Re: Shared Internet [ was Revisiting single metering
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2016 05:04:44 -0800 (PST)
Our cohousing community of 32 units buys electricity through separate meters:  
32 for the individual units, plus 2 common meters.  We just installed as many 
photovoltaic panels as we could.  With all the credits, incentives and rate 
substitutions we could muster, we are seeing a payback of about ten years (a 
length of time which would be unacceptable to most for-profit developers).

Not far from us, a cohousing community of 40 units is hiring the same vendor / 
installer to do a very comparable installation of PV panels.  In original 
construction, however, they chose to purchase electricity in bulk, and the 
whole property is on one electric meter.  In their case, a differing algorithm 
for credits and rate structures is helping to produce a much more attractive 
payback of around four years.

Points:  Individual metering is not a slam dunk no-brainer.  And sharing — 
guest rooms, electricity, cars, whatever — remains a very good way for cohos to 
reduce the costs of both property and life.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Jan 11, 2016, at 10:43 AM, Chris Poch <chris [at]> wrote:
> I think what makes sense in terms of utility metering depends largely on if
> you pay by use or pay for service. For example, electricity service is pay
> by use - if I use a lot of power, I pay a lot and if I barely use power, I
> pay a little. Contrast that to internet service, which today is generally
> pay for service - I pay for a certain speed of connection and pay the same
> price whether all I do is email or if I stream movies continuously.
> I prefer things billed on consumption to be individually metered because it
> encourages better responsibility. People are more likely to be careful with
> their use when they see a consequence for not being careful. My sister
> lived in a high rise where the tenants paid the utilities based on a
> formula of unit size and number of occupants. There was no incentive to
> conserve because with hundreds of units in the building, there was no
> measurable difference in what she paid based on her lifestyle choices - it
> encouraged unneeded consumption. I've had friends who rented out rooms in
> their houses for fixed prices (everything included) and some who also
> charged for utilities. The tenants who were also paying utilities were more
> responsible. The ones who didn't pay did wasteful things like set the air
> conditioning (not heat) to 60F/15C in the winter because they were "a
> little warm" or run a shower on the hottest setting for hours to steam a
> wrinkled garment. I've never had problems getting tenants who were paying
> utilities to agree to a reasonable thermostat setting or to turn off lights
> they're not using. I can't imagine how some of these debates would play out
> across 20+ units if bills came back higher than expected.
> The big exception I'd make is for lightly used utilities. For example, if
> your community has geothermal HVAC (all electric) but has gas water heaters
> in each unit (and nothing else using gas). During the summer, I pay on
> average $17 for my gas bill, which in the summer is essentially just water
> heating. $15 of that bill is charges for being a customer and fixed rate
> taxes so my use is only $2. It would be much cheaper to share that service
> with my neighbors, even if they used significantly more than me, so we
> could split the overhead cost of being a customer. I would take this
> approach for utilities where the fees were very high relative to cost of
> use.
> At least for electricity, you can get non-utility provided submeters
> installed. The utility would read the "big meter" and charge the community
> based on it. The individual meters can be used to split the bill based on
> actual use. I've seen this system in apartment complexes and also in
> offices where tenants paid for electricity for certain things such as 24
> hour air conditioning of a server room but the building provided most of
> the electricity to tenants. Just be careful that in some areas, getting
> electric service this way will make you a commercial customer. When I lived
> in southwest Virginia, commercial customers paid rates that were higher
> than the home service rates. It's something worth exploring before making a
> decision because a higher or lower rate could end up being the deciding
> factor.

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