|Experts say fuel costs will continue to rise. The Board needs to seriously consider boiler upgrades, valve and window replacement, and insulation before it spends another dollar on renovation.
On October 14, 2005, the Board of Directors released to shareholders a memo about the “Fuel Oil Surcharge and Capital Project Update.” It announced a doubling of the fuel oil surcharge from $12.00 to $24.00 per share annually — the surcharge now is just shy of a month’s maintenance after Star — and simultaneously reported approval of the hallway renovation plan and the beginning of an entranceway renovation project.
Favorable Comments. The memo says, “The Board received many very favorable comments about the prototype hallway that has been completed in Building 7.” It also reports, “Everyone that has seen the new entrance has complimented that it is beautiful and a welcome addition to Bryant Gardens.”
Analysis Trumps Compliments. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could turn all those favorable comments and compliments into fuel oil to heat our apartments this winter? Of course, we can’t. Compliments don’t pay the bills, and they’re no substitute for the cost benefit analysis the Board should have done before approving the renovations.
Conservation First. It is unresponsive and irresponsible for the Board to proceed with renovation projects, compliments or no, without first providing for conservation projects to reduce our heating costs, and not incidentally, to make our apartments more comfortable. As the memo says “there are apartments in Bryant Gardens that are overheated during a typical winter season.”
Heating Costs are High. At about $2.00 per gallon for #4 fuel oil, the cost for heating will be, on average, over $1100 per apartment this year. The memo says “Even by today’s standards that number is considered to be excellent.” The U.S. Department of Energy says “Heating and cooling costs the average homeowner around $600 a year.” Who’s kidding whom?
Aging, Inefficient Heating Plant. Our 25-year old heating plant, which our conscientious maintenance staff keeps working optimally, is nevertheless nowhere near as efficient as modern equipment. Any plant built over 15 years ago has a maximum efficiency around 80%; modern plants, using condensing boilers, top 95%. And there’s more efficiency to be gained by changing from just two boilers with no backups to more sophisticated configurations of multiple smaller boilers. Never mind the possible savings from rebates and cogeneration. And let’s not get started talking about insulation.
It’s 2005, not 1995. The memo says “After review with Con Edison in 1995, it was Con Edison’s conclusion that it was not cost effective for Bryant Gardens to convert to natural gas.” Right, but… Hey guys, it’s 2005. Fuel costs have increased 300% since 1995, but the cost of equipment and labor has increased only marginally. Back to the drawing board, Board. The real numbers will more than justify changing our aging boilers.
Experimentation, No. Consultation, Yes. The memo says “The Board has also experimented with Danfoss thermostatic control valves that help regulate the temperature in individual apartments.” May we suggest that instead of experimenting the Board follow the lead of responsible boards everywhere and hire a consultant? Thermostatic control valves save energy while making our apartments more comfortable.
Two Panes Better Than One. The memo says “All of the apartments have replacement thermal break insulated windows.” But that’s not what the experts recommend today. We urge the Board to get expert advice on replacing the remaining single pane windows with energy efficient double pane windows mounted in non-conducting window frames. But let’s get the valves replaced first. As others have noted, it doesn’t make any difference what kind of windows we have, if we have to leave them wide open in the winter.
The Onus is On Us. After imposing an increased fuel surcharge, and without proposing any meaningful ways to reduce fuel consumption, the Board suggests in its memo that shareholders should “Limit hot water and dishwasher usage,” to conserve energy. Well, at least they didn’t suggest we shower with a friend.
Conservation should begin in the Board Room.