Do you ever wonder how efficiently your facility is running? What if you could reduce your facility’s emissions and energy bill by 20% or more? Energy efficiency audits can do just that. By looking at where the energy in your facility is going, and more importantly where it’s wasted, an efficiency audit can give clarity to which systems your facility should focus on improving to lower energy usage and reduce emissions.
Why Are Efficiency Audits Needed?
Most facilities have small inefficiencies throughout that often go unnoticed. While a small leak in a compressed air line is easy to brush off, a facility with a thousand of those leaks is throwing away a good deal of money.
Efficiency audits are used to investigate where energy is consumed in a facility and then determine what improvements can be made to improve the efficiency of the facility. Energy auditors are trained on which systems to investigate and how to determine where energy is being wasted. After an energy efficiency audit, your facility will have a clear picture of the biggest wastes of energy and what needs to be done to fix them.
What Should Be Audited?
When doing an efficiency audit, going after the big items will get you the most bang for your buck. Equipment that consumes large amounts of energy can also waste large amounts of energy if it isn’t running efficiently. Here are some of the systems that should be included in an energy audit:
Because they are constantly treating and moving large amounts of air, HVAC systems consume a great deal of energy in most facilities. Filters are placed in HVAC systems to keep the air being circulated clean, and to prevent dirt and debris from building up inside of the units on coils or fans. As filters pick up more and more particulates, the HVAC system has to use more energy to pull the same amount of air through the filter. Changing filters regularly, and including filters as part of a preventative maintenance schedule, helps prevent filters from becoming energy hogs in your facility.
Similar to HVAC systems, pumps consume energy to move fluids throughout a facility. As parts on the pumps wear down, they lose efficiency, meaning the pump will pull more energy to do the same amount of work. In addition to loss of efficiency from wear, if seals fail or begin to break down, even more energy can be wasted. Pumps should be included in any energy efficiency audit to determine if changes need to be made (or if any equipment should be rebuilt or replaced).
Especially in colder climates, or in facilities that have processes requiring significant amounts of heat, the fuel for boilers can make up the bulk of the energy bill. Starting with simple steps like combustion tuning can make a world of difference. Combustion tuning analyzes the byproducts in the exhaust gas from the burner to determine how well the boiler is operating. Getting the air-fuel ratio dialed in just right ensures that fuel isn’t being wasted. Checking for leaks and ensuring insulation is in good shape are both simple tasks that should be performed on existing installations.
If a boiler is nearing the end of its useful life, it may be worthwhile to consider replacing it with a modern, more efficient version. Modern boilers benefit from better process control and features like enhanced heat recovery. These boilers are often much more efficient than their older counterparts. Replacing an old boiler in your facility with a new one can greatly decrease your facility’s energy bill.
Compressed air is often referred to as the fourth utility because of how crucial it is in many facilities. While critical, it can also waste tons of energy from leaks and other inefficiencies. As part of an efficiency audit, the compressed air system should be checked for leaks. Worn-out equipment, like weak check valves or slipping belts, can also run the energy bill up.
When Should You Do an Audit?
If you’ve never had an audit performed for your facility, we recommend scheduling one as soon as possible. This can help you to immediately identify what needs to be addressed and set you up for better efficiency and productivity moving forward. In addition, it helps to be mindful of seasonal changes in staffing and workload - if you’re expecting a slower time period, with lower production expectations or fewer people in your facility (such as around the holidays), that may be the best time to take a look at your equipment. Tate’s staff is available 24/7 to speak with you about scheduling maintenance, repairs and inspection, so if you know a good time for an audit is coming up, give us a call.
Another important factor in determining when you should do an energy audit, and how detailed the audit should be, is your reason for doing the audit in the first place. Cost reductions, increased facility value, increased equipment lifetime, and reduced carbon footprint are all reasons for an energy audit. The level of analysis depends on the depth of savings you’d like the audit to uncover and the amount you are willing to pay for those results.
ASHRAE defines three levels of energy audits starting with a quick walkthrough and ending with a full, detailed analysis. As time goes on, energy efficiency audits become more valuable. If your facility has never had an energy audit performed, it is almost always recommended that a level 3 analysis be performed. If your facility’s utilities are a large portion of the facility’s overhead, or if utility bills have steadily been creeping up, it’s time to have at least a level 1 analysis performed. After 5 years, an efficiency audit can usually find around 10% in energy savings. After 10 years, efficiency audits often uncover about 20% in energy savings for your facility. The annual cost savings typically pay for the analysis, often many times over.
Efficiency audits cover many different systems, all with the intention of determining where the energy in your facility is going. By properly performing an efficiency audit, many facilities can find more than 20% savings in energy and emissions. Reach out to the experts at Tate to start planning your facility’s next efficiency audit today, and download our maintenance guides for help with looking closely at your boilers and air compressors.