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Saving the environment can save you money. Here’s how.

Americans are becoming increasingly worried about global warming, according to a study carried out by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. This increase in concern is accompanied by an increase in engagement with the issue of climate change, and an increase in support of climate solutions.

The good news is that both tenants and property owners can take steps to reduce utility consumption and help the planet. Livable covers some of the ways that we can be more efficient in our blogs and newsletters. This ongoing list of helpful tips includes making efforts to use more energy-efficient appliances and making sure that appliances are up to date with any servicing requirements.

We are on a mission to promote conservation through billing and education. With our custom utility management and cost recovery solutions, we help commercial and residential properties reduce their environmental footprint. A major way that property owners can work towards utility conservation, where guidelines allow, is by implementing a ratio utility billing system (RUBS).

What is a ratio utility billing system?

RUBS is a system that divides utility costs, including waste, sewage, energy, water and more, among the residents of a property based on a number of criteria. Of course, not all utilities are consumed in equal quantities, so this system takes into account the type of utility being used when determining each property’s ideal RUBS formula.

In-unit and common area amenities, unit occupancy and square footage are some of the features that can be factored in to ensure fair and accurate billing to each tenant. This system is highly customizable and a lot of thought goes into what to include when calculating the ideal RUBS formula for each individual property. There are strict guidelines that utility billing experts such as Livable help you follow when instituting RUBS. For example, RUBS can be implemented in rent-controlled jurisdictions, but only on turnover. The many benefits of RUBS make this system worth it.

Reduce your energy and water consumption with RUBS

Implementing RUBS makes tenants aware of monthly utility costs and trends which empowers them to make informed decisions on their utility usage. As a result, tenants are more motivated to conserve utilities and to report utility-related maintenance issues, like leaks. Timely responses to leaks can have a huge impact because, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted, household leaks can waste up to 180 gallons per week.

The eco-friendly benefits of RUBS have been demonstrated in a large study compiled by the National Apartment Association and the National Multi-Housing Council. They found a 6 to 18 percent reduction in water use in properties that implemented RUBS, which they credited to more careful water management when residents had to pay for their share of water. 

The team at Livable has observed significant reductions in utility consumption in properties where RUBS have been implemented. A fully occupied 4-unit building experienced a 31% decrease in water and electricity use in the year following the implementation of a customizable RUBS system. These environmentally friendly effects are not restricted to buildings with fewer units. We witnessed a 24% reduction in usage in a building with over 300 units! 

Why utility conservation is important

As explained by the EPA, greenhouse gases trap some of the Earth’s outgoing energy and therefore retain heat in the atmosphere. Many greenhouse gases are naturally occurring, but are now found at elevated levels because of human activities. 

The excess release of greenhouse gases throws off the balance between energy received from the sun and energy emitted from the Earth. This alters climate and weather patterns regionally and globally. There are natural factors that affect this balance – like the Earth’s orbit and the carbon cycle – but there’s overwhelming evidence that human activities are the primary cause of global warming over the last 50 years.

Energy consumption matters

How is utility conservation relevant to environmental issues? The burning of fossil fuels accounts for around 74% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and – according to the EPA – accounted for about 79% of total U.S. primary energy production in 2020. The residential and commercial sectors are responsible for the majority of energy consumption in U.S. buildings.

Reducing energy consumption in our buildings can decrease fossil fuel demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is good for the planet! Conservation efforts can extend beyond energy to other utilities to reduce pollution and waste, and help the environment. This is something that matters now more than ever before.

Why we save water

California, like much of the West, is experiencing widespread drought. The incentive to scale back water usage can be low even in the midst of a drought. In 2015 a survey of Los Angeles apartment owners who paid for their tenants’ water revealed that water usage in apartments remained unchanged – and in some cases even increased – despite a 25 percent conservation order from the governor. Awareness of water and energy expenditure by tenants can increase motivation to conserve.

