Energy Audits

Businesses regularly examine their processes in order to identify weaknesses, waste, and ways of becoming more productive and profitable. That’s exactly what a sustainability audit entails. But calling it a ‘sustainability audit’ simply opens up the process to understanding the broader effects of our business activities. For many businesses, an Energy Audit that delivers cost-effective savings is the essential first step on the longer path of sustainability.

An Energy Audit needs to look at heating, lighting, and production processes. Whether you conduct the audit yourself or hire a consultant this requires a rigourous, methodical approach. A site survey needs to note how energy is used across the organisation, including people, equipment, activities and building structure. You need at least one full year of utility bills to track changes through the seasons, but also be aware that a particularly mild or severe winter can affect the information. It is essential to look for hidden power drains. Like a dripping pipe, small persistent energy waste can add up over the year.

Even so, it is crucial to balance your priorities. For most businesses, the heating uses vastly more energy than the computers. There isn’t much point in making a fuss about little red standby lights being left on if people are opening windows every time the office radiators get too hot. It is much more important to provide proper control of the heating and cooling system. Sometimes our perceptions can be misleading so it is necessary to check the facts against our beliefs.

This helps illustrate the importance of getting all members of the organisation involved in the energy audit process at the very beginning. Often the people involved with everyday tasks can find ways to make them work better. By informing people of the goals of energy efficiency, cost savings, and the significance of carbon emissions, they can be participants in the process rather than feeling that energy saving measures are being ‘imposed’ on them.

People measures are sometimes overlooked in the effort to determine reliable savings and a return on investment. It might be easier to calculate the ROI on new equipment or heating system, but any new savings from a super-efficient boiler is instantly undermined by doors that are left propped open long after the delivery has been made. People need to adopt the procedures of energy efficiency just as they adopt the proper procedures for the core business functions.

A comprehensive energy audit will yield a series of actions on a scale of expected return and investment cost. There isn’t a direct relationship between costs and results. This is where an outside opinion can be useful in balancing the value of different actions. It is certainly a positive step to encourage people to turn off lights and unused equipment, but just taking that low cost step is trivial if the building lacks proper ceiling insulation. While every incremental step is useful, the most important factor for an audit is to describe the range energy saving measures appropriate to the specific organisation, and identify the most significant.

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