How the Pandemic is Affecting Multifamily Energy and Water Usage
A person's hand is trying a stream of water from a water tap

As people are staying home more during the pandemic, multifamily faces unique challenges. There is a significant increase in energy and water usage, which has typically fallen on companies, organizations, and schools. These burdens weigh on residents, as well as property management and maintenance staff, as they adapt to these changes.

Energy and water usage increase

The burden of energy costs is falling more on residents (as opposed to places they may typically be at during the day). According to the Columbia Earth Institute, weekday electricity use in New York apartments increased by 7% after the stay-at-home order, while weekend use increased by 4%. Specifically for the weekday 9 AM to 5 PM window, when residents are often out of the apartment at work, school, or other activities, this electricity consumption change in the average apartment is greater at a 23% increase.

According to New York City-based Bright Power, in April 2020, water usage jumped 21%, compared to the same period the year before. The burdens of electrical and water usage costs that typically employers, schools, or other institutions take on now fall on individuals. This increase in bills further compounds the economic consequences of the pandemic (World Bank forecasts that this would be the deepest recession since World War II).

The possibilities of a more sustainable building

Is a more sustainable property that decreases energy and water costs possible? With the Internet of Things (IoT), yes. Retrofitting outdated energy and water-related infrastructure in buildings will have long-term positive impacts for the environment and the bottom line. 

There has been a larger trend of decreasing residential energy consumption for heating and cooling (prior to the pandemic), largely through the adoption of more efficient equipment. Multifamily is well positioned to join this shift, and create positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

Smart technology and energy in multifamily brings energy efficiency advantages for all, from reducing utility costs across the building to ensuring residents’ comfort. Below are some examples of benefits:

  • Eliminate wasteful energy use (learn more about the benefits of smart thermostats here)
    • Through sensing and regulating humidity and temperature, smart thermostats can enable residents (with their in-unit thermostat) or property manager (for thermostats in vacant units, amenity areas, and common areas) to maximize comfort and energy efficiency settings. 
    • By utilizing the resident’s smart phone’s location, smart thermostats can adjust temperatures automatically based on the resident’s proximity to their apartment unit. Leaving the virtual perimeter of the unit triggers the smart thermostat to adjust to a more energy efficient temperature when the resident is away and changes to the resident’s set optimal temperature once they near the unit. 
  • Prevent water waste and related damages (learn more about the benefits of smart leak sensors here
    • Smart leak sensors can detect leaks, freezes, or excess humidity early to alert property staff before escalating to the point of extensive damages.
    • A property manager could easily maintain the ideal humidity and temperature of amenity areas, common areas, and vacant units to protect appliances and pipes without manually adjusting the thermostat in each unit.

The social and economic effects of this pandemic are straining outdated water and energy practices in multifamily, but this could be an opportunity to overhaul them. The urgency to act is stronger than ever.


STRATIS®, a RealPage Company, creates smart apartments and intelligent buildings and is the only platform of its kind built for the complexities of multifamily and student housing. STRATIS is installed worldwide across the U.S., in Japan, the UK, EU, and Latin America. STRATIS now serves hospitality, retail, and small to mid-size commercial, as well. STRATIS is an Inc. Magazine “Fastest Growing Company in America” and a Top Ten Entrepreneur Magazine “Best Company in America.” STRATIS was recently acquired by RealPage to enable STRATIS Smart Building, a more connected lifestyle, and unleash hidden yield through new revenue streams.

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