Everyone has a plan, right? “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” We have probably all heard that before. It makes sense. If you have a plan, you will have success, everything will go smoothly, and the goals will be achieved. However, when it comes to paying energy bills we know they continue to show up every month, according to the electric or gas company plan. The result is almost never a cost as low as you plan on paying or a smooth ride through the budget meeting. Additionally, the ongoing battle goes something like this:

You: “Wow, wasn’t expecting that this month!”

Utility bill: “Glad somebody left those lights on, or was that from the old cooling system…no wait, the big boiler downstairs, behind closed doors, you should see what is going on in there!”

You: “I will go take a look at…”

Interruption occurs. Business continues. Unforeseen events occur. Life happens.

How do you prepare for this monthly struggle with the electric and gas bills? An energy audit, or energy assessment, is your first step to achieving your energy/ environmental/ economic goals. Energy assessments are an action-oriented plan where you can prioritize capital project spending, operational improvements, and see what financial tools are available to help you further your organization’s mission and achieve your goals. Equipment decisions only happen every 5, 10, or 15 years so you want to get it right.

The important aspects are – Do you know what you need? Are you getting what you expect? Does this meet my budget? We all know that you get what you pay for – but there are programs out there to make sure you get a quality energy audit at a price you can afford. There are grants, rebates, on bill funding, loans, etc. that can be used for energy audit costs.

Three levels of energy audits can help develop an Energy Plan:

1.  A Preliminary Energy Use Analysis will provide a building’s historic energy use and cost. This includes developing the Energy Utilization Index (EUI) of the building, comparing the building EUI to similar buildings, and determining if further engineering study will yield significant energy savings. A Preliminary Energy Use Analysis is often the result when a contractor or service provider says they will provide a “free” energy audit.

2.  A Level I—Walk-Through Analysis will assess a building’s energy cost and efficiency by analyzing energy bills and conducting a brief on-site survey of the building. This includes all the Preliminary Energy Use Audit details plus identifying and providing a savings and cost estimate of low-cost/no-cost measures, providing a listing of potential capital improvements that merit further consideration, and delivering an initial judgment of capital improvements (energy savings and estimated project costs).

3.  A Level II—Energy Survey and Analysis includes more detailed field work including a building survey and energy analysis of systems. This level of detail includes the Level I details plus calculating the projected energy savings and implementation costs of all practical measures that meet the owner’s constraints and economic criteria, review of changes to operation/ maintenance procedures resulting in energy savings, providing a listing of potential capital-intensive improvements that require more thorough data collection and engineering analysis. This level of analysis will be adequate for most buildings and should identify at least 10% immediate energy cost savings.

4.  A Level III—Detailed Analysis of Capital-Intensive Modifications is the most detailed and costly. This level of engineering analysis includes the Level II details plus focusing on potential capital-intensive projects identified during the Level II analysis, performing detailed field data collection as well as a more rigorous engineering analysis, providing a listing of detailed projected energy savings calculations and project implementation cost sufficient for major capital investment decisions.

Consider this: while conducting a Level I Energy Audit, sponsored by Ohio Interfaith Power & Light, with the Green Team at St. Peter’s in Gallipolis, a freezer was found with a chain and a padlock on it. Inquiries all around found that no one in the church or regular users had any idea who chained it or why. When the chain was cut and the refrigerator was opened, the block of ice in the picture was found. The freezer was costing the church over $250 per year that is now being directed to St. Peter’s mission in the community.

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Question everything, as you may be surprised what you find.

Justin Kale serves as Director of Opportunity Development at Energility, LLC.

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