Energy audits

Facilities of all sizes can benefit from energy audits. The rising cost and scarcity of fossil fuels, looming cap-and-trade limits on consumption, concerns about our dependence on foreign oil affecting national security and society’s growing commitment to sustainable behavior make a review of energy usage a valuable exercise that can factor into a company’s strategic business and su...

12/01/2009


Facilities of all sizes can benefit from energy audits. The rising cost and scarcity of fossil fuels, looming cap-and-trade limits on consumption, concerns about our dependence on foreign oil affecting national security and society’s growing commitment to sustainable behavior make a review of energy usage a valuable exercise that can factor into a company’s strategic business and sustainability planning.

 

Through an energy audit, a facility can identify opportunities to reduce operating costs and energy consumption, prepare for cap-and-trade requirements and meet continuous improvement goals set by management. If a facility follows the recommendations of an energy audit, it can typically reduce its energy consumption by 20%. Given the amount of energy that manufacturing and processing facilities consume, an energy audit is a prudent investment as opposed to a discretionary expense %%MDASSML%% especially in these challenging economic times.

 

In assessing its energy consumption habits and determining how to improve them, a facility has the option of commissioning two types of audits:

 

  • A Level 1 audit consists of identifying energy conservation opportunities in a facility, briefly describing corrective measures that facility management can take to reduce energy consumption and rough cost estimates of remedial actions. This level of detail enables management to establish priorities for energy-efficiency projects and to determine the scope of a more detailed audit or study.

  • A Level 2 audit goes beyond the scope of a Level 1 audit to identify all energy conservation opportunities that are appropriate for the facility’s operating parameters. The detailed information that a Level 2 audit provides is sufficient to justify project implementation, and to commit to funding the modification or replacement of equipment or systems already in use.

    • What you’ll learn

      A comprehensive energy audit is a six-step process that consists of:

      • Analyzing and collecting the historical data of facility energy usage

      • Studying the building and its operational characteristics

      • Identifying potential modifications or operational changes to reduce energy usage or costs

      • Performing engineering and economic analyses of potential modifications

      • Summarizing energy conservation opportunities and quantifying their savings so facility or corporate management can prioritize projects and allocate resources appropriately

      • Preparing a report that documents the findings in each system analyzed.

        • Both Level 1 and Level 2 audits follow this process. However, each audit level varies in depth, data capture and building modeling scopes of work.

          A successful energy audit addresses more than the behavioral, operational, maintenance and technological aspects of a facility. It also identifies different cost levels of improvements. Those that require investment will be accompanied by a financial analysis that considers the return on investment.

          A successful energy audit will suggest turnkey energy conservation solutions that consist of cost-effective alternative and renewable energy sources. Credible solutions will also identify the efficiency of a facility’s building envelope and lighting, HVAC, water, steam, compressed air, process control, computer and telecommunications systems. The audit will also suggest ways to improve the operation, control and maintenance of all systems.

          Lighting upgrades may include replacing lamps or fixtures; implementing control, dimming and automation switches; and daylight harvesting. Lighting analysis also includes evaluating light levels to ensure proper levels exist, as well as eliminating excess lighting.

          HVAC system performance reviews may include equipment replacement, demand-control ventilation or equipment maintenance. Air-quality optimization is another area an audit can address.

          Strategies for minimizing the environmental effects of water usage may include replacing conventional hot water systems and steam lines with gas-powered absorption systems that use gray water (i.e., non-industrial wastewater), as well as using gray water in toilets instead of tap water.

          Technological improvements to a facility may include co-generation or combined heat-and-power solutions to achieve peak demand savings, recapturing exhaust heat to warm the facility, using reflective or green rooftops that reduce the need for air conditioning and installing variable frequency drives to control the speed of motors that power HVAC equipment.

          In many instances, compressed air may be used more efficiently through demand control and air leak programs. Ensuring proper compressed air system operation and pressure calibration should also be included in facility improvements.

          Changing the culture

          The audit should also evaluate employee behavior to help ensure that everyone in the organization thinks continually about how energy is used. Each individual’s actions must support plans or policies that reduce consumption.

          To help ensure that an energy audit provides maximum value to the facility, it is critical that management create an energy-awareness culture that sets expectations about energy consumption. In this kind of environment, employees know what is important and how they are expected to act.

          Key characteristics of an energy-awareness culture at the facility or corporate level include:

          • Shared values about the importance of conserving energy

          • A framework or policy for energy conservation, which should include specific management and employee responsibilities for policy implementation, goal setting and performance tracking

          • A commitment to measuring performance and striving to improve continually

          • Acceptance of individual responsibility for doing what is necessary to reduce energy consumption

          • Ongoing communication to ensure that management, employees and suppliers know what the organization’s energy conservation goals are, how they can help meet them and how well the organization is doing in meeting those objectives.

            • Ongoing energy management strategy

              An energy audit is a wise investment. It can help a facility reduce energy consumption and operating costs. However, before commissioning the audit, management and employees should make a commitment to embracing an energy management strategy and embarking on an energy usage reduction program that makes the facility more competitive.

              Management and employees should also regard an audit as the first step in an ongoing relationship with energy management professionals who can provide ongoing strategic advice about minimizing energy consumption and maximizing operating efficiencies as the facility’s needs change. Otherwise, the audit is likely to be just another report that sits on the shelf gathering dust.

               


              <table cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" border="0" id="id379702-0-table" width="100%"><tbody id="id380639-0-tbody"><tr id="id379826-0-tr"><td style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #eeeeee" id="id379828-0-td" class="table">Author Information </td></tr><tr id="id380487-3-tr"><td id="id380489-3-td" class="table">Jerry Spaulding is the energy services business manager for Eaton Corp. </td></tr></tbody></table>


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