How do you know if you are getting value for the money you spend on an energy audit?
1. A Proper Utility Bill Analysis
Insist that the auditing firm use software specifically designed for utility bill analysis. It should adhere to the process defined in ASHRAE Guideline 14 – Measurement of Energy & Demand Savings.
2. Appropriate Building Description
The energy audit should have a detailed description of all energy and water consuming equipment and systems. It should also include how the equipment is controlled.
3. Schematics of Systems
Often energy audits only look at equipment without taking into account the fact that the equipment is part of a larger system. Without schematics, these audits are missing about 30% of the potential energy savings. By insisting on schematics of heating plants, cooling plants, air handling units, domestic hot water systems etc., you can better insure that all potential energy conservation measures (ECMs) are looked at.
4. A Solid List of Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs)
It is very common for ECMs to be missed by an auditor. Don’t assume that the auditing firm has looked at everything and excluded ECMs for technical or financial reasons. Ask questions. Ask for a preliminary list of ECMs for review. All ECMs should show up in the final report even if they aren’t recommended.
5. Accurate ECM Savings
Auditing firms can cut corners by improperly performed savings calculations. I have seen audits where the firm estimated the simple payback and back-calculated the savings. This method of calculating savings is not only inaccurate, it is unethical.
I insist on obtaining a copy of the savings so that you (or a third party) can check the validity.
6. Accurate ECM Installation Cost
Inexperienced auditing firms often underestimate the installation costs for their ECMs. They typically leave out important costs such as engineering, project management, overhead & profit, boiler venting, etc. Insist on a “Class C estimate“. This gives measured quantities based on a preliminary design, not just a rule-of-thumb guess.
7. Appropriate ECM Selection
It is very common for firms that deliver energy audits to also have a vested interest in the selected ECM. Controls companies are much more apt to recommend a Building Automation System. Lighting contractors may recommend products that have the largest margins. Some so-called independent engineering firms have close ties with boiler suppliers or contractors. It is important to uncover and avoid these potential conflicts of interest.
8. A Detailed Improvement Scope
Each ECM should have a detailed description of what needs to be done. Broad statements such as “Install T8 lamps and electronic ballasts” aren’t good enough. It should include lighting counts, light locations, recommended lamp wattage and recommended ballast type.
9. Life-Cycle Costing (LCC) Analysis
It is unfortunate that most energy audits simply list the payback for each ECM. This gives an incomplete picture, as it ignores any additional costs or savings such as maintenance costs, equipment replacement costs, etc.
By using Life-Cycle Costing and Net Present Value (NPV), the true benefit of the ECM can be seen. This will allow you to better invest your money in the ECMs with the best NPV, instead of the lowest payback.
10. Inadequate Review
Check the final report for spelling mistakes, “cut and paste” errors, etc. If there are a number of them, the report was not properly reviewed. The report likely has more important errors that a review by a senior auditor would have uncovered.
Selecting an Energy Auditing Firm
- How long has the firm been in Business?
- How long have they been doing Energy Audits?
- Get references
- What is the firm’s mix between energy audits
- and detailed design work?
- Do they sell product?
- Award based on experience, not price!
Scott Martin, P.Eng