Are You Still Allocating Utilities?

AbacusExpect to pay somewhere between $100 to $200 per unit to submeter utilities,” advises Bill Doyle of Midway Services, a national submetering installation and service provider.

“On average, that will pay for itself in eight to twelve months of costs savings over the standard allocation methods.

Submetering offers a number of benefits, from lowering your tenants’ costs so you can increase rent, to saving the headaches of calculating allocations and dealing with tenant complaints over your methods. When utilities are submetered, energy and water conservation increases by as much as 50%. It’s also a good way to discover if there is a leaky toilet in the building, or over-consumption by a tenant. “We are working for a client who just learned that a tenant was using his home washer to run a commercial laundry service,” Bill explains.

The Nuts and Bolts of Submetering Utilities

  • Small meters are placed at the main breaker, hot water heater or gas line.
  • A transmitter is installed to detect the readings and send the signal to a data collector.
  • A data collection system, with an antenna and computer, receives the signal and stores the meter reading data.
  • The data is accessed through an Internet modem, and converted into readable records: bills and reports.

The process starts with a site review. “About 80% of our business is retrofitting into existing buildings,” Bill explains. “A property owner can consider submetering all of the utilities, electric, gas and water, in the same plan, using the same transmitters.”

The price to install submeters on your property will depend upon a variety of circumstances:

  • The number of floors.

  • The terrain around the building.

  • The composition of the building.

  • The variances in floor plans in the units.

  • The age of the plumbing.

  • The size and accessibility of the hot water heater closet, and whether there is a direct cold water line hook up.

These factors determine which type of transmitters are needed, because some of these conditions will require stronger transmitters, and that will correlate to the total cost.

“The work may have to be permitted,” Bill continues. “This is particularly true in retrofits. Typically, the plumbing and electrical work needs to be done by licensed contractors. The process is much easier if you are installing in new construction.”

Once the meters are in place, a collector is attached, which looks “just like a thick laptop computer.” That will store the data received from the meter transmitter.

Midway offers the additional service of reading the meters, billing the tenants and collecting the money. Financing options for submetering installation avoid an up-front cash layout.

Click here for more on the benefits of submetering.

Check out our Green Pages for information on money saving tips that help the environment. Once there, click on the Green Forum.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment, including real estate forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at

To subscribe to our blog, click here.