Apartment Age August, 2014 : Page 34
How I Learned to Love the Water Meter and add dollars to my bottom line By Mike Froehlich, MF Property Management 34 AUGUST 2014 • www.AAGlA.orG
How I Learned To Love The Water Meter
and add dollars to my bottom line
Property Management Companies and Property Owners strive very hard in this environment to watch every dime and not waste any money. We shop for the best deal in insurance, supplies, maintenance, trash service, etc. in an effort to improve the bottom line. And yet, when we get the bi-monthly DWP, we rip it open, tear our hair a little, complain about increased rates (as if we could decipher the boiler plate letters that we get from the DWP) and then shrug our shoulders and write a big check.
One of the most overlooked expenses is the bi-monthly Water & Sewage bill from the DWP. In fact, the DWP check is one of the larger checks that we write for our regular expenses. When we get a bill that is substantially higher than previous bills with considerably higher usage, we are in effect acting reactively. One day, the proverbial light bulb went on and we asked ourselves “Why are we waiting for a bill that comes every two months to monitor and control our water usage?”
My staff and I proceeded to learn how to read water meters, and we then started to read the meters at our client’s buildings at least twice a week. That way, we will know in real time the amount of water that the building is using, and if we see that the usage was high, we could immediately find the source of the problem and address it. The DWP estimates that the average person uses 123 gallons a day, and we calculated how much water each apt. would typically use daily. We included in our calculation, whether the apt. was a studio apt with generally one person living there, to 1 and 2 bedroom apartments with children.
The DWP uses a unit of measurement called “HCF”, which means a “Hundred Cubic Feet of water”, and 1 HCF would equal 748 gallons of water. For example, we manage a 13 unit apt. building (Studios & 1 bedrooms) near Alvarado and Third St. We reviewed the last 12 months of bills from the DWP, and the building was using between 200 to 370 gallons per day, per apt. The sewage portion of the bill is based upon the water usage, so the charge of every gallon of water was multiplied by the extra charge of the sewage.Also the DWP now uses a tier system, and after a building uses their allotted water for Tier 1, you will be charged for Tier 2 rates, which are higher, therefore it is important to keep under the allotted usage and stay in Tier 1.
When the building was averaging around 370 gallons a day per unit, our bi monthly bill would be approximately $2,000 more than if we were averaging around 200 gallons a day. Think about it, right here, with Property Owner and Management companies watching every dime in maintenance and rent increases, insurance, interest rates, etc., they are literally flushing thousands of dollars a month by meekly paying the DWP bills.
NO MORE Surprises IN THE DWP BILLS
Once we started calculating how much water each apt. should be using and then reading the water meters at least three times a week, and in the case where a building is using too much water, we were reading the meters every day. When a reading came in high, we checked under the buildings, and of course we went through all the apartments to check for leaks. We learned that even if you don’t hear the toilets running, if the level of the water in the tank was near the opening of the hole of the tube, that the water would intermittently still be running. Believe it or not, according the DWP and Plumbers that I have spoken to, the EXTRA cost of one running toilet is approximately $450 a month.
We also learned to read the signals in the water meters, the speed of the dial, etc. Once we executed our program, we lowered the usage at that building to an average of 175 gallons a day, bringing about bi-monthly bill down from $4,000 to $1,700. We set up a program for all our buildings and have saved a tremendous amount of money for our clients, and have even extended this program for Property Owners and Management companies that pay a modest flat fee for us to use our program on their buildings.
Randy Frankel, an Insurance Broker at Frankel & Associates has told me that some of the insurance companies will also give a discount if I let them know that there is such a program and that the meter reader also checks the property each month for other hazards
As you can tell from this article, I have found this niche in our business fascinating, and the knowledge and expertise valuable in saving water in times of drought and maximizing profits for my clients.Among my staff and peers in this business, I am now seen as some type of water guru, among my friends outside this business, they think I have gone off the deep end, and probably are scared to bring up the subject of water in my company. If you have any questions, or would like more info, please call Mike at 310-383-1252.