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Reduced energy costs.

Today owners and managers of rent-controlled and rent-stabilized buildings are caught in the squeeze between rapidly rising operating costs and a minimal increase in revenues. Routine maintenance costs -- window washing, plumbing, etc. -- continue to rise. In some cases, insurance costs have tripled.

But the largest assault on profitability is the cost of providing heat and hot water to apartment occupants. Direct fuel costs, which are subject to unpredictable fluctuations, are the largest component of this overhead.

Building managers are directing a great deal of attention to this problem. Boilers have been upgraded and windows have been replaced at many properties. These measures have achieved some savings, but less than was hoped for.

The biggest reductions in fuel bills -- as much as 40% -- have resulted from the installation of U.S. Energy Controls fuel computers. At properties with these programs, fuel computers are used by management to reduce overhead in a variety of areas.

One of the primary functions of fuel computers is to make sure that heating systems are cost-effective. They monitor inside and outside temperatures 24 hours a day and control boiler operations to assure the efficient utilization of fuel. This eliminates the huge waste of fuel that occurs at buildings where boilers continue to cycle long after inside temperatures have reached a comfortable level. It also reduces the need for electricity.

In addition, steam-heated multifamily buildings are vulnerable to leaks in condensate return lines. These can result in the loss of thousands of gallons of water in a one day. Besides the cost of the water, there is the cost of the fuel used to heat the cold water in the boiler, the cost of the electricity consumed by the associated running of the burner motor, and the deterioration of the boiler caused by the makeup water, which creates the need for earlier boiler replacement.

All too often, these leaks are not detected because condensate return lines are in locations that are difficult to observe. Fuel computers enable building managers to monitor condensate return lines round the clock, pinpointing the location of the leak, and alerting supers to the need for action.

Fuel computer systems conserve heat and water. A case in point is excessively high hot water temperatures, which building supers may not recognize. The problem initially shows up in the form of leaking hot water faucets. Supers usually respond by replacing faucet washers, which do not last long because the underlying cause (a mixing valve problem) is not corrected.

Fuel computer systems monitor the temperature of the water in the boiler and the water coming out of the water coil, thereby indicating whether the boiler needs cleaning. The fuel computer also logs the highs and lows of water temperatures, the length of time that the water falls below set point, and the time of day of this deviation. This information enables building managers to avoid the costs of unnecessarily replacing mixing valves and/or coils.

A fuel computer system consists of a computer unit at each property, which controls indoor and outdoor temperatures; stack temperatures; pressure time; hot water temperatures at the boiler, coil, and mixing valves; unauthorized system overrides; and other factors. This data is transmitted to a management office via Windows 98-based telecommunications software.

Printed reports of the data are generated on an in-house printer when the fuel computers are polled by telephone. Many management firms conduct this pollling every morning. These printouts inform managers of possible problems with heating and water systems even before building superintendents find out about them.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:of rent-controlled and rent-stabilized buildings
Author:Jabbour, Elie
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 12, 2002
Previous Article:Owners can be energy stars.
Next Article:Corporate facilities management a 'hands-on' assignment.

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