Energy Audits and Conservation
Published in: CAI Community Manager Magazine
By: Ben Rosenzweig, PE
A lot has changed over the past few years when it comes to energy management and usage reduction in communities all over the United States. From the implementation of large scale renewable energy projects like solar PV to smaller but equally as effective projects like LED lighting upgrades, the lifecycle cost of energy reduction projects has gone down making upgrades much more attractive and payback periods considerably shorter, even to communities with the tightest of budgets. On top of reduced project costs, incentives for implementing energy projects remain readily available from local and federal authorities, making net project costs even lower.
The best first step in realizing valuable energy savings in your community is to contract a reputable consultancy to perform an energy audit. Many companies tout their abilities to perform energy audit services, however, the skills of a company experienced in performing ASHRAE Level 1, 2, and 3 energy audits are what is needed to attain the highest level of value. Starting with a community Energy Usage Index (EUI) analysis, the magnitude of available energy savings can be estimated. Then, an in depth energy audit can commence identifying all of the potential energy conservation measures (ECM) for your community. The three ASHRAE energy audit levels are summarized in Table 1, below.
Table 1 – ASHRAE Energy Audit Level Summary
|Level 1||· Building energy systems analysis
· Summary of energy system optimization opportunities (high-level)
· Identification of applicable incentive programs
|Level 2||· Detailed survey of building energy systems and operating modes
· Breakdown of energy consumption by source and end-use
· Detailed report of ECMs applicable to your community
· Recommended operational changes leading to energy savings
|Level 3||· Collection and analysis of community energy consumption data
· Community energy modeling and simulation validated by real world data
· ECM simulation built in to the community model
· ECM implementation cost estimation and ROI calculation
Energy audit completion isn’t the end of the line. Once attractive ECMs and applicable incentive programs have been identified, it’s crucial to employ your capital wisely. Certain projects require detailed plans and specifications in order to ensure regulatory code compliance and certain incentive programs require state and federal level certified partners to steward the incentive application process. If project execution isn’t thought through from conception to completion, many of these interim steps can become costly and lead to diminished project returns. This is another reason why partnering with an experienced consultancy that can steward the process from energy audit through installation, including design, bidding, and construction administration is central to the successful implementation of energy reduction projects.
Last but not least, one of the most important employable concepts in energy project implementation is the ability bid out contractor and equipment vendor services. Instead of defaulting to vendor engineering services and paying for it later in equipment price, there is significant value in selecting a highly qualified engineering firm to compile bid packages and steward the RFP and procurement process. Depending on project magnitude, this can save you thousands of dollars and increase your project returns greatly.