A new year brings fresh opportunities! As a member of the HOA’s board of directors, we know that you want what’s best for your community. Now may be the perfect time to consider “going green” in your HOA. Sound daunting? It’s not!
Green communities translate into lower operating costs while providing beneficial lower environmental impact for the community as a whole. Read on to see how your HOA can become more efficient, save energy and valuable resources, and better yet, save money!
Start with Common Areas and Amenities
If your board is serious about going green, it’s best to start with the common areas and amenities within the association. Use the tips below to help with a step-by-step approach:
- Energy Evaluation
Have an energy evaluation conducted; simply ask for an energy evaluation by your local energy provider. These evaluations are offered at no cost, or for a very small charge.
- Check the Insulation
Did you know that your HOA can reduce heating and cooling needs by up to 30 percent just by investing in proper insulation and weatherization? An easy and cost-efficient way to reduce energy is to ensure that your amenities are insulated with a high R-value, with the minimum being R-22 (this means there are 7 inches of fiberglass or 6 inches of cellulose insulation). In the United States, it’s common for most homes to have anywhere between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic. Of course, there are many factors to consider if you find your HOA amenities to be lacking in insulation, but this is a good start to see where you can reduce costs over time.
Perhaps one of the easiest tasks to complete in order to go green and save the association money, weatherizing can be done in a variety of ways. Caulk, seal, and weather strip all cracks and openings to the outside. Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates. If your clubhouse has a fireplace, be sure to close the damper when not in use. These simple steps will reduce air leaks and can save up to 10 percent on the electricity bill, and that amount of savings really adds up throughout the year!
- Heating and Cooling
Why pay for heating and cooling when no one is using the clubhouse? Did you know that your association can save around ten percent just by turning the thermostat back by 10-15 percent for 8 hours per day? Also be sure to turn off ventilation fans once they’ve done their job, and clean or replace furnace filters monthly.
Want to save up to 50 percent of your lighting energy? Replace your incandescent bulbs with fluorescents. Fluorescent lamps last up to 10 times longer and are more efficient. While they are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they pay for themselves in the long run by saving energy (plus, they last longer)!
Windows should be selected based on the climate in which you live. In warm climates, windows with spectrally-selective coatings will reduce heat gain. In colder climates, windows that are gas filled with low-emissivity coatings will help reduce heat loss. If installing new windows is not an option, you can install storm windows and reduce heat loss by up to 50 percent! Be sure to weatherize existing storm windows and repair them annually, if needed, to achieve maximum results.
The right landscaping can make a big difference when it comes to shade, windbreaks, and soil run-off. Well-placed shrubs, vines, and trees that are mulched regularly can stabilize soil temperature, prevent weeds, conserve water, and feed the soil for healthier plants. When choosing landscaping, select plants that are pest and disease-resistant, as well as those that are low water use.
Want to increase homeowner involvement? Everyone can do their part in the association’s initiative to go green! Below are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Start a Community-Wide Recycling Program
Many communities opt to start the green process by initiating a recycling program. If you have a program like this in place, great! If you don’t, now is the perfect time to start. Recycling programs can help reduce trash collection costs while reducing waste on the planet. How’s that for a win-win?
- Create a Community Garden
With today’s fast-paced lifestyle and rise in unhealthy eating, many homeowners will be happy to contribute to a community garden project; plus, it’s a great way to reconnect with nature while socializing with neighbors! Bonus: fresh, locally grown, organic food is always a good idea! If your community has the space, recruit homeowners with a green thumb to oversee a community gardening project.
- Start Composting
If a community garden is not feasible or simply too big of a project, consider starting a community compost pile in a designated location. A compost pile is an easy way to turn kitchen and yard waste into fertilizer for yards and gardens. Members could use the compost to fertilize their yards, making the landscaping of the community brighter, greener, and more cost-effective.
Taking it One Step Further
Super serious about going green in your HOA? You may even want to consider these options:
- Install Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
As more drivers purchase electric vehicles, it may be worth consideration to install an electric vehicle charging station within the association. Supporting EV drivers may attract new residents; it will surely make the community more desirable for eco-minded community members. If installation can be done with existing infrastructure, the cost associated may not be that much – talk to your local electrician to determine options for serving electricity to a parking space. If your HOA opts for an EV charging station, determine ahead of time how the electricity will be paid for by those who use it.
- Utilize Solar Panels
The landscape for solar panels is changing. Recent legislation allows for more owners to be able to smoothly work through your association’s ACC approval process and place these on their homes or the association can place common area buildings. These panels more than pay for themselves in the long run by drastically cutting energy bills. Solar panels are a costly expense up-front, but the investment pays off quickly and the savings last for years to come. If your HOA is considering the installation of solar panels, be sure to check the governing documents first to see what, if any, restrictions apply.
- Go Paperless
By going paperless, the board can drastically reduce administration and printing costs while saving even more money on mailouts, all while reducing waste! Staying connected via technology makes it easy for everyone to send and receive statements, notifications, payments, correspondence, etc. instantaneously. As electronic communication becomes the norm, many homeowners opt for paperless billing and notifications.
Get Homeowners on Board
With over 20 million homes in the United States alone, by going green, even in the smallest of ways, we can effectively reduce waste, toxins, and other environmental hazards. If each homeowner takes small steps to preserve the environment, it can add up in big ways!
Encourage residents to take part in the association’s efforts to go green by:
- Switching to LED lighting in their home.
- Replacing filters monthly, or as needed.
- Embracing eco-friendly landscaping in their yards. This can be accomplished by planting bushes and trees that are drought-proof, using automatic sprinkler systems, and by xeriscaping.
- Investing in energy-efficient appliances, such as smart thermostats. Upgrade your community clubhouse and other amenities with these more efficient methods, as well.
- Recycling plastic and paper waste within the home, including reusing plastic bags and opting for reusable water bottles in favor of plastic bottles.
- Turning off lights and electronics and unplugging appliances when not in use.
- Carpooling with neighbors when possible.
- Supporting locally owned businesses.
- Reducing water usage by turning off the water when brushing teeth, cutting down on shower time, and taking less baths.
- Opting out of junk mail by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT to reduce the amount unwanted mail and paper waste.
While not every idea mentioned here may be feasible for your board at this time, many are. It’s always a good idea to cut waste and do what’s best for the environment. You may be surprised to find out just how many homeowners are already doing their part to go green! Those who haven’t will likely find at least a few ideas that they can take part in to help support the association’s efforts to go green.
Before your board decides to implement a green initiative, be sure to review the association’s governing documents for any stipulations that may restrict the use of certain materials, etc.
Thanks for doing your part to help our planet!
For more information and board member training, contact Boardline Academy today.