Apartment managers:  The hidden costs of in-house maintenance staff 

  • By Josh Morphew
  • 27 Mar, 2017

Over the past 40 years, our team of commercial electrical technicians has worked with apartment complexes of all sizes and conditions. We have encountered situations where maintenance staff has spent four hours trying to diagnose and repair a non-operational HVAV unit, without any success.

Common denominators in apartment maintenance 

·        A common finding among nearly all apartment complexes was the use of maintenance staff to turn over vacant apartments. Maintenance staff would perform tasks like painting, carpet cleaning and simple repairs.

·        Summer was usually the peak turnover period placing greater demands on the maintenance team.

·        Lighting and HVAC break fixes are usually the top two tenant requests for repair and can consume a disproportionate amount of their time.

·        Repair calls take staff away from prepping an apartment for new tenant.

How apartment maintenance costs accumulate: labor costs and overlooked rebates

If an apartment rents for $1500 per month, a week delay in turning around tenants costs the complex $375 in revenue for each unrented apartment. Maintenance staff typically spend four hours trying to fix a broken HVAC unit without success and many of the staff members that we spoke to admitted to lacking the skills or the license to properly diagnose or repair a unit. After wasting hours, they would resort to calling an HVAC technician and the complex lost at least four hours that the in-house staff could have spent preparing a vacant apartment for new residents.


When it was necessary to replace an HVAC unit, often the utility rebates available for installing a more efficient unit were overlooked, resulting in more capital expense than necessary. Most complexes do not have detailed records of repairs performed per unit, making it difficult to get out of a break fix mode and shift into preventative maintenance. 

A Case Study: how apartment managers benefit from preventative maintenance plans 

A large complex with over 150 split system HVAC units wanted to explore potential savings by moving to a preventative maintenance plan. While they didn’t have detailed records, they knew how much they spent on HVAC repairs each year and when divided by the total units, it averaged around $400 per unit.


When they compared this to $170 per unit for a preventative maintenance plan, the savings were significant. HVAC breakdowns were virtually eliminated after six months and the regular maintenance helped extend the life of the HVAC unit from what had been about 10 years, to somewhere between 15 and 20 years.


Some of the less tangible but very meaningful results included a decrease in negative tenant reviews and an increase in positive reviews. Tenant utility bills also improved, resulting in higher satisfaction among the tenants of the complex.  Additionally, vacant apartment turnover times decreased and apartment occupancy rates increased, resulting in increased revenue.


To achieve these kind of results, the apartment management team had to step outside of their comfort zone.   As much as they wanted to believe their maintenance staff could do everything, the numbers told a different story. Their advice for other apartment managers is to find an HVAC contractor they can trust and be open to sharing historical costs and processes to help uncover opportunities for savings.


If you are looking for an expert team of HVAC and electrical contractors in Oklahoma, contact us for more information today.

By Josh Morphew 15 May, 2017

Ever notice that the light bulb section in your local hardware store is getting bigger and the choices are getting more complicated? Bulb size, wattage, base type, dimmable or not, color temperature and more are all decision points today. Not to mention price. If you have ever come home with the wrong light bulb, you have plenty of company. For commercial lighting applications, multiply the difficulty level several times.


A simple looking ceiling fixture may not be as simple as it looks. Historically, commercial buildings have used fluorescent lighting for office areas and a combination of other fixtures for warehouse and even parking garage lighting . Many businesses are converting both types of lighting to LED lighting for energy efficiency, reduced maintenance, and improved light coverage. Converting from fluorescent to LED may be as easy as swapping out one light bulb for another, but, given all the nuances of commercial lighting fixtures, spending some extra time researching and planning will save time and headaches in the end.

To make a comparison, with automobiles, some parts like wind shield wipers are interchangeable between vehicle brands and models, while other parts are very vehicle specific. The same concept applies to commercial lighting fixtures. To add a level of complexity, if portions of a commercial building were built at different times, light fixtures may appear to be the same, but, can actually be different.

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The enactment of the Montreal Protocol came with implications for owners, equipment operators, and managers of commercial buildings.  The international environmental agreement requires nations and states to phase out all the refrigeration and air conditioning systems , that uses the R-22 refrigerant, a commercially-produced hydrochloroflourocarbon (HCFC-22). This substance is listed among the most notorious ozone depleting substances. It was expected that by 1st January 2015, all the existing refrigerators running on the fluid, would be phased out. However, some companies and individuals are yet to do so.

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Businesses are frequently on the receiving end of solicitations for services sold by one party and delivered by another. One example is lighting contractors .

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By Josh Morphew 27 Mar, 2017

Over the past 40 years, our team of commercial electrical technicians has worked with apartment complexes of all sizes and conditions. We have encountered situations where maintenance staff has spent four hours trying to diagnose and repair a non-operational HVAV unit, without any success.

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By Josh Morphew 10 Mar, 2017

Consider the following scenario: A vicious ice storm is looming. Jim’s boss Cindy says she can’t afford downtime from an extended power outage and tasks Jim with finding a solution. Armed with the Internet, Jim searches for a rental generator . The closest generator he finds is 4 hours away and even if he could pick it up, he can’t find an electrician to help hook it up.

 While Jim had managed the facility for years, backup power was never a priority for the previous owners. The plant was already operating at maximum capacity, so they couldn’t make up for lost time with additional shifts. Regardless of what happens with this storm, Jim knows he needs a better plan to deal with any type of future power outage.

 Jim’s situation is very common. Many businesses think of backup power as an all-or-nothing scenario. Permanently installed generators are cost prohibitive so they settle for nothing instead.   Today, facility managers and building owners have more choices, providing them with the reassurance of having backup power at a fraction of the cost.

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