Managing What’s Inside: Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing

Posted on Feb 27 2013 - 6:52pm by Brent Hardy


We’re proud of our energy-saving projects like solar panel installation, but what’s at the very heart of facilities management is MEP, or mechanical, electrical and plumbing. That stuff inside properties that makes them tick, the MEP, is always top-of-mind for me when it comes to saving energy. So, I want to share what we’ve been up to with MEP.

We’ve made improvements to the MEP systems of our properties in the past, and we kept that going last year. In 2012, we analyzed an additional 119 properties from an MEP standpoint, and made improvements where necessary to lower our impact on the environment and save money.


Mechanical: Moving on Up, to a Higher SEER

We’ve been analyzing our HVAC systems (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), making sure we replace inefficient systems with better options. This is especially important in hot climates! To make the best choices for lowering our electrical consumption, we look at Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings of HVAC systems.

By changing out older equipment with a SEER rating of 8 to a newer system with a SEER rating of 13, 14 or 15, we can gain around 50 percent more efficiency. In areas of the country where we use the air conditioner more often, we opt for HVAC systems with a SEER rating of at least 15. Whatever the climate, we typically choose new equipment with a SEER rating of 13 to 15. To give you an idea of what that means to us, a SEER rating of 14 can translate into an energy savings of about 43 percent over a SEER rating of just 8!

Photo via Anton Fomkin, flickr

Photo via Anton Fomkin, flickr


Electrical: Focusing on Lighting 

When evaluating a property for a potential retrofit, we pay very close attention to the lighting. To lessen our impact when using electricity for lighting, we:

  • Select Energy Star. We choose light fixtures approved by Energy Star. Plus, for properties with apartments for managers, we choose Energy Star refrigerators, dishwashers and microwaves.
  • Make the move to LED. We’ve switched many of our signs to LED, and we’re also updating our exterior lighting to LED. This year, we hope to begin exploring whether it’s cost-effective for us to add LED lighting inside our facilities as well!
  • Switch motion sensor timers. We’ve cut in half the length of time that activated lights stay on. Switching from 30 minutes to 15 minutes makes sense because it’s more in line with how customers typically use their storage units. This simple change can potentially help reduce our electrical use by up to 50 percent!
  • Update to split motion sensors. We’re switching to motion sensors that turn lights on for smaller areas. With the updates, one motion sensor controls only up to five fixtures. That means fewer unnecessary lights are turned on.


Plumbing: Choosing Low Flow

In general, storage facilities don’t use a lot of water, but we still like to help save where we can. We install low-flow plumbing fixtures in our apartments, as well as in the customer restrooms. And, for properties that order the most paper towels for restrooms, we install air dryers. That may not help us lower water usage at our properties, but it will help save natural resources.

To help save even more water, we scrutinize! If a property is using more water than most of our other properties, we look at ways to lower water usage at that location, including checking for leaks or updating fixtures. On the landscaping front, we have several opportunities to help save water, including installing rain sensors on sprinkler systems, or considering rainwater harvesting.


MEP: Working Smarter for Energy Savings

Whether we’re checking our properties for updated HVAC systems, installing more efficient lights, or updating plumbing fixtures, our end goal is to save energy, something that makes sense both from a business perspective and for the environment. In 2013 and beyond, we’ll keep working on ways to make our MEP systems smarter since that’s where we have the greatest potential for energy savings. Check back throughout this new year for updates on what we’re doing to improve our energy savings.


Do you use low-flow fixtures in your home or business? Do you know the SEER rating of your HVAC system?