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ESCO, Energy Audit Can Raise Efficiency
November 27, 2012 - Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »
Today's tip is to consider an audit by an energy service company to reduce energy costs through retrofits. For managers to make the most of the opportunities ESCOs provide, they must understand the savings they can achieve by undertaking all suitable projects for their facilities.
One of the most important steps is identifying the program's goals. Common issues include:
- Are rising energy costs putting a squeeze on the energy budget?
- Have billing changes occurred that will result in significant increases in energy costs, even though energy use might remain constant?
- Has energy use risen to the point that costly upgrades are required as a result of limits on capacity?
- Does the facility need to replace HVAC components due to equipment age and simply be sure that replacement equipment is the highest efficiency possible?
Each of these goals requires a different approach. For example, if the goal is to reduce electrical demand, the program should focus on such tasks as peak-load reductions and load-time shifting. Improving the operating efficiency of HVAC units in this case might reduce energy use but might not have a significant impact on electrical demand.
To identify the most cost-effective way to meet goals, work closely with the ESCO on an energy audit. An energy audit is a detailed survey of the facility that determines where the potential exists for energy savings. Typical audits have four targets: lighting systems, HVAC systems, building controls, and building envelopes.
When looking to improve the operating efficiency of HVAC systems, managers must evaluate a range of options, such as replacing existing components with higher- efficiency units, closely matching system capacities to needs, performing neglected maintenance, or balancing air and water systems so they provide optimal levels of heating and cooling.
Audits should also consider other issues, such as the energy and cost benefits of on-site generation of electricity from conventional or renewable sources, particularly for facilities looking to reduce their peak electrical demand.