well as indicators of possible problems, such as domestic hot water temperature at the boiler, coil and mixing valve; stack temperature; and vacuum and pressure.

Their PC's also can be programmed to call various buildings automatically for information that is downloaded to create a report that will be waiting for a building manager first thing in the morning. An automatic dial-out feature calls owners or management personnel in case of emergencies such as low-water cutoff, flame failure, high pressure, boiler safety problems, smoke, etc.

"Some owners and managers who are too busy or are out of town ask us to call and check on the performance of their buildings' heating and water systems," Pindus said. "We make any needed adjustments at no charge. This is part of a service-oriented marketing philosophy that has come with improvements in our technology. We started in business with a product designed to reduce fuel bills. Today, we offer a total energy and water management service. This approach has been responsible for a fourfold increasing in our sales last year, and an even greater rate of increase in 1998."
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Title Annotation:Focus On: Property Management; US Energy Controls Inc.'s energy and water management systems
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Apr 29, 1998
Previous Article:Professional designators provide advantage over competition.
Next Article:In real estate, some things never change.

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