Is Your Building Leaking? Is it a Trickle or a Geyser?
Mar 31, 2020

Living in the Chicagoland area has many benefits.

One of the biggest is our lakefront, and the access to fresh water that it provides. Chicago and many suburban municipalities use Lake Michigan as their water source. But despite our proximity to the lake and the abundance of water it provides, did you know that the price of water and sewer has tripled in the last 10 years?

Let’s put that in perspective. Electricity and natural gas costs are about the same as they were 10 years ago. These days, ComEd, Peoples Gas and Nicor Gas charge a little more for their delivery charges but the price per kWh and therm are nearly the same as they were 10 years ago, while the cost of water has tripled!

“Little leaks can cause big bills.”

In Chicago, the price of water is nearly 1 cent per gallon (water, sewer and tax). In some suburban communities, the charge for a gallon of water is up to 1.6 cents per gallon. Many condominium communities pay more annually for water than for their common area electricity and natural gas charges.

In Chicago, a condo community gets a water bill every other month showing the amount owed and how much water was consumed during that billing cycle. The bills also included the following sentence: “Little leaks can cause big bills.” How true! Let’s think about the billing cycle for a moment. A property uses water for an eight- week period and then a week or ten days later, a bill arrives with no itemization of when the water was used, what it was used for, or if the building may be leaking somewhere.

Recently, a study was done examining the water usage at 15 multi-residential properties. They ranged in size from 100-units to 400-units. After the usage pattern was examined, it was determined that each property, to a varying degree, had a water leak problem.

By looking at the amount of water flowing during the middle of the night (when most people are sleeping and not using their water), there always was a significant flow of water. Even when considering people getting up to use the bathroom during the night, or someone using the laundry facilities, there should be a time when the flow is negligible. Some buildings never got below 2 gallons per minute. Several properties never got below 10 gallons per minute! 10 gallons per minute x 60 minutes = 600 gallons an hour x 24 hours = 14,400 gallons a day x 365 days = 5,256,000 gallons annually. That would be $52,560.00 annually literally going down the drain.

Until now, the water bill comes, and you pay it. Are there leaks? The answer usually is “We don’t know!” But all of that is about to change: What if you could see real time water usage? What if you could look at usage by the month, the week, the hour, or even by the minute? What if the building engineer could get a notification if there was an unusual amount of water flowing at any time?

There is a way the usage can be monitored by the property manager, the property management company, the building engineer or board members. The information would be on a dashboard, accessible on your cell phone or computer… a Cloud-based Water Management program.

The reports are made possible by installing something called a “Water Watch” on the building water meter. There are several products on the market which can provide this information. The “Water Watch” sends real time usage to the Cloud and then access is achieved via cell phone and/or computer. No more wondering if there are leaks at the property, or how much water is actually leaking.

Given the state of the economy in Chicago and Illinois, do you think the price per gallon of water will be going down next year, or in the foreseeable future? Water is still relatively inexpensive in the Chicagoland area compared to other parts of the country where water is 2.4 to 2.8 cents per gallon. However, if water bills triple again in the next 10 years, can those properties afford to pay $25,000 to $85,000 water bills every other month? That leak that is $52,000 annually now would be $156,000 a year!

 

 

In this time of “Going Green” and resource conservation, can we ignore wasted water usage? Can we dismiss the annual money spent on wasted water? One 220-unit condo association on the North Side of Chicago did something about it in early 2019. They underwent a “Water Conservation and Leak Detection Program.” At this property, 183 toilets were replaced (69 of which were found to be leaking). Since the program began nearly one year ago, the association used 4,352,000 gallons less than the same period in the previous year.

By the end of one year, the community will have used 5,500,000 gallons less than the previous year, saving nearly $55,000. The association was able to pay for their toilet upgrade out of their monthly savings and paid no money upfront.

 

Many condominium properties are also saving on their electricity bills by upgrading to LED lighting. Better lighting, no ongoing costs to replace high wattage bulbs, and much less kWh usage equals lower electricity bills. Condo properties are installing energy efficient boilers, HVAC systems and hot water heaters, saving on their natural gas costs, and now water bill costs can be addressed in a very cost-efficient manner.

The technology to monitor a property’s water usage in real time costs less than a cup of coffee a day; it is readily available and makes perfect sense. After all, you can’t prevent or stop water leaks in your building if you don’t even know they exist!

 

To learn more, contact us at (800) 392-4287.

 

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