Whether a region has hot, humid summers or frigid cold winters (or both), many owners are literally throwing money out of the window by not focusing on temperature control.

It’s not uncommon to see older buildings have heating or cooling problems, says Colin Edelstein. Edelstein, a director at NorSouth Constructs, suggests property owners and managers consider redoing insulation to help mitigate heating and cooling problems.

His business focuses on the Southern part of the country where summers are blazing hot and residents run air conditioning systems as high as they’ll go.

“People don’t understand that the thermostat isn’t necessarily controlling the temperature of your air,” he says. “It’s not blowing out any more colder air than if you put it on 68, it just runs longer.”

However, the installation of individual thermostats is just one way to begin saving money on heating and cooling. Buildings without thermostats have legitimate problems with residents adjusting to the temperature.

“Temperature control is always a problem because everyone is different,” Edelstein says. “Everyone is comfortable at a different temperature.”

But when everyone is uncomfortable, a large problem develops.

Green Retrofitting
When McKinley’s COO Keith Hayward walked through a Taylor, Mich. property and noticed his residents’ windows were open in the peak of winter, he knew there was a problem.

The Ponds at the Villages of Taylor was built in the late 1960’s and like many older properties had problems with controlling the indoor temperature, causing residents to leave windows open when it became too hot to bear inside a unit.

And while the team at Ann Arbor, Mich.-based McKinley paid all the heating costs for the 511 units at the property, the cost of throwing all that heat out the window began to add up.

As part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Green Retrofit program, the company was able to secure a $5.99 million loan to help make the property more environmentally friendly. The biggest task on their list was replacing all of the old boilers for more efficient models, Hayward, McKinley’s COO, says.

“We’ve seen a tremendous difference in our heating costs,” he says. “We saw a reduction in usage alone of 37 percent property-wide for gas.” Thermostats were also installed as part of the renovation.

Insulation Attention
Another renovation to be considered is replacing old insulation with more efficient and new product, Edelstein suggests.

“If at some point the cost of energy lost outpaces the cost of installing appropriate insulation, then a decision has to be made,” he says.

The McKinley renovation team reevaluated the property’s older insulation and made some minor changes to save big, Hayward says.

“We put insulation in the roof,” he says. “We increased insulation and wrapped the pipes so the water lines that are running in crawlspaces underneath the Earth don’t get cold.”

And perhaps the most effective way to save money on heating and cooling costs is to educate residents about how to properly manage temperature in each individual unit.

“You’re over-running the system by continuing to tinker with the thermostat to the extremes,” he says. “If you just left it and you basically never touch it again, then that’s how you’re going to get efficiency. Residents need to be taught that.”

Lindsay Machak is an Associate Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.