June 13, 2023

Paying for Multifamily Utility Upgrades and Amenities


6 Min. Read

Owners and property managers of multifamily properties want to save money where possible and are now turning to smart appliances and energy-efficient upgrades to reduce monthly energy costs, as well as increasing revenue through the addition of EV charging stations as an amenity.

Before making these changes, it’s important to consider the cost of upgrades and determine what benefits you hope to gain.

Making Multifamily Unit Utility Upgrades

Smart appliance installation has grown faster than previous forecasts predicted. Over 10% of American households now have at least one smart appliance, and that percentage is expected to more than double by 2027. Renters are no exception, and many multifamily buildings have already followed suit in implementing smart technology to enhance their property and save on energy costs.

EV adoption has also exploded faster than predicted. Cox Automotive reports that Q1 EV sales increased 44.9% compared to 2022. This is despite the impact supply chain issues caused in 2022 which resulted in low EV inventory. Another point to consider is that consumer adoption of one form of energy-efficient technology is statistically correlated with the adoption of other energy-efficient products as well. It’s clear that American consumers want, and are spending money on, energy-saving products.

While a great deal of attention is given to homeowners making that transition, rental housing residents often feel the same. In fact, 82% of tenants say they want smart home tech, and they’re willing to pay up to 20% more for units with smart features.

As a property owner, you can appeal to your residents by proactively implementing these changes.

Multifamily Property Utility Upgrade Costs

Property owners face two essential questions: What will upgrades cost, and are there programs to help pay for these upgrades? The answers depend on several variables:

  • Building age
  • Condition of the existing electrical system
  • Types of upgrades requested by tenants
  • Owner planned upgrades
  • Upgrade usage and cost to utility billing

While you can likely estimate these questions and their answers, consider starting with an energy audit of your building by a qualified energy consumption expert for exact numbers and more carefully calibrated recommendations. Many utilities will offer this type of audit free or at low cost because helping their customers use energy wisely is in their best interest, as energy audits provide detailed accounts of how your building uses and loses power.

You may find the results surprising and encouraging, as results often show that a simple upgrade in insulation and lighting could provide more significant savings than costly smart appliances. On the other hand, if the building is old and has heating or cooling needs, poor electrical service, or high electricity prices, then insulation, lighting, or smart electrical service panels could be the wiser investment.

Consider surveying your tenants to understand their priorities or concerns. You may find that EV charging stations would be a good investment for tenants who want to lower the cost of their work commute, but even if your residents are not currently needing to charge at home, future residents will likely need this amenity as the transportation industry shifts to fully electric in the coming years.

While the expected installation costs for a Level 2 EV Charger depend on a number of variables, standard installation ranges from $799 to $1,999 for single-family homes and are often more expensive.

Ranging from around $600 to $12,700 for Level 2 charging station commercial installations in common areas such as a multifamily parking lot or garage due to the increasing complexity and distance from the charging station to a power source or electric panel, this price is not including the purchase price of a charger, which can range from $500 to $800 for in-home garages and approximately $400 to $6,500 for commercial chargers.

You don’t have to handle the burden of these costs alone. There are various programs, rebates, and tax incentives available on both the federal and local levels to help you join the energy transition and provide a more sustainable and cost-effective home for your residents.

Federal and State Programs for Multifamily Property Owners

Several federal agencies offer programs for utility upgrades:

Many states also offer upgrade programs. Your state’s official website will provide information about those programs and provide more information on getting started with those programs.

Public Utility Programs for Multifamily Upgrades

In addition to federal and state funding, many public utility companies offer programs for multifamily utility upgrades. These programs may offer select free upgrades, various rebates, or provide incentives to help with reducing upgrade costs. These programs may also include recommendations such as:

  • Insulation improvements
  • Transitioning from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent or LED
  • HVAC improvement
  • Water heater upgrades
  • Smart panel upgrades
  • Plumbing insulation improvements

Check with your specific utility to see which programs they offer.

There are also several utility providers partners willing to help with expensive upgrades in an effort to increase sustainability and grid resiliency by promoting EV adoption, helping retrofit existing buildings, offering onsite energy assessments, and providing additional savings for owners of five or more units.

Nonprofit Groups That Help with Multifamily Upgrades

Nonprofit groups team up with other agencies to offer upgrades. Most of those upgrades support affordable housing projects and focus on reducing energy waste. Their goal is ultimately to reduce utility bills and overall consumption.

You can find nonprofit programs by talking to your electric utility company, or your state housing authority can match you with nonprofit programs.

Loans for Multifamily Property Upgrades

Lenders and investors recognize the value of upgrading a building’s electrical service, appliances, and energy efficiency and how those improvements impact overall building value and owners’ ROI. They have created ways to help owners make utility upgrades through loan structuring, investment financing, and other advanced asset management.

These options often change the overall tax picture for buildings, owners, investors, or all three. You should consult with legal counsel or their accountants before pursuing these advanced financing options.

Multifamily Upgrade Case Study

From 2016-2020, the Bay Area (California) Regional Energy Network (BayREN) helped upgrade a 1960s complex with 44 units in 10 buildings and a total area of just under 60,000 square feet.

The property owners financed this first round of upgrades through loan restructuring, utility company programs and rebates, non-profit organization rebates, and state agency assistance and have since embarked on a second round of upgrades to install EV charging stations at the complex and are currently exploring options for fully-electric heating, HVAC, and water heating systems.

Upgrade measures included attic insulation, low-flow water fixtures, variable-speed water pumps, and light fixtures resulting in lower energy bills, reduced water consumption, and efficient lighting.

In total these changes resulted in a 12.1% energy savings property-wide, and the owners received a rebate of approximately $33,000. As the property Manager Deborah Vasquez points out “It’s a win-win-win: residents have lower energy bills and improved comfort; management saves money on common area utility costs; and the environment and broader community benefit from less pollution.”

Qmerit Helps With Your Multifamily Unit Utility Upgrades

Utility upgrades are necessary for economical electrification and EV adoption and currently, numerous resources exist to help multifamily unit owners pay for these upgrades. Investing in upgrades now will have long-term energy benefits and help your tenants access advancements in sustainable and economic electrification technologies.

When it comes to electrifying your property with efficient and sustainable upgrades, it’s important to find a partner you can trust to provide safe, high-quality, and professional installations. Qmerit can help.

As the most trusted electrification service and installation provider in North America, Qmerit has an unsurpassed network of certified electrical contractors trained in these technologies.

Recognized by the White House and recommended by top automakers, EVSE manufacturers, utilities, businesses, and fleets, Qmerit will work with you to provide a customer solution that meets your needs and your budget.

Begin your partnership with Qmerit today and work with the experts in multifamily utility upgrades and electrification technologies to transform your property and profit from a sustainable future.

Author: Tom Bowen

Tom Bowen

President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification