Plugging the Leak in Your Power Bill

Hidden water losses could be costing you money.

Every company uses water, but not everyone understands exactly how much H2O is being used—and how much is being wasted.

Most small businesses lease rather than own space, so knowing exactly how much water you use is often unclear because the costs are rolled into your lease agreement as estimated Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges. The annual CAM fee is based on a number of factors; some you know, many you do not. However, energy use is clearly one, and the lower the energy use, the lower the CAM charge.

Water heating, space heating and lighting, are three of the top items that contribute to the energy bill your landlord receives. Fortunately, you and your fellow tenants can coordinate to reduce the water heating portion of the bill.

Coordinate with your landlord to understand how much water your businesses use and where you use it, and then make a commitment to use less. Doing so will expand your bottom line.

Monitor the Meter

Start by asking your landlord to read the water meter at the end of the business day. If possible, inquire if systems that use water can be turned off overnight. If the building has processes that require water during the night, encourage your landlord to make a note of them and their expected water use. Then ask him or her to read your building’s meter again first thing in the morning.

If there is any unexplained water use, there may be a leak that needs to be fixed. The search is likely to begin in the building’s restrooms, as U.S. Department of Energy findings indicate that toilets and urinals can make up approximately one-third of water consumption in a building. Sinks, pipework joints, and connections and fittings will also be checked for indications of dampness, rust marks or swelling boards.

For concealed or subsurface pipework, your landlord is likely to contact a leakage detection company that can employ pressure testing, flow-monitoring techniques and more. If your building has significant exterior water needs, like those for landscape maintenance, encourage the building owner to contact a contractor who can install monitoring or submeter systems that provide alerts when excess flows or lower pressures exceed normal ranges.

Improve the Water Heater

If you own a small building with a water heater that is more than seven years old, start researching and shopping for a new heater. Select the best model for your business by considering the fuel type, availability, size and level of energy efficiency.

To continue using your existing model, insulate it with an insulating wrap, at least three inches thick, from the hardware store. Do not cover the thermostat with the wrap. And turn down the water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees, which can provide comfortable hot water for most needs.

Learning to use water more efficiently will preserve this vital resource for future generations and lessen your CAM-related water, sewer and heating fees. For information about energy-efficiency improvements, visit