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Old-fashioned efficiency: The do-it-yourself energy audit

energy auditDo you ever wander through a home improvement store thinking, “hmm … I could do that.” You probably could. Likewise, you probably could do your own energy audit, too.

We all enjoy seeing how the experts tile a bathroom or build the Sistine Chapel out of Lego blocks because the urge to put things together on our own is practically in our DNA. In fact, Italian archaeologists dug up ruins from a 6th Century BC structure that consisted of building blocks marked with instructions for assembly. It was just like an elaborate bookshelf from IKEA.

So for all of you rugged individualists who are ready to roll up your sleeves and tackle your own energy audit, here are a few things you can do before calling in the experts.

Question #1: Why?

First, you should understand what an energy audit is. Energy audits are basically a look at all the systems, operating practices and energy consumption data associated with your facility, to determine when and how your energy is being used.

Why would you want to do your own energy audit? According to Natural Resources Canada, doing it yourself makes you more “energy aware,” meaning that it gets you thinking about all the ways you can be energy efficient. A do-it-yourself audit also gives you an opportunity to fix things that are readily apparent or which may not require extensive engineering analysis.

Once you take care of the easy stuff, you can bring in external experts later. They’ll be able to focus on more complex energy-saving measures, which means you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck from the money you invest in consultants.

Your in-house audit may not be as comprehensive as what you get with an external consultant or a dedicated in-house energy manager, but it can save money by narrowing the focus of any external auditors you might hire. You can direct them to the truly technical issues and spare yourself added expense of having them point out the obvious.

Question 2 … 3 … 4: How?

For a really detailed look at how to do an energy audit, you can download a handbook from Natural Resources Canada with nearly 300 pages of how-to information and worksheets. Among the advice you’ll get from NRCan are these tips:

Start with a plan: Document your audit scope, timetable, teammates and targeted outcome, such as an audit report.

Keep score: Before you begin the audit process, simply walk through your facility and track what you see. List the various things you’ll be evaluating: equipment, lighting, office machines, your building envelope (which is the barrier between inside and outside environments), and then rank these items numerically. Use a scale that you can divide up into action items. For instance, if you give highly efficient equipment a “10” and inefficient equipment a “1,” you’ll know that the lower the score, the more urgent the need for remediation.

Know your baseline energy use: You can analyze several months of energy bills yourself, or you can do it via automation with a tool like the Bruce Power Saver. Regardless of how you gather the consumption data, you’re going to want to know how much energy is being used and when it’s happening so you can correlate consumption with plant activities.

Draw your demand profile: You’ve heard the saying, “a picture is worth 1,000 words?” So is a graph, particularly when it’s a visual depiction of when your organization uses energy. Using frequent interval data, such as hourly data that your utility or sub-metering systems could supply, chart consumption graphically to quickly see trends.

Once you’ve taken these steps, you’ll be on your way to savings but, first, you’ll need to do some analysis of the demand profile you see. Among the energy-management opportunities demand profiles show you are:

  • Nighttime loads in an empty facility: You may be able to shut a few things down.
  • High demands during break times: That means equipment idling may be costing money.
  • Peak demand during start-up times: If you stagger equipment start-up, you may avoid high demand charges or peaks. Here’s how a company called Levitt Safety did it.
  • Large loads that frequently cycle on and off: Perhaps you can raise your utilization efficiency and lower your peak demand by using smaller machines.

You’ll find plenty of ways to manage your energy costs with even a basic, DIY audit. So, what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time to put an energy audit on your to-do list?

Looking for more quick ways to reduce your consumption and save on your electricity costs?

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