Energy Efficiency Upgrades Can Help Multifamily Housing Remain Affordable

How Housing Matters

Evidence shows that retrofitting the entire stock of multifamily apartment buildings in the United States could save tenants and property owners $8 billion a year in energy costs and reduce electricity consumption by almost 15 percent. Amid the rising cost of housing, energy efficiency upgrades can provide much-needed relief to low-income families and help keep rental stock affordable, but few documented examples showcase the benefits of energy retrofits in multifamily housing. Addressing this gap, this study measures the impact of a collaborative energy efficiency program in Orlando, Florida, analyzing energy costs before and after retrofits in four multifamily apartment complexes.

Researchers compared 81 units that received energy efficiency upgrades with a control group of 142 units that did not receive any upgrades. To standardize the study sample, researchers included only units consistently occupied by a single-tenant household and excluded all units with notably high or low energy consumption. The energy efficiency upgrades included installing high-efficiency HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, energy-efficient refrigerators, fluorescent lighting, and water-saving showerheads. Some of the units received new attic insulation, duct work, and solar window films. The new equipment and installations cost an average of $4,359 per unit, with an expected life span of 12 years for the package of retrofits. Findings suggest that multifamily retrofits in hot and humid climates like the southeastern United States can result in significant energy and cost savings.

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