Apartment owners would promptly agree when we say that at least a quarter of their total maintenance bill is the expense of the light bill for common areas. Residential buildings with high-end amenities like air-conditioned corridors, fully equipped gyms, and heated swimming pools would bear even higher maintenance charges. However, the simple truth of the matter is that at least 20 to 30% of the overall electricity bill can be reduced by conscientious choices, mindful practices, and stricter usage monitoring.
Common areas that utilise electricity are staircases, elevators, community halls, swimming pools, and parking spaces. Additionally, societies also use diesel generators and water pumps in plenty.
The tragedy is that multiple users and no real repercussions cause an amount of lack of motivation as the bills pile up without anyone being held accountable. Such is the curse that comes with the blessings of community living, people get apathetic towards common goals and the whole society ends up paying for it. The RWAs and MCs need to spread awareness among residents, maintenance staff and internal committee members to curtail electricity usage while simultaneously employing below listed measures to see practical results
Install solar panels
You can consider installing an off-grid or grid-tied rooftop solar system specially for running common areas of the society. This will be a one-time investment with approximately 15 years of zero utility bill (excluding maintenance and upkeep). During the daytime, all energy needs will be directly met by the sunlight, the rest is taken care of by battery storage. Backup batteries (or main supply) can always be used in case of cloudy weather. The government gives a 30% subsidy on solar system installation.
Change light fixtures
Swap your older energy inefficient filament light fixtures and incandescent bulbs with LED lights which consume less power due to inbuilt semiconductor technology. Check energy star rating as well as luminous efficacy (ratio of luminous flux to power). High luminous efficacy is considered anywhere between 120 and 180 lumens per watt, which can be found on the packaging. LED lights are known to use up to 75% less energy than regular light bulbs. To light up gardens, gyms and pools too you can use bright LED floodlights which use 10-12 watts of electricity while giving the higher output of light.
Install motion lights
Some areas in your apartment complexes, like the staircases and corridors, may not be well lit. Even if they are, the lights are always on even while residential footfall is less, resulting in wastage of electricity. Motion sensor lights can detect movement a few meters in 360° direction, sensing presence through infrared/heatwaves and turn on automatically while staying deactivated during the day. They can be installed in all common areas since they’re not expensive. Additionally, in building reception and offices, you can install motion sensor switches for light and fans so that no electricity is wasted when someone leaves and forgets to switch off the light and fan.
Reassess the boiler room
There may be defective, overused or old equipment in the boiler/utility room of the apartment complex that may be consuming more electricity than required, e.g. chillers, heat exchangers, HVAC system, electric water pumps, DG sets, battery generators, etc. Get them fixed or repaired and maintain them regularly to avoid overuse of electricity.
Invest in smart energy meters
Under the Smart Meter National Program, the government intends to replace 25 crore traditional meters with smart meters. Besides the program, you can privately install a smart meter specifically for the common energy monitoring. A smart meter is a digital device that can transmit energy consumption information at regular intervals so you can monitor excessive usage, and make sure there is no pilferage. Some useful features are remote connect/disconnect, anti-tamper and fraud detection, IoT-enabled (can be operated via an app), and plug and play models. Billing efficiency is expected to get better by 75-100% through the deployment of smart meters since they entail minimum billing errors and increase cost-effectiveness.
Use energy-efficient appliances
Whether it be communal water coolers, electric floor scrubbers, or energy-guzzling vacuum cleaners or ACs, facilities management staff or managing committee members should replace all energy inefficient equipment with energy star products. Also, if you’re using a water pump to fill water tanks, it’s wise to install automatic water level controllers that would shut down the pump once the tank is at full capacity.
A gated community can also form energy monitoring teams whose sole responsibility would be a charter that lists down best practices to reduce energy consumption. As part of the agenda, duties can be delegated to team members to monitor usage in each area, e.g. the smart meter readings can identify which areas are using the most power and the person responsible can implement countermeasures. Slowly but surely, positive results would manifest.
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