Energy Efficiency and Technology
Energy Efficiency and Technology Give Self-Storage Facilities a Competitive Edge
It can be difficult to gain a competitive edge in a saturated self-storage market. In many communities, it seems like there is a storage facility on every corner, and each looks just like the next from a customer’s standpoint. How can a business stand apart from the rest?
Whether or not they all look the same, storage facilities can gain a competitive edge by embracing technology. At first, one might assume there isn’t much technology involved in the self-storage market. After all, they are just empty buildings with locking partitions, right? Wrong.
Successful self-storage businesses can appeal to tech-savvy customers by offering perks like interactive web sites, online reservations, biometric security solutions and efficient HVAC technologies. Modern consumers might also be attracted to amenities like remote monitoring, while many will respond to efforts that reduce a business’ carbon footprint.
Installing modern HVAC equipment grants climate-controlled storage facilities multiple competitive advantages in the market. Not only does a reduced carbon footprint attract millennial customers, but few storage facilities offer adequate climate control to protect certain valuables from heat and humidity. Improved energy efficiency also boosts net operating income in the long term.
Many of today’s consumers are focused on energy conservation, and energy efficiency is a great selling point with them. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Americans are responsible for about 18 percent of the world’s energy consumption, even though they account for less than 5 percent of the world’s population. At the same time, commercial buildings in the United States could save as much as $60 billion by increasing energy efficiency investments by just 1-4 percent.
The first step in boosting the energy efficiency of a storage facility is improving the building’s insulation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 30 percent of HVAC costs are lost to waste. Ideally, about six inches of fiberglass insulation are required for roofs and walls of storage facilities. Pacific Gas and Electric claims that by simply properly sealing, heating, and cooling ducts, a property owner can improve HVAC efficiency by at least 20 percent, while regularly changing dirty air filters can reduce energy waste by up to 10 percent.
When choosing an efficient HVAC system, storage facility operators should seek those with a higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Doing so can save up to 40 percent on costs, according to the DOE. Likewise, the National Institute of Building Sciences purports that installing a high-performance HVAC system combined with an energy efficient building design can reduce annual energy costs by 30 percent – enough to repay any initial investment within three to five years.
Another competitive edge a self-storage operator can take advantage of is climate control. Climate-controlled units are gaining popularity among self-storage customers. The option allows them to store environmentally sensitive items like furniture, antiques or documents without the risk of ruin from mold and mildew common to buildings with unregulated heat and humidity.
Climate control can be achieved with consistent HVAC use, as well as utilizing a humidistat in addition to a thermostat. Operating a furnace and air conditioning reduces humidity.
Of course, the vast majority of items kept in storage facilities are not impacted by temperature or humidity. Therefore, the climate-controlled units can be offered as a premium, while the climate in the majority of spaces can be allowed to fluctuate, saving money on HVAC operation.
Offer Tech-Based Perks
One might not associate the storage industry with advanced technology. After all, to consumers it may seem like a simple business model: empty buildings, locks and some electricity. But those familiar with the industry will argue that successful self-storage business operators are embracing technology to not only save time and money, but to entice today’s tech-savvy consumer.
Self-storage facilities now offer features like online reservations and apps, remote monitoring and even biometric security solutions. Today’s consumer craves technology, and many self-storage businesses are providing their customers with mobile apps to not only reserve and lease storage units, but also to control access to the units.
Who needs a special key or access card when the app lets customers do it all from their phones? Storage customers taking advantage of these specialized apps won’t have any reason to meet with a human at all when leasing, paying or accessing their spaces.
“As Millennials are starting to become a larger percentage of those using self-storage, they want to interact with operators using technology, specifically smartphones and apps or responsive mobile websites,” Terry Bagley, Vice President of Business Development for Janus International Group, told Inside Self Storage. “They expect to be able to accomplish most, if not all, of the rental and ongoing interaction via their smartphones.”
One feature of the self-storage industry that concerns all customers is security. After all, the entire premise of the business is to securely store customers’ belongings. And while locks can be picked and codes can be hacked, biometric technology is nearly impossible to breach. By measuring a person’s unique physical characteristics – voice patterns, retina scans or fingerprints, for example – tech companies like Innuvo are redefining self-storage. These high-level security platforms use fingerprint scanners or facial recognition technology to determine who can access a space.
Manage Business with Cloud-Based Software
If you haven’t taken your self-storage business to the cloud yet, there’s no time like the present. While the storage industry has been relying on management software for years, the cloud now allows them to integrate business management with customer experience.
While self-storage customers use an app to reserve and access their leased storage spaces, facility operators are saving time and money by remotely monitoring their businesses. Traditionally, routine inspection of each space and associated equipment was necessary to ensure proper operation. But who has time for that?
Fortunately, solutions such as Building 36 offer real-time data conveying unit performance, and it can indicate issues and dispatch technicians when integrated with a service provider like Motili. Integrating various business aspects streamlines the management of a storage facility business and automates mundane tasks like locating and dispatching a contractor.
In fact, Motili collaborated with PTI Security Systems to integrate its HVAC asset-management platform with PTI’s CORE Platform. The joint venture will provide self-storage operators with a variety of benefits, including real-time HVAC system stability tracking, detailed reporting, failure notifications, automated dispatch and nationwide contractor coverage. Storage facility owners and operators will be able to easily manage their HVAC systems across all properties with a single point of contact for billing, repair and maintenance.
Not only does cloud-based business software smoothly integrate with online and app-based reservations and payments, it can also help manage nearly all aspects of a successful self-storage business. For example, a global distribution system (GDS) like that offered by Storelocal simplifies the processes of reservations and payments, lease agreements and inventory management. These actions save storage operators time, and improve efficiencies, which saves money.
Other software even dispatches maintenance requests and analyzes data to alert operators of inefficiencies, needed maintenance and repairs. Of course, each operator knows precisely which software features their storage facility needs to meet its current needs and future goals.
Contributed by Kirill Kniazev of Motili.
For more information on Motili and their services, reach out to Kirill Kniazev.