Boiler Maintenance

3 Ways Landlords Can Save Money on Heating Bills (and Save the Planet)

 
Space heaters ain't cutting it (shanleystudios)

Space heaters ain't cutting it (shanleystudios)

 

Recently, we gave landlords the head's up about Heat Season starting Oct 1. This week, we're going to focus on how you can save money on your heating system.  Some ideas will probably be nagging points that you've heard before, but others might surprise you.

1. Hear Your Tenants

Last week we mentioned that you should consider your tenants your first line of defense. We mean that (it's pretty much our thing.) Good communication with tenants might alert you to a problem before it costs you a lot of money. If you encourage your tenants to reach out to you, here are some things they might tell you about your heating system:

Pipes clanking -  When water builds up over time in pipes and comes into contact with hot steam, it bursts (it's called a "water hammer").  At best, this means your system isn't operating efficiently and at worst it means your pipes could be damaged to the point of replacement.

Wild temp differences -  Upstairs is freezing, downstairs is boiling.  It's common, but could be a big problem: your heat timer is broken and/or needs to be reset. Your system is working overtime to produce heat that isn't getting distributed properly or at all. 

Funny smells - We all remember the East Village gas explosion in 2015.  Make it easy for your tenants to tell you something is out of the ordinary and make sure you or your tenants quickly report it and contact ConEd.  Wasting money is one thing, wasting lives is another.

 
Chances are you have steam (energy.gov)

Chances are you have steam (energy.gov)

 

2. Clean and Inspect

Heating systems are a complex matrix of machinery and good old fashioned science.  It's actually pretty fascinating when you think about how they work. But they age, get dirty, and break down.

Without proper maintenance you lose money twice - first on inefficiency and second on expensive equipment replacement.  Maintenance isn't sexy, but it's savvy. 

An old system can still work well if it's clean. So use data from tenants to help identify what parts of your system need attention.  Scheduling a deep clean for your system at least once a year (off-season) is a great way to increase fuel efficiency and extend the life of your system. 

Additionally, the city has to inspect your boiler, but there are other parts of your system (the outdoor weather-head, pressure and temperature controls, return-line sensor) that you should also get inspected annually. 

Stay ahead of these issues by setting up personal reminders to check these instruments. The bare minimum of system maintenance gets the bare minimum of system efficiency. 

 
50% of the energy used in multi-family buildings goes to heating (nycmayorsoffice)

50% of the energy used in multi-family buildings goes to heating (nycmayorsoffice)

 

3. Upgrade for the Environment

A 2015 report states that the energy NYC buildings use accounts for 75% of the cities' greenhouse emissions - and 50% of that energy goes to heating.  

It also says that NYC landlords could save $147 million annually by taking small steps to improve their heating systems.

The city has set up the NYC Retrofit Accelerator to help landlords find ways to improve their buildings heating system. 

Some solutions are bigger projects like downsizing your boiler or transitioning to other fuels, but others are small and high-impact.  Installing heat sensors and smart thermostats to control distribution, or better insulation can improve efficiency. 

Even involving your tenants can help. Installing a simple orifice plate in each unit's radiator takes 5 minutes and can lower costs while providing tenants with greater discretion on heating their apartment. Asking them about this could save you a lot of money and help all of you save the planet!

 

 

homeBody is the free communication app for landlords, tenants, and neighbors

NYC Landlords, Heat Season Begins Oct 1: Do You Know the Laws Changed?

 
It's coming sooner than you think (ryanshanley/shanleystudio)

It's coming sooner than you think (ryanshanley/shanleystudio)

 

For the average person, the term “heat season” might bring on thoughts of heading to the beach, loading up on sunblock, and eating gelato. It’s the opposite for landlords. For you, it means the weather is turning cold and it's time to turn on your building’s heat.

Whether you’re a first time landlord or a grizzled professional, there are a few new things you should know about this upcoming 2017 heat season.

1. The Temperature Requirements are Higher

Heat season is October 1st — May 31st. Legally, you are required to turn on your building’s heat during this period. You already know that. But make sure you know the new night time requirements:

Day Time 6AM — 10PM: If the outside temperature is below 55 F, the inside-apartment temperature must be 68 F.

Night Time 10PM — 6AM: As of this season, the inside temperature at night must be above 62 F regardless of what temperature it is outside.

TIP: Take a picture of your thermostat for your records whenever you can. It's low-tech, but can cut down on potential conflicts with tenants and can help you track your system’s efficiency.

(NYCHPD)

(NYCHPD)

2. The Inspection Process Has Also Changed

The city requires an annual inspection for your boiler if your building is mixed-use or has 6 or more families. You have to have an inspection done by someone licensed from the DOB or an authorized insurance company.

As of August 14, 2017, you can no longer submit your inspection reports by person. They must be submitted online at DOB NOW: Safety.

TIP: You should also schedule additional maintenance inspections with experts. Whether you use oil or natural gas or your system is steam or water, chances are soot is building up that could damage your equipment.

 
inspector.png
 

3. Know the Fines If You Don’t Comply

Tenants have a right to heat and hot water. If they don’t have adequate heat, and they can’t get in touch with you to fix it, they will likely call 311. HPD will try to reach out to you, but generally they will set up an inspection.

If you haven’t restored heat or met the temperature requirements, HPD will issue a violation, which is almost always followed up by a court proceeding. You could be subject to significant civil penalties:

  • $250 — $500 each day per violation until a follow up inspection

  • $500 — $1000 each day per subsequent violation

  • $200 per additional inspection after the first two

 

TIP: Think of your tenants as your first line of defense! Their feedback/complaints are frontline reports about your heating system. Make it easy to reach you before they reach for 311.

 

Next week, we’ll tell you how you can save money on your heating costs — and help the environment.

 homeBody is the free communication app for landlords, tenants, and neighbors.