During late spring and summer, it isn’t difficult to cut energy usage and enjoy a more efficient rental property. When the sun is shining and the weather is warm, tenants can open windows, use small fans, and wear light clothing to otherwise reduce the workload of the rental property’s HVAC.
But in the fall, when the temperatures plummet, keeping a home energy-efficient becomes a much more difficult endeavor.
All landlords and property managers should pay attention to a rental property’s efficiency, even if their tenants are responsible for the utility bills. A residence that works hard is more likely to have increased maintenance and repair demands, which costs owners money and often drives good tenants away. As the fall hurtles toward winter, property managers should strongly consider how they can improve the efficiency of their rental properties for the duration of the season.
Understand Heating Options
Older investment properties tend to have older heating systems, which might be less efficient and put both property and tenants at risk. It should go without saying that landlords shouldn’t expect their tenants to contend with wood-burning solutions, like fireplaces or stoves, which in addition to being inefficient and labor-intensive also pose a significant fire risk.
However, many property managers might not realize that radiators, too, are less than ideal. Hot water or steam heating provides the problems of both heating systems and plumbing. Not only does a boiler need to be maintained — much like a gas or electric furnace — but the pipes that carry the steam or hot water, as well as the radiators themselves, need frequent attention. If left to their own devices, these systems can explode or leak, causing significant damage to the rental property.
Without question, central heating is the ideal solution because it is inexpensive to maintain and most efficient in terms of heat dispersion. However, installing central heating isn’t always possible in multi-family properties or especially old homes. Instead of relying on wood-burning or steam solutions, property managers should consider installing vertical or baseboard heaters that rely on electricity, which tend to be safer and require less attention than more antiquated heating options. Then, whenever possible, central heating should be installed.
Offer an Advanced Thermostat
Sometimes, the thermostat is to blame for heating (and cooling) issues inside a home. Thermostats can go bad in a few different ways; for instance, they might not be calibrated properly, so they over-heat or under-heat a space, or the thermostat might get dirty, also affecting its ability to correctly read the temperature. Additionally, older thermostats are simply difficult for younger tenants to understand and use, and they might cause problems with newer heating systems. Property managers should strongly consider updating their thermostats, even installing smart thermostats with more intuitive controls that tenants can use while they are away from the rental property. Smart thermostats all but guarantee greater efficiency with temperature control year-round, so they make for a great investment in rentals.
Winterize, Winterize, Winterize
We have already talked at length about the importance of winterizing a rental property — any property, in all honesty. Annual inspections of the heating system, insulating pipes against the cold, trimming trees and shrubs and weatherproofing the exterior before winter is a good way to keep an investment property’s heating bills low and prevent cold and water damage from occurring. Still, there are a couple of winterizing activities we would like to stress for landlords and property managers whose main focus is heating efficiency:
Seal everything. Before the cold season sets in, property managers should send handymen to check for and seal cracks around windows and doors. In fact, any cracks in the exterior of the home should be filled, and weatherstripping should be added around windows and doors.
Increase insulation. A standard home should have between 10 and 16 inches of insulation in the attic. Over time, insulation degrades, and more insulation should be added. Property managers of older investment properties should watch insulation levels and swiftly add more as soon as it becomes necessary.
Few landlords think about how the seasons will impact their real estate investment — but the truth is that winter is brutal, and failing to equip a home with efficient heating solutions is a good way to rack up maintenance and repair costs. The above steps should make rental properties safer throughout the winter season, increasing their value to tenants and owners alike.
This article has been contributed by Tiffani Wroe.