As a landlord, Richard Kurtz of the Kamson Corp. in Englewood Cliffs faced a few expenses that just seemed to keep growing: insurance. Taxes. And heating costs.
He couldn't do much about the first two, but he decided to tackle energy costs at the roughly 14,000 apartments Kamson owns in the Northeast. That led him to become a majority shareholder about a decade ago in a Houston-based company, Lapolla Industries Inc., which makes spray foam insulation and other energy-saving products.
Kurtz, who also is the chairman of Lapolla's board, said that through Lapolla's AirTight division, he has cut energy costs in half at his apartment complexes in Lodi and Garfield by adding spray foam insulation, wireless thermostats and more efficient boilers and water heaters.
Now, Kurtz plans to do the same at his other complexes, and he's also reaching out to other landlords. Lapolla's AirTight division recently signed a $1 million-plus contract to improve the energy efficiency at Jacob Ford Village, a 270-unit Morristown complex owned by Rochester, N.Y.-based Home Properties.
"This is serious savings for a landlord," Kurtz said. "I feel saving on energy offers the greatest upside and success for property owners." It's also better for the environment, he added.
The AirTight program costs $3,000 to $4,000 per apartment, Kurtz said, but the savings on utility bills will allow property owners to recover those costs in five to eight years. Most of Kamson's portfolio consists of two-and three-story garden apartment complexes, and the company pays heating costs in 90 percent of them.
Brent Kohere, regional vice president for Home Properties, said he was drawn to AirTight's program because AirTight offers a turnkey package, including helping his company get state rebates for the improvements.
"We're looking at some substantial energy savings," Kohere said. Between the rebates and the energy savings, he said, "it essentially pays for itself over a few years."
Kurtz gives much of the credit for AirTight to Bill Murphy, a longtime Kamson employee who developed the program.
"Landlords seem to be more interested now in getting more efficient heating systems than in the past," said Murphy.