Why Preventative Maintenance Looks Different In The Age Of Technology

Using technology to raise the alarm as problems occur is the preventative maintenance essential that modern property managers are adopting. 

Using technology to raise the alarm as soon as problems occur is the preventative maintenance essential that modern property managers are adopting.

By Mike Branam
Head of Multifamily

Preventative maintenance has long been one of the secrets to a successful multifamily enterprise.

Efforts that go toward maintaining a high standard for each apartment unit can help create both trust and loyalty from the resident perspective, and can help lead to positive reviews which help attract new residents.

If quality maintenance standards and expectations are not met, the consequences can be damaging to the asset and the resident base.  Even small issues can cause thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and the associated ripple effect on resident retention also carries significant financial consequences.

A comprehensive preventative maintenance program does have a lot of moving parts and it can be tempting to leave some out to save a few hundred dollars — but it’s never worth the risk over the long term.

The traditional take on preventative maintenance has also recently given way to a totally different approach in today’s multifamily assets. In the past, it meant an effort to carry out maintenance to stop small problems getting worse. Now, the focus is on using technology to raise the alarm as soon as problems occur. Preventative technology tells property managers what maintenance is needed and when.

This is what really characterizes modern preventative maintenance. Smart home technology can spot problems sooner, leading to overall savings and preventing inconvenience for residents when major problems need resolving. It lowers costs for operators while giving residents a superior experience.

It also has a positive environmental impact, producing energy savings of between 9 percent and 23 percent. All this is extremely attractive in an economic climate where demand has softened and rent growth has slowed. A reduced carbon footprint and a lighter, cheaper maintenance schedule are attractive to residents, who are becoming more discerning. Meanwhile, the resulting lower operating costs support operators’ bottom lines, helping them to compete in a crowded marketplace.

Some up-front investment is required, but operating costs come down long-term, helping owners and operators to optimize revenue. Operators are doing this alongside other strategies such as repurposing or centralizing staffing models.

What follows are the tech-led preventative maintenance essentials that modern property managers are adopting. They represent the biggest threats to your bottom line and sustainability credentials. The last isn’t a solution in itself but is an approach that means operators get a superior return on their initial investment in technology.

 Water management & leaks

Water leaks can be devastating and have the potential to cause extensive damage to multiple units, the costs of which can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The multifamily sector is still adopting the right technology to solve these problems, and not all operators are yet making the most of the best-in-class preventative maintenance technology solution to this problem. Many asset managers have installed leak detection, but the gold standard, which is well worth the investment, is the automatic shut-off valve that instantly responds to serious leaks. This feature minimizes damage to almost nothing and prevents the serious damage that can occur in the time it takes an engineer to arrive. The consequences of not having automatic shut-off valves are even more extreme when properties are empty, as there is no one to raise the alarm.

Water management systems are smart enough to spot when water flows for longer than a normal shower or when unusually large volumes of water begin flowing through the pipes.

The alerts themselves aren’t just for serious defects. The system can recognize excessive water usage, dangerous temperature drops that may freeze pipes, dripping faucets and toilets that are running continually. Most importantly, the shut-off valve doesn’t activate in all circumstances to avoid inconveniencing residents over minor faults. The ability to spot and resolve even minor water leaks can save up to 90 gallons of water a day, further bolstering an operator’s environmental credentials and lowering running costs. It can also dramatically reduce insurance premiums — a PointCentral study established that a multifamily operator could save $2,000 each year in insurance fees by fitting smart water management technology to a main serving 30 units.

It’s not widely known, but obvious water damage to expensive electronics and furnishings aren’t necessarily the most expensive to rectify. One of the worst after effects of water damage actually relates to mildew and mold, which establish themselves quickly and can be almost impossible to eradicate.

 Heating, Ventilation And Air Conditioning

Homeowners are now very familiar with the sort of HVAC system monitoring sold for domestic use, but these solutions started life in professionally managed rental businesses, where the technology has continued to evolve. In this kind of setting, these systems don’t just spot serious heating and cooling malfunctions, they report on minor faults that can turn into bigger problems through accelerated wear and tear. These issues normally reveal themselves to residents on the first really hot or cold day of the year – just when they need everything to be working perfectly. This results in elevated reputational risk for the operator when things go wrong, which can ultimately affect resident retention.

 Alongside periodic reminders to replace things like filters, clues picked up by modern HVAC monitoring systems include small differences between the desired and actual temperature of a home, or irregular delays in arriving at the target temperature. They will tell you when large temperature differences suggest a more serious problem requiring a quicker response, and alerts like this can be sent straight to an HVAC engineer, not just the property manager.

A unified solution

 There are a number of preventative maintenance technologies on the market but they don’t all talk to each other. This creates an operational headache for property managers which, on the ground, makes it much more likely that they will not be able to respond fast enough. Some property managers are monitoring systems across thousands of units, and only a unified solution will make it cost-efficient to monitor units on that scale. So, while there are a number of ‘point solutions’ available that operate independently, it’s better to adopt a unified technology platform that automates and controls aspects of a larger, centralized technology plan.

 About The Author:

Using technology to raise the alarm as problems occur is the preventative maintenance essential that modern property managers are adopting. 

Mike Branam is the Director of Multifamily Sales at PointCentral, a property automation platform for apartment owners & operators. PointCentral is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alarm.com, the leading platform for the intelligently connected property. Millions of consumers and businesses across 50+ countries depend on Alarm.com’s technology to manage and control their properties from anywhere in the world. www.pointcentral.com

Sign Up For Our Newsletter And Get Rental Property And Apartment News And Helpful, Useful Content Each Week.

* indicates required

Why I Like My Rental Properties’ Nosy Neighbors

Three Steps to Becoming a Successful, Lazy Landlord