It’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening.
Even if you’ve retrofitted everything for efficiency, you’ll want to stay efficient (and bank the returns).
Leaks can occur at any time. You need to be on top of leaks when they occur – not 3 months down the track when your next bill arrives and you realise there might be a problem. That could be hundreds or thousands of dollars down the drain already. Even small leaks can add up to large water bills, as they continue all day, every day.
Pay attention to your water bills
Keep track of the building’s water bills to see how your usage changes over time. Sudden or regular increases may indicate a need to look more closely for possible problems.
Every bill needs to be checked to ensure you’re not incurring any more costs than you should.
Re-calculate your water benchmark for the previous 12 months every time a new bill arrives.
Keep your eye out for any leaks
If you are unsure, have a look at your main water meter late one night (when it is unlikely that many people are showering). If it keeps spinning around at a high and constant rate, chances are there are some leaks to be found, and water and money to be saved
Track Your Water Use
The best way to keep track of leaks is to install sub-meters, and ideally monitor them. There are now low-cost solutions that allow you to data from sub-meters to the internet for easy viewing and record keeping.
This diagram shows one building that is split up with sub-meters tracking water use to the cooling towers and both hot and cold water feeds to various parts of the building.
The following is from monitoring a main water meter on an apartment building.
It clearly shows the water usage patterns in the building e.g. weekday morning shower peak, the overnight flow, the broader evening peak and the automated overnight irrigation.
Once you know your building’s patterns, you can easily spot problems as they occur.
In the next monitoring profile for an apartment building, and you can see that the flow never reaches close to zero – that’s because there are a large number of small leaks.
Some products also allow you configure email or text message alerts is the flow rate exceeds its normal pattern.
Be proactive with leaks in apartments
One large complex emails residents every six months and ask for leaks to be reported. The owners corporation pays for a plumber to fix them. Individual owners do not contribute unless something major is found, which has only happened once when new kitchen tap was required. Usually, the leaks are minor and the cost of the plumber minimal. They calculated that this approach saved us them least $5,000 in water bills, and the plumber only cost a couple of hundred dollars.
The building manager also records water meter readings each week and if there’s any great change they revert to the above if no obvious leaks can be found.
Annual or biannual water conservation program
Consider putting in place an annual program to check on any problems developing in apartments and have them fixed before your water (and energy) bills start rising again.
Since it will require access to apartments, checks could be co-ordinated with the annual fire inspections to minimise disruption to residents and ensure access to the majority of apartments.
Annual apartment inspections
The condition of certain common property can only be properly assessed from inside an apartment e.g. external walls, doors & windows.
Regular inspections will help the owners corporation more effectively manage its capital works fund plan, and in many cases reduce future costs by addressing repairs before the scale of the problem escalates.
Those inspections can also be used to keep on top of water-related problems and leaks.
Here’s an example of a checklist that one building used for its annual apartment inspections: