A faulty utility submeter can be a silent drain on an apartment community. Older meters are not as techno-savvy as their newer counterparts and are more prone to communicate inaccurate data. Properties depending on meters that are ten years old may not be recovering their utility costs to a proper degree.
“If we are not able to see the meter moving, we are not able to bill 100% accurately,” says RealPage Utility Submetering Service Account Engineer Sam Millsap. “At that point, the utility bill has to be estimated. And if the estimate is lower than the actual cost, the property absorbs the difference.”
Submetering water, electric, gas and other utilities has helped apartment communities gain accuracy and fairness in what they pay to the utility company versus what residents pay. But outdated or failing meters can often favor the resident and leave the property management company or owner paying more than their fair share.
Periodic maintenance is critical to maintaining utility submeter health, says Millsap. But at some point, the equipment will reach the end of its useful life and cost the property thousands of dollars in utility charges based on inaccurate data.
At that point, a complete replacement and upgrade makes sense.
Greystar realizes immediate savings
For Greystar Properties, installing new, efficient meters at two of its older multifamily properties about a year ago resulted in significantly improved recovery of water costs, according to a company case study.
The first project was so successful that Greystar opted to retrofit another.
Older meters that needed frequent repair were swapped for new ones featuring some of the latest mesh-network technology at a 402-unit property, netting a $37,000 increase in recovery while improving equipment health 76%. The upgrade and associated savings boosted asset value by $617,000.
“Within a couple of months, the property experienced better numbers across the board,” Millsap said. “We recommended that they do the same thing with another, similar property.”
The result for the 375-unit property was a $19,000 increase in recovery and $318,000 in improved asset value.
The projects took about two weeks each to complete.
“Partnering with RealPage Submetering has been a valuable experience,” said Greystar’s Vicki Parrish. “They are knowledgeable experts on their recommendations and have helped us deliver greater recovery for our owners.”
A systematic approach to installing better utility submeters
Millsap said the Greystar study is a classic case of recognizing when it’s better to upgrade than to keep repairing older equipment prone to failure. It’s akin to deciding not to fix that old car when you know it’s only going to break down again.
New meter communication technology is more accurate and reliable than older tech that can be disrupted by interference from various radio frequencies. Consumption data is more accurately recorded through improved networking.
“The meters haven’t changed a whole lot, but the technology that connects to the meters has improved in leaps and bounds in the last 10-15 years,” Millsap says. “The technology surrounding the equipment has changed drastically.”
While a complete retrofit might seem complicated, RealPage’s submetering team works closely with property management to ensure residents aren’t disrupted by the work. A systematic approach to notifying residents and understanding potential disruptions caused by pets or residents being home works best.
On the Greystar project, Millsap, a former field technician with 15 years of experience in the industry, worked closely with apartment staff and two RealPage technicians to coordinate installations.
“It’s always about adjusting the team need to the individual repair and minimizing resident disruption,” he said. “It’s about planning ahead before we step foot on the site, making sure everyone understands what we’re going to be doing.”
Meters approaching 10 years in service? Consider replacement
RealPage Utility Submetering recommends that properties with submeters approaching 10 years old explore the value of upgrading to new technology. The benefits of a new meter with a lower failure rate and more reliable data recording can lead to significantly increased utility cost recovery.
In the past three years, RealPage has installed 200,000 utility submeters in more than 830 apartment communities. In the process, hundreds of dollars per unit in annual operating expenses have been recovered.
It’s a straightforward way to generate an impressive addition to the bottom line. Just ask Greystar.
Read the case study and learn more about RealPage Utility Submetering.