What can be done in strata to reduce energy consumption and utility bills?
Up to 60% of energy consumption in large buildings, like apartments, comes from common areas and shared services and around 25% of the administrative fund are spent on utility bills.
According to City of Sydney research, apartment buildings can reduce common property energy consumption by 30-40 per cent and water use by 20-25 per cent in the short-term by using cost-effective measures.
Audits by the City of Sydney* show consistent patterns of where energy is used:
Low rise buildings
- Lighting 90%
- Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) 6%
- Other 4%
Medium and high rise buildings
- Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and pumps 47%
- Lighting 27%
- Pool 12%
- Lifts 8%
- Other 6%
What can be done to reduce energy consumption?
Upgrading common property lighting
Many sustainability projects tend to pay back the initial cost over just a few years while securing long-term financial savings. Replacing common property lighting with LED lighting is one of those projects. LED lighting saves on average 30-60 per cent energy consumption and even more if motion sensors and timers are installed which controls when they go on. By switching to LED lighting in common property, you save a substantial amount on utility bills that come out of your administrative budget.
Is there government assistance to pay for the capital cost of a lighting upgrade?
Yes, in NSW there is an Energy Savings Scheme which provides financial incentives to encourage energy-saving upgrade projects that involve modifying, replacing, installing equipment in a way that consumes less energy. Accredited Certificate Providers that operate under the scheme, produce Energy Saving Certificates which equate to the ‘energy saved’ that has been achieved by installing, improving or replacing energy savings equipment.
This certificate is sold to suppliers of electricity who are obliged to purchase them under the legislation. The saving is then returned back to the owners corporation thus reducing the capital cost of the upgrade.
Lighting upgrades are not the only project the scheme applies to. It can be used for other eligible upgrades such as;
- Installing high-efficiency motors
- Decommissioning old plant and replacing with more energy-efficient equipment
- Installing a car park ventilation CO monitoring system
- Replacement or modification of HVAC systems
- Fitting variable speed drives (VSDs) to inefficient motors
- The purchase of energy-efficient appliances that consume less electricity than the average appliance of the same type.
More upgrade activities eligible under the scheme can be found at ess.nsw.gov.au.
The use of sensors
Sensors can turn off lighting when a room is unoccupied or when daylight is sufficient. Some LEDs can automatically adjust according to the amount of sunlight entering a room. The use of sensors is perfect for common property underground car parks, hallways and lobbies.
Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning & Pumps
The electrical motors of pumping and ventilation systems consume large amounts of electricity. If this equipment is not regularly serviced or maintained, it can result in increased energy consumption. The running cost of motors can be reduced if old equipment is replaced with new equipment rated as High Efficiency. The use of speed controls and sensors can reduce energy consumption even more.
Pools need not cost the earth to run and there are many things owners corporations can do to reduce consumption. For example, using pool blankets to prevent heat from escaping, replacing old equipment with energy-efficient pool pumps, turning down the temperature, reducing filtering time, and using a smart controller that dynamically adjusts the speed of the filter pump. When the pool is not in active use, turning off the filtration and heating systems saves money.
Lifts generally use a smaller amount of energy and are generally expensive to replace parts, however, if your lift is old and is due to have its motor replaced, it might be the perfect time to switch to a more energy-efficient system. Magnetic motors generally are more expensive; however, they tend to be smaller, more efficient and last longer. Today’s technology can not only cut energy use but through regenerative drives, you can transmit extra power back to the building power supply.
Installing PV solar panels
Australia has the highest uptake of solar globally, with more than 21% of homes with rooftop solar PV. However, until recently, government incentives to install solar panels was limited to stand-alone households. This is changing as more and more people make the move to strata property. Whether solar panels will work for your apartment building depends on several factors such as roof space and positioning. The installation of small scale PV solar may receive a rebate through the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES).
How to get started?
If you are keen to understand your building’s energy use and where you can make energy savings. NABERS for Apartments are currently offering free energy and water ratings until June 2021. For more information visit NABERS.gov.au
A NABERS assessment will help your owners corporation understand their building’s energy and water consumption and assist you to improve your rating through energy-saving initiatives.
Several councils are also offering incentives for apartment buildings in their area to undertake sustainable upgrades. This includes City of Sydney Smart Green Apartments Program, Waverley Council’s Building Futures Program, and North Sydney Council’s Futureproofing Apartments Program
*Source: Office of Fair Trading NSWRead more
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- Waverley Council – Building Futures
- Ku-ring-gai Council – Smart Units Rebates
- City of Sydney – Smart Green Apartments
- City of Sydney – Food Scraps Recycling Trial
- Lane Cove Council – Greener Apartments Program
- Canada Bay Council – Our Energy Future
- Randwick City Council – Community Sustainable
- North Sydney Council – Futureproofing Apartments
- City of Ryde – Home Waste and Sustainability Advisory Service