How Can Managers Avoid Energy-Audit Failure?
An audit is worth nothing if managers do not use the information productively. Once audits are complete, managers should incorporate the findings into an energy-savings plan to immediately begin reducing costs and eliminating energy waste.
After identifying the preferred energy-conservation measures and their associated costs, managers can use the audit financial analyses to convince the owner of the potential financial and energy-saving benefits. The owner then can budget for the cost of implementing the approved measures.
Depending on the complexity of the measure, in-house technicians or an outside contractor then can perform the energy-conservation measures. Once installed, technicians should measure the performance of the upgraded systems regularly to ensure efficient performance and energy savings.
It is rare for an energy audit to fail to identify some kind of waste in a building. Among the most common problems found when energy audits are performed are these:
•Trying to outsmart the computer. Building occupants’ unfamiliarity with computer-controlled building systems often results in significant energy waste. When users do not understand that a computer controls heating, air conditioning or lighting systems for optimal performance, problems can occur. For example, occupants or contractors often put tape over a photocell that controls interior or exterior lights in response to outside light. This tactic causes the building light fixtures to stay on continually. Occupants also have been known to place sheets of cardboard over air vents, eliminating airflow in one area but forcing more air through other vents. Even more frequently, occupants bypass controls and put them in manual mode. Over time, controls that had been carefully tuned for premium performance get tweaked and adjusted, resulting in inefficient energy use.
•Misdirected occupancy sensors. Occupants often improperly adjust sensors that control lights based on movement. As a result, sensors in a room might detect movement in the hallway and turn on the room’s lights unnecessarily.
•Improper lighting. Although most corporate environments have switched from inefficient incandescent to more efficient fluorescent lighting, many facilities’ spaces feature too much illumination. Energy auditors often carry a light meter through spaces during audits and frequently find that rooms are too bright. Fixing this problem can be as easy as taking out a few fixtures or removing lamps.
An energy audit can be an essential piece of the puzzle for companies seeking to reduce energy waste, but only if they do not sacrifice the comfort of building occupants for the savings. A carefully thought-out audit examines all of a building’s systems to make sure no changes are made in haste. By approaching energy savings holistically, a greater chance exists that tenants, as well as accountants, will be happy for years to come.
Greg Livengood, P.E. — firstname.lastname@example.org — is a principal of Sparling, an electrical engineering and technology consulting firm with offices in Seattle, San Diego, and Portland, Ore. Mark Stavig, P.E. — email@example.com — is a principal of CDi Engineers, a mechanical engineering firm in Lynnwood, Ore.