Preliminary and Third-Party Audits Reveal Energy Waste
When facility managers at a correctional institution in Seattle became concerned the building’s air circulation system was not bringing in enough outside air, they decided the best way to address the problem was to prop open the outside air intake with a piece of lumber.
Their approach solved the immediate problem, but it caused many more issues. Propping the door open overrode outside-air setbacks occupancy sensors otherwise would have controlled. Forcing the air-intake system to remain open created excess energy loss because the system heated and cooled unoccupied rooms. The building operators unwittingly were throwing money out the window.
Building technicians’ unfamiliarity with computer-automated electrical and HVAC systems is one of many ways facilities waste thousands of dollars each year. An energy audit is one of the most successful strategies for pinpointing energy loss and optimizing efficiency.
A Closer Look
An energy audit is an often-overlooked tool for organizations seeking to expand their efforts to minimize energy waste. Audits typically analyze a building’s energy-using systems, such as HVAC, lighting and electrical distribution.
Energy audits can take many forms, from a simple, self-performed facility walk-through to an in-depth information-gathering process that includes the use of computer-aided modeling programs and load meters. Managers can select from among several types of audits.
The preliminary audit is the most basic type of energy audit. In-house maintenance and engineering technicians or an outside auditing firm can conduct this audit. Those performing a self-guided audit can use an energy-audit workbook or checklist to guide them. Such guides help technicians gather a range of essential information about the building itself, such as its size, window type, and insulation thickness. They also can record information on activities within the facility at various times of day and the types and locations of tenants and occupants within the building.
Third-party audits typically include interviews with facility staff members and an overview of the utility bills and operating data. The preliminary audit’s goal is to find the low-hanging fruit — energy issues technicians can identify and correct easily, such as malfunctioning daylight sensors, a leaking building envelope or excessive use of incandescent lighting.