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  • Writer's pictureCorey L. Wilson

ENERGY Surveys, Inspections, Audits & Commissioning For Facilities

Updated: Nov 28, 2023



The SMART concept can be applied to energy surveys, inspections, audits and commissioning. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. It’s widely used in business environments to define plans, strategies, and specially, objectives to achieve them—such as energy savings. This chapter will cover the Specific part and the first SMART concept for energy assessments. The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and the other types of energy and facilities management software can provide the Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related and those four concepts will be as unique to each property, facility and organization as are each facility/property manager and CFO unique compared to each other. Many CFO’s and facility/property managers assume they’re using SMART goals in their efficiency plans. Sadly, this may not be the case. If they haven’t developed and implemented a Sustainable Energy Buildings Plan (SEBP) and are not utilizing the best energy and building management software systems available, the chances are they’re not reducing energy usage to its full potential. The only way to find out, with a variety of options, is to perform energy surveys, inspections, audits and/or commissioning. Some buildings may require a simple survey, some more defined site inspections, others an in-depth energy audit, and still others a retro or recommissioning of their highest energy consuming equipment or system. Conducting Energy Assessments ENERGY STAR partners have found that conducting plant assessments is vital to a strong energy management program, for without them, it’s difficult to continuously improve energy efficiency and demonstrate savings. Energy assessments can be conducted by internal staff, external energy service professionals, or a combination of both. As previously noted, they can be simple survey, some more defined site inspections, others an in-depth energy audit, and still others a retro or recommissioning of their highest energy consuming equipment. Regardless of the type of assessment, it’s recommended that the team represent varied expertise, including process engineers, maintenance experts, systems managers, energy specialists, etc. if these resources are available. If they aren’t, energy consultants and independent contractors can assist. Plant assessments vary in their focus and depth of involvement based on the program needs and resources available to energy managers. Most organizations can perform surveys and inspections with their own staff, while most will rely on energy consultants and independent contractors to perform the audits and commissioning. Energy Treasure Hunts An Energy Treasure Hunt is a form of assessment that engages employees to identify low cost or no cost energy saving opportunities by focusing on improving the day-to-day operations of existing equipment. Unlike traditional energy assessments that typically rely on outside experts, a two to three-day Energy Treasure Hunt engages internal cross functional staff to find the opportunities. By using internal resources, the Energy Treasure Hunt process helps build energy teams and internal processes for managing energy with a focus on continuous improvement. The advantage of starting with an in-house energy survey is that it focuses on improvements that often can be made immediately and without significant expenditures. Exploring Ways to Save – Non-Business Hours After the facility tour, teams should begin to look for energy efficiency opportunities in their respective areas. If the Energy Treasure Hunt begins on a non-operational day, the teams should focus on investigating savings opportunities that can only be found when the facility is not carrying out its typical operations. Teams might look for:

  • Lights, computers, and other equipment that has been left on.

  • HVACR systems that have been left running or HVACR operations beyond standard temperature set points.

  • Lighting that is too bright, not efficient, or not directed to necessary tasks.

  • Air compressors operating when not needed or system air leaks.

  • Other building or process equipment left running unnecessarily.

Exploring Ways to Save – Business Hours Energy Treasure Hunt teams can focus on energy efficiency opportunities that are observable during regular operations and in typical equipment processes. These might include:

  • Temperature set point too high or too low.

  • Compressed air being wasted.

  • Energy supply equipment, such as compressed air and lights, not interlocked to turn off at the same time as production equipment.

  • Production equipment operating but no product being produced.

During staff lunch and break periods, teams should check the facility for equipment that could be turned off, such as:

  • Workspace lighting, motors, and pumps that are not in constant use.

  • Equipment that does not have a lengthy start time but is left on.

Energy Audits Using ASHRAE Levels 1, 2 & 3 An energy audit is the key to a systematic approach to decision-making in the area of energy management. The primary function of an energy audit is to identify all of the energy streams in a facility in order to balance total energy input with energy use. The four main objectives of an energy audit are as follows:

  • To establish an energy consumption baseline.

  • To quantify energy usage according to its discrete functions.

  • To benchmark with similar facilities under similar weather conditions.

  • To identify existing energy cost reduction opportunities.

