The power of preventive maintenance is woefully underestimated. The act of changing an air filter is probably as unglamorous and unrecognized as any task that our team faces on a daily basis. Have you ever received a comment card that stated, “Tom changed my air filter today – he’s my hero!”
Yet, this simple service – installing a filter – can save thousands of dollars. A filter that may cost as low as a few dollars, can be the key to longevity and higher efficiency with one of the costliest repairs that occurs in an apartment community.
With something so simple, how can it be so easily overlooked? Too often, the resident is busy. Maybe they didn’t get the notice for service. The filter doesn’t get changed for one rotation, maybe two. Then, SURPRISE! The call comes in to emergency maintenance. The HVAC system isn’t working.
With limited resources on our teams, we make the hard choice to call our contractor. It’s heating, or its air. Our residents can’t go without this important utility.
Then we experience the most embarrassing moment. The contractor comes to the office with the ugliest, filthiest air filter you have ever seen. We realize through lack of close management on our part, this air filter hasn’t been changed. A filter that at the very worst, might cost $30 or $40 but in most cases less than $5) has now resulted in a $100 service charge for us to pay a contractor for the simplest of repairs.
Every HVAC professional will confirm the key to long life and efficient performance from a HVAC system is keeping the filter changed. This could be monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. The stronger the enforcement of the filter change program, the fewer the repairs needed to maintain the system.
In addition, a strong preventive maintenance program also contributes to a reduction in emergency call outs. A system that is inspected on a regular basis generally experiences few failures.
Creating a Feature
While all of the maintenance gurus are nodding in agreement, as well as wondering why something that is so obvious with common sense even warrants general information, let me share a magic secret! Do you realize how many ways preventive maintenance and air filters can be described as features in your apartment homes?
Starting with the tour in the apartment, we need to demonstrate the filter. Not because we want our residents involved in the service. We want to emphasize the importance of our service to maintain homes. Key to this demonstration is the task of dating all of the filters prior to installation. This eliminates any question of when the filter was installed. Opening the furnace displaying the filter first says this isn’t an ordinary apartment tour; we’re going to learn more than the location of the kitchen.
Hands on Demonstration
Explaining the importance of a clean filter showing the date, that it’s a few weeks/months old, demonstrating how to check the air filter and showing the cleanliness sets a benchmark. It will become a point of comparison for other properties.
The quality of air in our apartments is becoming increasingly important.
- First, filters to trap dust, mold and allergens are extremely popular. A clean filter not only supports efficiency with the HVAC system but contributes to a cleaner smelling apartment.
- Second, it’s going to reduce the amount of dust that accumulates week to week. Do you see the list of features growing?
We’ve already mentioned that a fresh air filter improves the efficiency of the HVAC system.
- Feature number 3. In most cases, the residents pay for heating and cooling in their homes. Improved efficiency can translate to lower utility bills.
- Feature 4. Preventive maintenance will decrease emergency repairs. The last thing we want our residents to experience is the inconvenience of no heat or no air conditioning.
Our residents have chosen to rent for any number of reasons, but convenience is usually in the top five reasons. We want them to know when they are making the decision choosing where to live that we understand the importance of their convenience. By emphasizing preventive maintenance, we want to minimize any occasion that they could be inconvenienced by a failure.
So, grab a Sharpie, make sure the filters are dated before we install them. Anyone who gives apartment tours needs to know the basic steps to access the filter on the HVAC system. This little demonstration can have a huge impact on a leasing tour as well as decreasing costly repairs for HVAC!
If we plant the seed about the importance of regularly changing filters during our new home tour, there’s a good chance that will be a question to other properties toured by our prospect. This little maintenance service can enhance the reputation of our maintenance team.
[Editor’s Note: I know one owner who places a new filter at the door of every unit when it’s time to replace it. This simple practice encourages tenants to change them regularly and timely.]
Lori Hammond has been in the property management business for over 30 years, after starting as a part time leasing consultant. She has worked with some tremendous industry leaders such as Oxford Management, NHP Management, AIMCO, Alliance Residential, Boston Capital, The Sterling Group, P.K. Housing and currently Management Resources Development. For more information, visit her web site at propertymanagementminutes.com. Reprinted with permission of Multifamily Insiders. Multifamily Insiders was created to provide the first true online networking group for the multifamily industry and its partners. For more information, visit www.multifamilyinsiders.com.