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Part 1: The Different Levels of Energy Audits
By Gregory Hughel
September 2010 -
In tough economic times, identifying opportunities to run institutional and commercial facilities more efficiently is essential. The energy costs associated with operating a facility account for a large portion of an organization's total operating expenditures, and HVAC systems account for a great deal of these costs. Identifying opportunities to improve the efficiency of their operation can create much-needed savings.
In some cases, maintenance and engineering managers might have to spend a large amount of money on big-ticket capital projects designed to improve energy efficiency. Regardless of the size of the project, managers can schedule an energy audit to identify and prioritize opportunities for investment.
An energy audit systematically identifies opportunities to reduce energy use in HVAC systems and, thus, cut operating costs. Audits vary in scope and complexity, so determining the exact scope and content of the audit is an important step. Factors such as the funds the organization is willing to invest in energy efficiency, the complexity of the facilities to be audited, and the amount of detail and analysis a manager wants the audit to generate will determine the audit scope.
If the department does not have a large budget for capital-replacement projects or if a manager simply wants to better understand the facility's energy use and needs a baseline, the best option might be an audit that focuses on operation and maintenance practices, with less emphasis on major-equipment replacement. This type of audit offers a high-level view of facility operations.
It is perfectly reasonable to start at a high level to understand the way a facility performs and later move to a more detailed assessment. This type of audit also can help managers identify capital-investment projects, but pursuing these measures will require more detailed analysis.
Sometimes, a manager already understands a facility's energy use. In other cases, the organization has invested in capital-replacement projects, either out of concern for the performance lives of existing systems or to have a more energy-efficient facility. In these cases, it might be appropriate to perform a more detailed scope that dives into the nuts and bolts of a facility's HVAC system. An audit with this scope can help managers more clearly and properly identify costs, estimate savings, and plan for the implementation of replacement or upgrades.
In determining the scope of the energy audit, managers need to keep in mind that energy efficiency involves finding a balance between saving energy and ensuring occupant comfort. No matter the scope, managers must consider these two needs when evaluating energy-efficiency opportunities and actions.
Energy Audits: The Path to Efficiency
Part 2: Energy Audits: Analyze Energy Use, Review Utility Rate Structure
Part 3: Energy Audits: Performing an Economic Analysis
Part 4: PRODUCT FOCUS: HVAC