Before beginning an energy audit for a building or portfolio of buildings, a preliminary energy use analysis must be carried out. This analysis requires access to energy and natural gas consumption and cost data for the last 24-36 months. The purpose of this analysis is to compare the Energy Usage Index (EUI) of each building with the national average and to identify both high and low energy performers. Once the analysis is completed a recommendation is made as to which buildings should be audited first and the type of audits to be carried out. Energy audits vary in depth, depending on the potential at a specific site for energy and cost reductions and the project parameters set by the client. As per ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards there are three types of audits, outlined below. ASHRAE Level 1 – Walk-Through Analysis/Preliminary Audit – The Level 1 audit alternatively is called a simple audit, screening audit or walk-through audit and is the most basic. ASHRAE Level 2 – Energy Survey and Analysis – A Level 2 audit includes the preliminary ASHRAE Level 1 analysis, but also includes more detailed energy calculations and financial analysis of proposed energy efficiency measures. ASHRAE Level 3 – Detailed Analysis of Capital Intensive Modifications – This level of engineering analysis focuses on the potential capital-intensive projects identified in the Level 2 analysis and involves more detailed field data gathering as well as a more rigorous engineering analysis. Completing an energy audit of a facility provides an organization with customized energy conservation measures and may also indicate energy consuming equipment is not operating at peak performance. If that’s the case, retrocommissioning of the existing equipment in question is required. Retrocommissioning and Recommissioning Specifically, retrocommissioning is a form of commissioning. Commissioning is the process of ensuring that systems (lighting, HVACR, etc.) are designed, installed, functionally tested, and capable of being operated and maintained according to the most energy efficient operating criteria. Retrocommissioning is the same systematic process applied to existing buildings that have never been commissioned to ensure that their systems can be operated and maintained according to the most energy efficient operating criteria. For buildings that have already been commissioned or retrocommissioned, it is recommended that the practices of recommissioning or ongoing commissioning be applied. Recommissioning is the term for applying the commissioning process to a building that has been commissioned previously (either during construction or as an existing building); it is normally done every three to five years to maintain top levels of building performance and/or after other stages of the upgrade process to identify new opportunities for improvement. The LEED EB+OM building certification requires recommissioning every 5 years as part of the LEED building recertification process. In Ongoing Commissioning, monitoring equipment is left in place to allow for ongoing diagnostics. Ongoing commissioning is effective when building staff have the time and budget not only to gather and analyze the data but also to implement the solutions that come out of the analysis. Building owners, managers, staff, and tenants all stand to gain from the retrocommissioning process. It can lower building operating costs by reducing demand, energy consumption, and time spent by management or staff responding to complaints. It can also increase equipment life and improve tenant satisfaction by increasing the comfort and safety of occupants. Energy researchers statistically analyzed more than 224 new and existing buildings that had been commissioned, totaling over 30 million sf. of commissioned floor space (73% existing buildings and 27% new construction). The results revealed the most common problem areas and showed that both energy and non-energy benefits were achieved. Analysis of commissioning projects for existing buildings showed a median commissioning cost of US$0.27 per sf. energy savings of 15%, and a simple payback period of 0.7 years. A recent study of retrocommissioning revealed a wide variety of problems—those related to the overall HVACR system were the most common type. Retrocommissioning provided both energy and non-energy benefits—the most common of these, noted in one-third of the buildings surveyed, was the extension of equipment life. The top candidates for retrocommissioning are those buildings with:

  • A low ENERGY STAR performance rating or a high energy use index (Btu per sf., Btu per patient, and so forth) that cannot be explained, or unexplained increases in energy consumption.

  • Persistent failure of building equipment, control systems, or both.

  • Excessive occupant complaints about temperature, airflow, and comfort.

Today is the seventh of 15 installments of the 15 chapters of the second edition of ENERGY Cost Savings For Facilities, by Corey L. Wilson, that will will be presented each week in this newsletter. Each chapter is approximately 3 to 4 pages long covering essential info every FM should know about concerning energy cost savings for their facilities. If you can't wait until the last chapter, you can purchase the guidebook right now by following the instructions below.

ENERGY Cost Savings For Facilities Available in epub, pdf, and paperback versions for $7.99, $14.99 and $24.99. Excellent resource and textbook for facilities and operatons managers, energy industry professionals, sustainability workforce development, educators and students. CHAPTERS 1 – An ENERGY Savings Introduction For Facilities 2 – Your Facilities’ Electrical ENERGY Future is Now 3 – Electrical ENERGY Saving Systems For Facilities 4 – Potential ENERGY Cost Savings For Facilities 5 – Sustainable ENERGY Buildings Plans For Facilities 6 – ENERGY & Buildings Management Software For Facilities 7 – ENERGY Surveys, Inspections, Audits & Commissioning For Facilities 8 – Facilities ENERGY Benchmarking Using Portfolio Manager 9 – ENERGY Efficient Lighting For Facilities 10 – ENERGY Efficient HVACR Systems For Facilities 11 – California’s Time-of-Use ENERGY Rate Changes For Facilities 12 – ENERGY Code Compliance Measures For Facilities 13 – ENERGY Storage Batteries and Beyond For Facilities 14 – Utilizing an ENERGY Savings Plan Budget For Facilities 15 – Implementing an ENERGY Storage System For Facilities

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