Energy Audits: start with the basics
8th October 2018
Walking into an empty conference room and turning off the lights can be as good a place as any to start an energy audit. An energy audit (or energy assessment) is the examination of your business space to discover when, how, where and why energy is being used and to uncover opportunities to operate more efficiently.
While most business owners would like to become more efficient in their energy use, many hit a stumbling block right at the beginning by not knowing where to start. The truth is that a basic energy audit does not have to be a daunting task. If you are looking to make serious changes or capital expenditures, a specialist is certainly required. However, if you want to find a few quick wins, you can do this yourself. Here are some suggestions on how you can conduct your own energy efficiency assessment in your workspace.
Step 1: Look for energy spikes
Do you have a smart meter installed or provide regular meter readings to your supplier? If so, start with your energy bill. Do you see any times of the day, months or seasons that see a spike in your energy consumption? If so, those can be good indicators of where you should start. For example, if you see a spike in the summer, you might want to check out your cooling system. Another example is one of our customers, a small retail shop in Northamptonshire, noticed a spike at 6am when the store lighting turned on. By adjusting the auto-on start time to be a bit later, they were able to reduce their consumption.
Step 2: Identify bad behaviour
Spot check your workplace throughout the day. Are staff members leaving the lights on in empty rooms and cupboards? Is the air conditioning on in a room with the windows open? Is the dishwasher running while only half full? These things may seem silly, but when added up, the wasted money might surprise you. Stamp out this behaviour by putting up reminder signs and calling it to your staff’s attention.
Step 3: Check your appliances
As long as an appliance works like it is supposed to, justifying investing in a new one can be challenging…until you account for the energy savings you’ll see from more efficient equipment. For example, if your standard kitchen appliances are more than 10 years old, you should definitely consider upgrading to a newer model. (Check out this USwitch guide to selecting energy efficient refrigerators and freezers.) As you conduct your audit, note down the brand, model number and, if possible, purchase date for your appliances. A quick check on the internet or a conversation with a trained specialist should help you understand which ones would be advantageous to replace.
Step 4: Look at your lighting
Lighting retrofits are one of the most common energy efficiency projects because they are typically low cost and have quick paybacks. Take a look at the lighting fixtures in your building. Are there any spaces that are overlit where you could switch to a lower wattage bulb? Are you using the most energy efficient fixtures and lights available?
Step 5: Inspect your heating and cooling system
Checking filters, resealing ductwork and making sure that the proper insulation is still in place should definitely be part of any energy audit. Check your service logs and manufacturer’ suggestions to ensure that your heating and cooling system equipment is being properly maintained. Over time, these small inefficiencies can add up to extra charges on your energy bill.
Step 6: Call in a professional
Once you’ve completed the basic energy audit and made changes where possible, the next step is to call in a professional. A professional auditor will inspect your entire building and provide you with a report showing your opportunities for savings, the projected costs for any projects and expected paybacks. With this information in hand, you’ll be in a good position to determine which next step is right for your business.
If you are unsure where to find a professional auditor, why not start with your county council? Here are a couple of examples of county councils offering audits and rebates for SMEs in their area: East Sussex County Council scheme;Leicestershire County Council scheme
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