What It Is
An energy audit is an analysis of energy use in a building. Audits are conducted to identify ways to reduce energy costs and consumption without harming building performance.
Why It Matters
According to the Pew Center, commercial buildings consume 18% of the United States’ total energy use. Energy audits in commercial buildings can typically identify between 20-40% savings in energy use and cost, making businesses leaner and more competitive. Energy audits are one of the biggest drivers of cost savings in going green. Not being smart about energy use is like leaving money on the table every month.
Start by gathering basic information. Gather energy bills and any other information that can be found related to energy use. Walk through your facility to look for any blatant areas of energy waste, such as cracks or gaps resulting in heating and cooling loss or any large load appliances that are plugged in but not critical to operations.
Next, investigate options for energy audits. Ask around about local vendors that others may have used. Many local governments offer free or subsidized energy audits for businesses. Call the energy department at your local municipality or search online to uncover free or very low cost auditing options that may be available.
Conduct a general audit. These are performed by professional energy auditors. General audits involve:
- An in-depth study of the business’s energy bills, usually covering a 12 to 36 month period
- Extensive interviews with personnel who are familiar with the business’s energy consumption
A general audit will identify all energy conservation measures and provide a financial analysis of each measure. This will help you compare the costs of potential implementation plans. Energy audits are typically priced according to the facility’s square footage. Just as you would for any facilities work, you can call local vendors for a quote.
Investment-grade audits have all the features of general audits, but are conducted more frequently and help an organization to look forward, producing plans for future energy reduction. For example, instead of just reducing the amount of grid energy a business uses, an investment-grade audit may include plans to implement renewable energy sources into the business.
Fairfax County Public Schools estimate that they saved $4.5 million by implementing energy efficiency measures. The County sees additional benefits as well, noting “lighting is enhanced, drafty windows are replaced, and greater comfort is achieved through these climate controlled enhancements.” The County also notes that these savings allow money to be redirected to student education.
Resources for More Information
This Green Plus blog post outlines several software tools from Google, Cisco, Microsoft, and Verizon to help track energy use.
The Natural Resources Defense Council offers a brief energy audit how-to guide.
The State of Oregon provides a detailed guide for conducting an energy audit at industrial sites, while the Oregon Environmental Council provides a step-by-step energy auditing process that is adaptable to businesses of all sizes.
This a list of all ENERGY STAR certified appliances, as well as associated ENERGY STAR savings calculators.
 “Energy Services Performance Contracting,” Fairfax County Public Schools, http://www.fcps.edu/fts/facmanagement/energy/esco.shtml, accessed 22 July 2013.