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Saving Big Bucks In Your Strata Block

By Nicola Saltman (Senior Enviro Officer, Waverley Council) on March 20, 2015 in Other

There’s a lot to love about apartment living, but the downside for owners can be hefty strata levies, including rising power bills that shrink your budget each quarter.

Up to half of a large unit block’s total energy use is in common property, with some owners’ corporations spending over $100,000 for shared power use each year. Think foyer and fire stair lights, car parks, air-conditioning, lifts, pools and central water heating. Simple and cost-effective energy-saving upgrades can cut 30-40 percent off energy bills and add value to your property.

So as we switch off to celebrate Earth Hour this month, why not take further action to slash your strata energy costs in the longer term with these three tips.

1. Lighting
Car park lighting can account for up to 50 percent of power use, but there’s also common foyer, external and stairwell lighting. Changing lights to low-energy alternatives is a no-brainer with fast installation and payback periods as short as six months. Quality LEDs can use up to 90 percent less energy than standard fittings and last years longer. Aside from bill savings, there are also maintenance savings from not having to change the lights as often. You may also be eligible for upfront discounts via the NSW Energy Savings Scheme.

2. Car Park Ventilation
Another easy way to save is via car park ventilation equipment. Many car park fans are either run 24/7 or operate on timers that don’t accurately reflect when fans are needed. By installing carbon monoxide monitoring in the car park and regulating the speed of the fans for ventilation, buildings can save big, with costs paid off in just a few years.

3. Switching Off
Aside from carp ark fans, other equipment is often left on unnecessarily without anyone realising. Installing lighting sensors and push-button light switch timers, and simply switching off equipment that’s not use, can slash the building’s power use with little to no upfront cost.

Where to start?
Get to know your building’s energy bills: what you are paying and where the energy is being used. Arrange a professional energy audit – it’s a cost-effective way to work out which projects to invest in, complete with costs and payback information. Some consultants will also help source and evaluate suppliers’ quotes for projects, which is handy if your time and experience is limited. There are free online tools and information to help you do a basic walk-through audit and get supplier quotes, including Smart Blocks (

Making The Decisions To Hit ‘Go’
A strong business case with prioritised actions and a compelling cost argument can be worth its weight in gold in getting executive committees or owners’ corporations to agree to spend money on retrofit projects. Tackling the low-hanging fruit first, like lighting, is a sure-fire way to show great results to decision-makers to convince them to fund larger projects. Making friends with your fellow owners and gaining their support for energy-saving works can also do wonders for pushing projects over the line.