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When Is it Time to Get an Energy Assessment?

Posted by Vital Group of Companies on Jan 2, 2019 10:22:00 AM

The truth is, you don’t fully know how much your commercial building can save on energy unless you have an energy assessment. Get one, and you’ll understand exactly where your gaps are and be provided expert recommendations on how best to fill them.

You’ll also get the most important info: a prediction on just how much money and carbon emissions you can save.

An energy assessment can take several forms. Here’s the three levels to be aware of:

A Level 1 Assessment is a walkthrough with the facility manager looking for obvious energy conservation opportunities, with a list of everything found sent in a report.

A Level 2 Assessment will include counting every light bulb, writing down all the models of all the boilers, taking an energy model, crunching numbers, and producing a prioritized list of recommendations.

A Level 3 Assessment is an investment-grade assessment that involves that deep Level Two walkthrough, plus contractor quotes. Get this when you’re really ready to act.

Signs You Might Need an Energy Assessment

Is your commercial building's HVAC working properly?Maybe your building’s already running as efficiently as possible. If it’s newer, especially if it’s certified, you may already be operating near peak performance.

But there are many signs that could indicate you’ve got a lot of potential savings in your commercial building’s future:

  • Your building is experiencing “bill drift”: your energy bills are slowly increasing but nothing has changed
  • Your commercial building may be benchmarking poorly against other similar buildings. If you’re using more energy than the average for similar buildings, that’s a good indicator there’s savings to be had
  • Your HVAC’s not working properly — and you don’t know why
  • You’re getting a lot of complaints about temperature or indoor air quality — “hot spots” and “cold spots”
  • You don’t have an inventory of your equipment

If one or more of these apply to your building, it’s time to seek some answers and start building an energy efficiency plan — starting with an energy assessment.

What Does an Energy Assessment Look Like?

The major component the commercial property manager will be involved with is the site visit. This starts with some preparation. You may have to collect some information for your auditor beforehand. For example, a Level 2 assessment may require:

  • 1-3 years of energy bills (consumption and cost) for natural gas, electricity, and water
  • Complete set of drawings, including:
    • Architectural with elevations, wall and roof sections
    • Mechanical with ventilation rates
    • Electrical with lighting layouts
  • Operation Manual for the building
  • Any existing building condition reports or energy/lighting assessments
  • Recent quotes for planned upgrades

You'll escort your auditors through key areas of the commercial buildingGetting these ready before the date of the site visit will help your auditor conduct their site visit, but if not, you can discuss them once they’ve arrived. The site visit will usually involve kickoff meeting to do this, as well as describe the process. You’ll probably be asked a few more general questions about building occupancy, known ongoing issues, renovations, and future plans.

Then, you’ll escort the auditors through the building, visiting typical spaces, mechanical rooms, and perhaps the roof. Your auditors will take photos of equipment and fixtures — and should be taking care to stick to the relevant equipment rather than anything that would include the tenants.

In some cases, a blower door may be used to test air pressure, and thermal imaging may map out areas where cold air is getting in.

The full visit typically takes three to four hours. You’re then looking at three to four weeks to get the report. This will include useful information such as your Energy Utilization Index (Benchmark), a series of recommendations for energy conservation measures (ECMs), and the expected savings and payback period.

You Have the Report: Now What?

It may sound cliché, but getting the report is only the start of your energy efficiency journey. You’ll need to act upon your recommendations and resist the fate of too many plans: the preparation work is done only for the report to sit on a desk, unused, while the building continues to inefficiently consume energy.

You may be able to have your auditor book a debrief with you. The chances of long-term success increase when commercial building operators are able to go through the report in detail with a qualified assessor to personally advise them on the findings.

And if you’re in Alberta, you may also qualify for a rebate through Energy Efficiency Alberta’s Custom Energy Solutions program. Make sure to check it out!

Get an Energy Assessment from 3D Energy

Have we convinced you of the value of an energy assessment? Just in case it’s not clear: energy assessments are how you find out how much money you can save on your energy costs — and that number can be significant.

If you’re ready to get started with an energy assessment of your own, click here to learn more and get started! We’ve completed countless assessments that have empowered commercial buildings to save thousands. Every day you don’t start your energy efficiency journey is a day you’re still paying too much for energy.

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