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The Benefits of Electrification Upgrades in Multifamily Properties

The Benefits of Electrification Upgrades in Multifamily Properties

The Benefits of Electrification Upgrades in Multifamily Properties


Unit turnover is expensive and time-consuming for property managers. Careful planning is one way to save money and reduce turnover time. If you plan correctly, you can leverage this time when preparing for new tenants by investing in electrification upgrades.

Electrification improves air quality by reducing greenhouse gases from combustion. Depending on local gas and electric rates, it can save you and your residents money. Finally, it can make your property more marketable and may support higher rents if it improves residents’ quality of life or reduces their utility bills.


Understanding the Benefits of Electrification

Electrification projects bring multiple benefits, including reduced utility costs, improved quality of life, and a reduced carbon footprint. By utilizing electricity as the primary source of energy, these projects can lead to substantial savings compared to relying on carbon-based fuels like gasoline or diesel. Additionally, electric vehicles and appliances offer convenience, while electrified public transportation systems reduce traffic congestion and enhance mobility options.


Electrification initiatives contribute to healthier air quality by eliminating the emissions associated with carbon-based fuels, leading to cleaner and safer environments. Ultimately, by embracing electrification, communities can take a crucial step toward achieving a more sustainable future.


Heat Pumps

Heat pumps installed in multifamily homes are the most efficient way of replacing gas furnaces, water heaters, and traditional HVAC units. Heat pumps usually have a higher initial cost but are also more energy efficient. If heat pumps aren’t suitable for your budget, consider upgrading to more energy-efficient electric appliances, like refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, and HVAC units. Additionally, replacing older electric ranges with induction ranges can improve efficiency. Gas water heaters can be swapped for high-efficiency electric units.


Electric Appliances

Be sure to buy Energy Star-rated replacement appliances. Replacing your gas clothes dryer with an electric one eliminates the use of carbon-based fuels. It may also reduce costs depending on gas vs. electricity rates. The EPA estimates that Energy Star-rated ranges, refrigerators, water heaters, dryers, and washing machines can save the average home $450 annually due to reduced electricity consumption.


You can go one step further and opt for smart appliances. They make sense for larger, up-scale apartments with numerous appliances and technology like built-in washers/dryers, smart TVs, audio systems, thermostats, and computers. Like refrigerators that optimize internal temperatures and ovens that do the same for cooking temperatures, energy-smart appliances save residents money. They also allow remote monitoring and control by smartphone or laptop for increased convenience.


Lighting

Retrofitting common areas and unit lighting can reduce energy consumption and improve those areas’ appearance. LED lighting reduces power consumption by up to 75%. Prospective residents will notice the brightly lit lobbies and hallways and using the correct type of lighting can help with reducing light pollution while simultaneously improving safety by eliminating dimly lit areas. This small change can make a major difference for new and current residents and will improve the overall appearance of your property.


Smart Electrical Circuit Panels

Smart electrical panels also may make sense for larger, higher-end residences. They tie together all the residence’s electrical devices, allow the resident to pre-program hours of operation, and monitor and control them all with a smartphone or laptop. If electrifying your units results in exceeding the capacity of the existing panel, you should install a new smart panel to replace the old one. Additionally, future-proofing your property will allow you to continue renovations on your timeline and improve your experience with future upgrades.


EV Charging Stations

EV charging stations for multifamily properties are increasingly in demand. The current shortage of charging stations makes convenient at-home charging a valuable amenity and a future requirement to compete with neighboring properties. Many automakers have plans to manufacture only fully electric vehicles within the next 5-10 years. Supporting your residents who currently, or will soon, drive electric vehicles positions your property as future-thinking and sustainable, while also attracting and retaining residents.


In addition to improving your property and boosting resident satisfaction, EV charging stations can also create a new source of revenue for your property depending on the strategy you choose to utilize. The transition to electric vehicles is only expected to accelerate even more in the coming years. By installing EV charging stations now, multifamily property owners can future proof their properties and adapt to the changing needs of residents and society.


Solar Power

Multifamily solar power is an even bigger step. While it has not yet gained mainstream traction, several projects have already moved ahead in California, demonstrating the success of utilizing solar generation in multifamily communities. In addition to creating a more sustainable environment and reducing utility prices, solar generation can reduce reliance on the local utility and provide much-needed power in times of outages.


Solar panels can also be used specifically to support certain projects throughout the property such as lighting, HVAC, or other much needed appliances. At least one of the projects launched in California uses solar to charge EV chargers, avoiding the grid and any associated costs. As an estimated 35% of Americans are renters, there is an impetus to make the benefits of solar available equitably to all.


The Motivation for Green Technology

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are the main contributors to global warming. The U.S. Government aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A joint study by Harvard University and others demonstrated that consumer-grade natural gas in Massachusetts contains up to 21 different hazardous air pollutants as defined by the US EPA. The culprit is leakage from gas leaks in piping, connections, or appliances. The implication is that natural gas appliances can pose a health risk, a point that should also resonate with residents.


Since 20% of greenhouse gasses originate from home appliances, switching to electrified or more efficient electric appliances is a sustainable investment that appeals to many residents, especially if the cost is the same or less. Clean Technica sites that two-thirds of the people they surveyed say green practices were a key selection criterion for them and a significant 40% percent would not rent in a property lacking them.


The U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee Democrats (IECD) estimate that electrification may save American households between $1,050 and $2,600 annually. It also amplifies the Harvard study’s warnings about the health risks of natural gas appliances. Green technology improves the quality of life and saves money.


Determining the Cost-Effectiveness of Electrification

The objective is to use analytics to evaluate the profitability of various projects. One way to do so is a Net Present Value (NPV) Analysis to determine if the investment generates enough savings or revenues over a set period to create a positive return. A related method is to perform an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) analysis to see if such projects meet your required rate of return.


In either case, you need to gather historical usage data over the prior year by unit and in total, and the same for current usage. State and federal cost incentives are other important features to include in your analysis. On the federal level, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) offers several benefits to multifamily owners, with an emphasis on low-income housing.


  • $1 billion in grants and loans to improve climate resilience and energy and water efficiency through the Green and Resilient Retrofit Program for HUD-Assisted properties.
  • $9 billion in rebates for energy efficiency and retrofit programs from the High-Efficiency Home Electric Home Rebate Program for low to moderate-income residents. The provisions of the IRA are just now becoming clear, as it is a sweeping, complex bill.

The situation is also evolving for states, with utility programs playing a significant role. According to the Multifamily Low Carbon Retrofit Playbook, the age and physical features of your buildings bear on the best solution, so you need to inspect your building carefully as well.


Planning for Electrification Upgrades During Unit Turnover

Determine the scope of the projects you wish to undertake and decide how many units you want to upgrade. Develop an opportunity analysis to determine your baseline gas and electric usage per unit and evaluate the economic return for potential electrification opportunities:


  • Conversion from gas to electricity.
  • Retrofit to more energy-efficient appliances.
  • Installing new technologies (EV charging, smart panels, solar).

You also need to determine the current electrical capacity of each unit and for the buildings to determine if upgraded main panels or building utility service will be required to handle retrofits.


Based on the results of your opportunity analysis, you will have a clearer idea of priorities for projects based on ROI, allowing you to allocate your budget better. Once you have finalized your projects list, review your turnover calendar, and modify it to build tasks like equipment orders and delivery dates, electrical panel replacement and wiring, appliance installations, and testing. When you do this, you may find that you need to modify your overall turnover by reducing the scope of upgrades to fit into your schedule constraints.

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