What do you expect to do an energy audit?

Save costs, achieve better performance, maintain an efficient operation, among other aspects important aspects for a building. Energy audits contribute to this.

By Jim Newman *

Energy audits are one of the best ways to discover opportunities to save money in an existing building. A commercial or industrial energy audit, also called energy analysis, identifies how much energy a building uses, how efficiently it uses that energy, and where changes and improvements can be made that favorably both occupant comfort and financial performance .

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As a certified energy manager (CEM) and professional in energy assessment of buildings (BEAP), I personally performed ASHRAE level 1 and 2 energy audits in dozens of buildings with areas ranging from 2.300 square meters to more than 74.000. Often we find tens of thousands of dollars in potential savings only during the preliminary energy assessment, a mandatory surface course that takes place before formal analysis. During more detailed analyzes, we have conducted 2-level ASHRAE audits with reconditioning and verification processes for existing building energy systems, which have shed hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings over a period of 4 to 10 years.

In an informal survey, devoid of any scientific claim, I have come to the conclusion that there are three reasons that hold property owners off to an energy audit: the cost of auditing, the cost of solving problems discovered in Audit and fear.

1. Cost of auditing
You need to know the numbers, all of them. The first step is to make an appropriate energy assessment of a commercial, institutional or industrial building, whether it is a school, a hospital, a shopping center or a manufacturing plant. The actual cost of the audit increases due to its completeness and complexity, but with that cost also increases the potential for recovery of the investment, as mentioned above.

A qualified team of professionals with a long history in the construction industry, especially in CVAC and lighting systems, and with an extensive knowledge of current standards and best practices, will carry out the most exhaustive energy analysis, based on standards ASHRAE.

This analysis should cover at least the following areas:

ASHRAE Power Analysis 1 Level
• Review of a minimum of 36 months of utility bills with a thorough examination of bills during periods of maximum use (usually mid-summer and / or mid-winter)
• Physical inspection of the building, including lighting, CVAC and service water systems
• Conversations with installation staff and construction engineers

ASHRAE energy analysis of 2 level (everything contemplated in the level 1 plus the following aspects)
• Thermal images
• Data register
• "blower door" sealing tests, if feasible
• Random controls of thermostats with manual digital thermometer

The cost of an ASHRAE energy analysis of 2 level depends on the size and complexity of the building. For example, if it is a hospital, a mall, large residences, a commercial office building, a large laboratory or an industrial plant, the analysis would cost much more than a conventional commercial three-story office building With some units on the roof or a single room, such as a shop or restaurant.

2. What it costs to solve problems discovered
Implementing the recommended improvements costs money. A serious and professional audit will allow you to know what the expected return of each improvement is. An 2 level analysis or 3 level will yield qualified estimates, while an 3 level analysis may even include actual service quotes.

Your energy analyst can discover a number of low-cost, cost-free options with a short-term return on investment. By implementing these options, you will begin to see the savings immediately, while taking the time to plan the most significant investments recommended. To obtain maximum return on investment, consider covering the low cost arrangements with the higher cost ones.

Many states in the USA offer funding through the PACE (Clean Energy Enforced Property) program. The PACE program allows commercial, industrial, multifamily and nonprofit real estate owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with little or no impact on financial results. These funds even cover the cost of energy analysis, so it's worth seeing if you meet the requirements to access this program before you start the energy audit process.

In addition, many utility companies offer free energy audits if the owner agrees to spend a minimal amount to implement some of the energy conservation measures suggested by the analyst. We have observed that most owners, once they know the return on investment, are willing to spend much more than the minimum amount.

At the same time, think about the costs of NOT implementing the recommendations. In summary, these costs are most likely to include:

  • Sustained increase in energy costs
  • Higher maintenance costs
  • Other economic impacts

Numerous states and municipalities currently require buildings to publish the score they earned on the Energy Usage Index (SUI). Buildings with a very low SUI will be less desirable to potential renters or buyers. Buildings that adopt sustainable practices have been shown to perform better on many factors.

3. The fear
If you have never done a thorough analysis of the energy of your building, the idea might seem daunting. You will be wondering "What will you find?" "Will they be critical to our operations and / or maintenance practices?" Or "How can I find time for this? My staff is already overloaded with work!"

Do not worry, the analysis team is not there to stalk you. You must work in collaboration with the owner to make your building as energy efficient as possible and in the most economical way.

We often find that once we have completed the evaluation and reviewed the results, most homeowners and building managers realize they have been ceasing to perceive savings and are asking, "Why do we wait so long?"

If you have ever wondered if it would be worth doing an energy audit of your office building, industrial park, school or hospital, the answer is a resounding "YES". That, of course, if you want your building to be a healthy place to work or a profitable commercial investment, it will run efficiently for many years.

* Jim Newman (Jim Newman, CEM, LEED AP BD + C, ASHRAE BEAP & OPMP, FESD) is the owner of Newman Consulting Group. You can write to contact@newmanconsultinggroup.us.

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