An energy audit is an assessment and analysis of the energy systems within a facility. The objective of an audit is to identify opportunities to reduce energy usage and cut operating costs.
The assessment process involves a variety of measurements and surveying techniques, which allow the auditor to develop a comprehensive report based on his/her findings. Depending on the intensity of the assessment, the report will contain varying levels of detail related to current energy usage, proposed energy-saving solutions, and financial projections based on overall recommendations.
Preliminary Assessment Meeting
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The assessment process typically begins with a preliminary meeting to determine weather the facility would benefit from an energy efficiency upgrade. At this time the auditor will collect utility data (preferably from the past 12 months) and perform a cursory walk-through of the property to identify key areas of focus. Depending on the circumstances, the auditor might interview employees who have been dealing with existing energy-related problems or those who would be affected by new technologies. For example, if a cashier frequently complains that the coolers are hot at night, they might be able to provide the auditor with helpful details about the problem. And if the garage bays need new lights, the auditor might speak with the mechanics to better understand their needs.
Tip: Before the preliminary meeting, inform staff of your interest in energy efficiency improvements and encourage them to share their suggestions and concerns. This will help you present the auditor with a clear picture of day-to-day energy issues.
The auditor will return to conduct a full-scale assessment of all energy systems and equipment including lighting, refrigeration, HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning), controls, power factor, plumbing, waste management, building envelope and more. During the assessment, the auditor will typically use the following tools to gather data about building performance:
- Camera – for taking photos of equipment and room configurations
- Infrared camera – used for pinpointing air leaks in the building envelope or exposing the heat generated by inefficient lighting
- Light meter – to gauge existing brightness, helpful when recommending appropriate replacement technology
- Measuring instruments – for recording room dimensions and layouts
Tip: If you have a facilities manager or maintenance staff, have them on site during the assessment to provide the auditor with access to energy-consuming equipment.
Next the auditor will analyze the information collected, including utility history, assessment data, notes from the preliminary meeting, and any special considerations or regulations. Based on this information, the auditor will identify all possible energy conservation opportunities available to the business owner. The auditor will then select and evaluate appropriate solutions based on several factors, including cost, energy savings, customer needs, and rebates or tax incentives available.
Presenting the Proposal
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The auditor’s report typically contains the following components:
- Summary of existing conditions
- Description of recommended solutions
- Expected energy savings
- Reduced carbon footprint data and projections
- Estimated utility rebates available to the customer
- Expected cost to implement each solution
- Financial measures, such as payback, return on investment, and increased property value
- Financing options and cashflow estimates
- Some auditors will incorporate additional renewable energy options that will increase overall energy savings and speed up payback
Upon completion of the report, the auditor will schedule a meeting to present his or her proposal for the best course of action.
Keep in mind every energy efficiency provider is different and their process may deviate from the outline above. What’s important is that they keep you informed every step of the way and are available to answer questions. Clearly communicating your expectations from the start will save both time and money. Speaking of money, check out part 3 of this series to learn more about the many financing options for energy efficiency.