Even though 56% of Gen Z renters are willing to pay a higher monthly rent for sustainable features like smart water and composted waste and 40% of renters require green practices, many multifamily owners aren’t offering a truly sustainable property yet, and still have plenty of options for including competitive energy-efficient features.

In the past, the cost to upgrade might have been a major hurdle, but now there are options that reduce the initial investment. Not only has the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently made nearly $1 billion available for energy-efficient upgrades in low-income multifamily properties, but also local utility companies like National Grid are offering their customers financial incentives for these initiatives.

If just the top 25% of multifamily property energy users improve energy efficiency—that includes improving the building envelope, heating, water, and lighting—it could translate to $3 billion in energy costs and about 17% less energy used, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

How do you know which energy-efficient upgrades are worthwhile?

The most effective upgrades depend on the property and the location, which is why it’s helpful to consult an energy expert who can conduct an on-site assessment. An energy assessor’s knowledge about the region and incentives can help create a program that is specifically designed for your property. For example, National Grid has experts who conduct assessments for their clients.

What are some typical energy-efficient upgrades that have incentives?

There are nearly as many kinds of energy-efficient upgrades as there are types of building products in a multifamily building. Some utility companies offer free installation of some features and provide incentives on others. Some of the most common upgrades include the following:

  • LED lighting: Commonly used these days, LEDs aren’t everywhere yet. They are one of the easiest ways to increase a building’s energy efficiency since they use up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they typically last up to 25 times longer, too.
  • Low-flow showerheads and aerators: With one drip of water per second slowly growing into 1,661 gallons of water wasted, it’s important to stay on top of plumbing fixtures. Low-flow showerheads and aerators are another smart way to reduce energy consumption by about 25% to 60%.
  • Heat pumps: Flexible to install both with and without ductwork, heat pumps can heat, cool, and help dehumidify. Not only can they be powered by renewable energy, there’s a savings of about $2,000 to $5,000 when compared with other HVAC systems.
  • Air sealing: Facility manager at Concord Greene in Concord, Massachusetts, worked with National Grid to upgrade the insulation in the attic of the 219-unit building, saving more than $311,000 and increasing overall comfort. “I was able to help the residents feel more comfortable and save the company money. It was a win-win,” says Bill Bannan, Concord Greene facility manager.
  • Wi-Fi thermostats: With heating costs at about 30% of a building’s energy costs, programmable Wi-Fi thermostats are known to reduce energy consumption by about 8%.

When is the best time to start?

The best time to start is now, because property owners and managers that aim to have a competitive advantage are already working on energy-efficient upgrades. Owners that take advantage of the current opportunities for low-cost upgrades will be ahead of competitors who are delaying upgrades due to cost.

Those 40% of renters who won’t compromise on energy-efficient smart features will be happy you invested in the property, so they can be confident to rent from you.

For more information about increasing energy efficiency at multifamily properties, check out the energy-efficiency programs at National Grid.