Conserving water goes a long way toward rebuilding underground aquifers, minimizing the harmful effects of drought and overall supporting the fight against climate change. When we save water, we also lower energy demand because the amount of energy used to purify and distribute water to our buildings, as well as to heat the water can be reduced. Employing water-saving techniques, therefore, helps reduce pollution. Less water used also means less wastewater generated, which decreases energy usage at wastewater treatment plants.

3 more reasons to conserve with RUBS

As if the benefits to the environment weren’t motivation enough, there are even more reasons to conserve utilities with RUBS.

Save on utility expenses

While the efforts of tenant and property owner alike both matter in utility conservation, at the end of the day only one of these groups pays the utility bill. Many property owners today are still responsible for paying for their tenants’ utility usage. With the cost of utilities continuously on the rise, property owners have further incentive to consider RUBS.

We’ve observed that housing providers are able to regain close to 90% of their water and energy costs through RUBS. Implementing RUBS on your properties is good for the planet and it’s good for your wallet but the benefits don’t stop there.

Older buildings aren’t left behind with RUBS

Older buildings present a multitude of challenges when trying to achieve more efficient use of resources. From outdated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems – which waste a tremendous amount of electricity, to uninsulated plumbing – which wastes unnecessary amounts of water and energy.

Although it is established that splitting the cost of utilities among tenants has clear benefits for saving resources, the designs of older buildings present a barrier to implementing cost-splitting efforts. A lot of older buildings have only one water meter and one water bill. Some utility-related conservation efforts would require hardware installation that makes said efforts incompatible with the designs of older buildings.

RUBS presents a simple way for utility costs to be fairly distributed between tenants even in older buildings so that the tenants of older buildings can also be inspired to be part of conservation efforts. 

Enjoy a hassle-free set-up process with RUBS

Using a submetering system to keep track of tenant utility usage is an option, but a very expensive one. According to Commercial Property Executive, submeters cost $1500 to $2000 per piece inclusive of installation costs. The process of installing sub-meters presents additional challenges that setting up RUBS avoids. Since with RUBS, there’s no need to purchase or install any equipment, property owners can save time and money. Compared to other methods, the savings with RUBS start almost immediately.

Does RUBS not work for you? We have another eco-friendly solution…

Livable has a Net Zero billing program that can help you conserve utilities where RUBS isn’t possible.

With this billing program, we send a monthly statement to residents, but property owners continue to pay all the utility bills. The statement sent to tenants highlights what their costs would have been, and includes some simple steps that tenants can take to lower their utility usage.

With Net Zero, existing tenants and residents in all markets can see the costs associated with their consumption, which can substantially decrease utility use and increase the timeliness of leak reporting.

How Livable’s billing programs take conservation a step further

Livable uses a cloud-based platform that accesses clients’ utility bills as soon as they are published by the utility company. Following a carefully curated formula, utility costs are then allocated to individual units in the building.  With RUBS, when tenants receive the invoice for their portion of the bill, they can pay it on Livable’s Resident Connect Portal. Our paperless billing system allows residents to generate less paper waste, which is great for our trees!

Our system is able to detect usage spikes and immediately notify clients. Through this feature numerous water leaks have been identified in a timely fashion, allowing property owners to address such problems on their properties sooner.

Especially environmentally-conscious tenants can monitor the efficiency of their unit and even the entire building. They can use our system to track consumption trends and get the information that they need to further improve their own conservation efforts.

How to start conserving with Livable

With increasing concern over the state of the environment and an increase in interest in climate solutions, more and more people are looking for ways that they can help fight the climate crisis. We know that when tenants are made aware of utility costs on a regular basis, they are empowered to manage their utility usage more responsibly. The results are great for the environment!

 With our billing systems, property owners and tenants are able to foster a sense of community by joining forces to conserve resources. If RUBS is right for your property, talk to your tenants about its benefits! It’s important to communicate with residents and clearly explain the system and its implications for tenants when looking to implement RUBS on your property. But don’t worry, this process is something that we can help you with.

Livable is a leading residential and commercial real estate utility billing company with the mission to promote conservation through billing and education. With our suite of cloud services, we can help you reduce your consumption while adding to your bottom line. To learn more, visit our website at livable.com