BUILDING DIAGNOSTICS

What does a Commercial Energy Audit cover?

A thorough audit covers the building shell or envelope to account for heat loss or gain as well as the energy consuming equipment in or associated with the building. The audit explores the interactions between the building shell, the commercial processes (loads) and the heating, cooling and ventilating equipment. The comfort, health and safety of the occupants are major concerns during the audit process, so anything that impacts those areas is assessed as well.

A building simulation program is used to build a model of the facility. This shows where the energy is being used now and what the most promising upgrades are. At this stage the upgrade costs are based on standard industry assumptions. As noted below, specific proposals can also be quickly evaluated once the base model is built.

A report of the findings, with recommended improvements, should be delivered to the owner/occupant of the building in a timely manner. In some cases the auditor will provide follow up services to assess proposals from vendors and/or to inspect and verify installation of energy efficiency measures.

The building shell:

All the parts that separate the inside from the outside are assessed for their ability to resist heat transfer. Determination is made where that boundary should be (This usually pertains to basements and attics) and what improvements should be made. The parts that are usually included are walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows and miscellany such as attic hatches. A blowerdoor test will be performed to measure the overall leakiness of the building shell. When conditions permit infrared images are made to pinpoint heat loss areas.

HVAC Equipment:

Furnaces, boilers and air conditioners are assessed visually and if necessary with combustion testing equipment. A test to assess the potential for backdrafting of combustion gases is performed. On forced air systems the ducts are inspected visually and are tested for leakage with a duct blaster when appropriate to the system. All nameplate information is noted along with any recent service tags. Domestic hot water systems are included in this assessment.

Ventilation systems are inspected and when possible measured for performance. This is a critical part of assessing the health and safety of the building.

Commercial Loads/Processes:

These are the things that consume power and often generate heat within a building. They include everything from computers to refrigeration and even people. Some light manufacturing processes may be included but in general industrial audits are not covered under this document. The most common items are lighting, refrigeration, computers and servers, pumps and motors, and standby loads.

Items that raise particular concern are swimming pools and spas, and commercial kitchens. Both raise specific issues of energy use as well as health and safety and will require more time to deal with.

Water intrusion:

Water control is the most important function of the building enclosure. Water can cause problems ranging from structural damage to indoor air quality problems. Any known problems are evaluated and potential for future problems is assessed.

Health and Safety:

The people who work in a facility are often the largest business cost. It is important that any energy retrofit work be done in such a way as to improve the occupants well being. The good news is that a properly planned and executed upgrade will usually accomplish that and save on energy cost. Good lighting and a comfortable environment are keys to a productive work force.

Reporting:

The report that I supply to my customers is a narrative specific to their building and business, not a generic template. Included are either graphs or tables to show potential savings as well as information on the environmental impact that can be achieved.

Every businessperson faces their own set of challenges and priorities. I do my best to understand their situation and tailor recommendations that are practical to implement. All suggested improvements are rated by cost effectiveness and ease of implementation.

Follow up:

Included in the basic fee is the evaluation of up to five contractor proposals within the first year after the initial report is delivered. Optional services include specification writing, contractor training/instruction and post installation verification testing for quality assurance. The most important part of the energy audit is to see that real steps are taken to reduce energy use.


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