Commercial Energy Audits: The Process and Their Benefits
Regulatory agencies are placing increased emphasis on energy efficient buildings. In fact, the U.S. government announced the Federal Building Performance Standard in December 2022 – a standard that requires facility owners to cut energy usage to a specified level prior to 2030.
In other words, energy efficiency standards are getting tougher. But there’s more than compliance at stake. There are significant benefits to reducing a facility’s power consumption, such as rebates and reduced operating costs.
However, boosting efficiency can be a daunting task without a clear starting point. That’s where a commercial energy audit from a reputable lighting company comes in.
What is a Commercial Energy Audit?
Commercial energy audits, like the term suggests, are targeted toward commercial facilities. During an audit, the commercial energy auditor will analyze the facility’s energy consumption and identify potential areas of improvement.
Facility audits can be extremely complex and take considerable time to manage. Given this, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has defined multiple levels of auditing analysis so building owners know what to expect. Those levels of service include:
- Preliminary audit (walk-through survey) – The fastest, but least thorough version of energy auditing is a walkthrough survey. The auditing team will tour the facility to spot any potential energy sieves. The team may review any available power consumption data to support their visual inspection. Preliminary audits are a good first step for companies that want a general idea of what elements to target. With a quick first pass, businesses can more easily ascertain where the easiest tweaks can be made.
- General energy audit (energy survey and analysis) – This level of analysis also includes a walkthrough survey. On top of that, the auditor will collect detailed data about the facility’s power consuming systems, including an onsite reading of real-time consumption. The auditing team will also provide specific recommendations for optimizing energy savings.
- Investment-grade audit (detailed analysis) – The most involved form of energy audit is an investment-grade audit, which is typically done when the facility’s systems are too complex for a standard audit. It’s also done when extensive improvements are expected. During a detailed analysis, the commercial energy auditors will simulate various energy conservation measures to determine which will save the business the most money. Once this is done, the information will be compiled into a report so the company can develop an efficiency-improving plan.
What Does a Commercial Energy Audit Include?
The exact process that an energy audit takes depends on the level of the audit and the nature of the facility. However, several elements are considered standard during an audit. They include:
- The facility’s lighting and lighting-related components
- The facility’s equipment
- The facility’s operating schedule
- The condition of the building’s envelope
- The location and condition of any thermal boundaries
Among these factors, lighting is among the most impactful. According to data published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), commercial buildings dedicate 17 percent of their input energy to lighting, on average. Any improvements here mean significant savings, and lighting improvements can be made quickly.
Four Reasons to Consider an Energy Audit for Your Organization
Energy audits provide valuable bits of information that businesses can’t get any other way. It’s also applicable data, with insights that can point the way to better energy efficiency.
Here are four reasons why your company could use that data:
- Determine where the facility’s “pressure points” are – Every commercial energy audit reveals where the biggest efficiency problems lie. And wherever the biggest problems are, that’s where you’re likely to find outdated equipment, poor installation practices, or something else that suggests a potential failure point. In this way, an energy audit can act like an early warning solution for any equipment or infrastructure that should be replaced.That way, when it’s time to address the building’s energy usage, the organization will know exactly what opportunities are available.For example, if an audit shows that the facility’s lighting is burning up too much energy, there’s a good chance that the property’s lighting is outdated or reaching the end of its useful life. Replacing or retrofitting those lighting fixtures may offer immediate savings at minimal cost, once factoring in rebates and tax incentives.
- Organize future “proofing” initiatives – The Federal Building Performance Standard is the first of its kind, but probably not the last. As such, property owners should be prepared to make additional improvements to energy efficiency with time.A commercial energy audit identifies potential solutions for long-term compliance so the company can develop a long-term plan for upgrading the facility over time.
- Capture valuable incentives and rebates – There are numerous rebates and tax incentives available for “green” building initiatives. In some cases, it’s as simple as replacing obsolete light bulbs for newer LEDs.Leveraging rebates and tax breaks is one of the most effective ways to offset expenses incurred while upgrading a building. To unlock these incentives, though, the new product or solution must result in a measurable reduction of energy expenditures – usually by a specified amount.An energy audit can help businesses identify which solutions provide the most value from a rebate or incentive standpoint, ensuring organizations are able to easily budget in new projects.
- Reduce facility operating costs – This last benefit is, perhaps, the most obvious one. By improving the facility’s energy efficiency – with the help of an energy audit – companies can cut their utility bills immediately.Sometimes, this reduction can be dramatic, often in the thousands or more every year. For example, replacing a single fluorescent tube with an LED equivalent will improve that fixture’s energy efficiency by about 20 percent. That’s nice, but multiply those savings across an entire commercial facility, one with hundreds of fluorescent tubes, and the savings add up quickly.
Considering a Commercial Energy Audit? Consider Auditing Services Through a Trusted Lighting Expert
Commercial energy auditing services are available through some lighting experts. As the go-to people for lighting solutions, lamps and fixtures, lighting companies have sophisticated methods and technology for assessing energy consumption. If lighting-related problems are behind the building’s efficiency issues, a lighting company can offer valuable insight. In this way, a trusted lighting expert can ensure your building is ready for an efficiency-minded future.