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In the fast-paced world of business, finding strategies to work smarter and reduce operational costs has never been more important. Energy expenses account for a considerable portion of a business’ operational expenses, so finding strategies to more efficiently use energy stands out as a powerful cost saving opportunity. Energy audits offer business owners a strategic approach to identify areas where energy use can be optimized or reduced. The insights from these assessments provide actionable guidelines for reducing costs and improving business operations.

What is a Commercial Energy Audit?

A commercial energy audit is a thorough investigation into your business’ energy usage. They come in various levels of intensity, from basic assessments to in-depth analyses for large-scale productions. Regardless of the level of detail the audit provides, the outcome will always focus on ways your business can use less energy. The less energy your business consumes, the more money you save on energy bills. Commercial energy audits are a proactive approach to find energy inefficiencies and discover opportunities to optimize your business’s energy consumption. 

Types of Energy Audits

Professional energy audits have three different levels of intensity depending on your business’s goals and budget. Below, you’ll find all three levels of commercial energy audits, ranging from simple assessments to complex cost-benefit analyses. 

Level 1 – Walk-Through Analysis

Level 1 commercial energy audits focus on low and no-cost energy conservation measures. Energy auditors will typically also provide a list of higher cost energy efficiency upgrades to consider as well. At the end of your audit, you’ll receive a report detailing how much energy and money can be saved from these specific efficiency opportunities. 

Level 2 – Energy Survey and Analysis

Level 2 commercial energy audits go a step further than Level 1 by providing more detailed energy calculations and a financial analysis of their recommended energy efficiency upgrades. Their financial analysis is typically a lifecycle analysis, which provides insights into the financial benefits of installing energy-efficient equipment or building systems. At the end of a Level 2 audit, you’ll receive a list of energy conservation measures and upgrades, an estimate of how much energy and money will be saved, and a cost estimate for each. This more detailed report may also include any behavioral changes needed for improved operations and maintenance. 

Level 3 – Detailed Analysis of Capital-Intensive Modifications

Level 3 commercial energy audits are the most in-depth assessment of energy use and conservation measures. These audits include individual reports about specific efficiency upgrades with more detailed data and analysis. After a Level 3 audit, you’ll still receive Level 2 list of efficiency upgrades, however Level 3 includes more detailed financial insights and more extensive data collection. These audits are often used to provide detailed information to lenders for large, complicated projects. 

There are three levels of commercial energy audits, ranging from a walk-though to a more detailed survey and analysis and the even more extensive analysis of intensive modifications.

Preparing for an Energy Audit – What can you expect? 

 It’s essential for you to have clear energy goals before starting any energy audit. Take time to reflect on the desired outcome for the audit. Whether you’re hoping to reduce energy costs, create more eco-friendly and sustainable operations, or a blend of both, having clear goals will provide your energy auditor with a focus point. 

To begin, consider creating a dedicated energy task force with a team of experts with diverse skills. These experts can include energy specialists, facility managers, or financial experts. Collaboration among these professionals ensures a more comprehensive approach to the audit process. 

How to Conduct a Commercial Energy Audit

1. Assess your current energy usage

First, it’s essential to establish an energy consumption baseline. Gather historical energy bills and any additional energy consumption data spanning a distinct period of time. Your baseline data gives you a starting point to establish data-driven energy conservation goals. After implementing efficiency upgrades, your baseline is the figure you will use to measure progress towards energy-saving goals. 

2. Identifying energy-saving opportunities

The second step of the auditing process is an in-depth onsite analysis of your building envelope, building systems, and electronic equipment. Most energy audits begin with an assessment of your lighting system. Modern lighting technologies provide low-cost opportunities to consume less energy. For example, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting consumes 75% less energy and lasts up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, resulting in lower utility bills and less maintenance costs. 

Energy auditors also examine your HVAC systems as well as your building envelope. Ensuring proper building insulation and performing regular HVAC maintenance can lead to significant energy savings. Your auditor examines windows, doors, and ventilation systems for energy wasting leaks and other hidden inefficiencies. These often contribute to excessive energy waste, increasing the cost for heating or cooling your office. 

Lastly, your energy auditor will assess your electronic equipment, such as computers, printers, and other appliances. These can present opportunities for energy conservation practices or can be eligible for energy efficient appliance upgrades. Replacing outdated equipment with Energy Star-certified models can reduce energy consumption without compromising functionality.

3. Develop an action plan

Once you’ve identified energy-saving opportunities around your business, it’s time to make a detailed action plan. In this step of the auditing process, you’ll estimate the financial benefits of energy-saving opportunities by projecting the energy savings for each upgrade. Evaluating the return on investment (ROI) for proposed changes is important to determine the viability and prioritization of each project.  By balancing the potential energy savings with the cost and complexity of the effort, specific projects will emerge as quick and easy wins for you to implement.

4. Implement efficiency upgrades

Once the results of your energy audit are in, it’s time to implement your energy-saving action plan. Begin by educating your co-workers about simple energy-saving practices. Start by switching off lights when not in use or powering down computers and electronics at the end of the day. Conduct workshops on energy-saving techniques to foster a culture of energy conservation. 

The second phase of implementation includes the more costly upgrades. Replacing outdated electronics and appliances with energy-efficient models will save energy and money over time. This is also the phase to implement new HVAC maintenance practices, upgrade to LED lightbulbs, and fix any inefficiencies in your building envelope. 

5. Monitoring and tracking energy usage

 Sustaining energy savings is not a singular act, but an ongoing endeavor. The final step in the energy audit process is continuously monitoring your energy usage and tracking progress towards energy-saving goals. Investing in a smart meter provides better visibility into energy usage patterns. You can also consider implementing an energy management system (EMS) for more in-depth energy reporting and analysis. The data-driven insights from an EMS help you make informed decisions and adjust energy usage accordingly. 

Furthermore, conducting annual energy audits will allow you to gauge the impact of implemented changes and identify new optimization ideas. Their detailed energy consumption reports provide data to guide decisions on future actions and investments.

A commercial energy audit includes assessing your current energy usage, identifying savings opportunities, developing an energy action plan, implementing the upgrades, and tracking progress.

Benefits of an Audit

An energy audit can improve efficiency and financial savings in your business. Audits provide a data-driven roadmap to become more energy conscious in your day-to-day work practices. While saving money is usually the catalyst to performing an energy audit, there are many more reasons to start saving energy today:

Reducing Energy Expenses: The less energy your office uses, the lower your energy expenses will be. Businesses can save up to 30% on energy bills by implementing energy conservation practices. 

Identifying Equipment Inefficiencies: Energy audits help identify any issues your equipment might have, enabling you to address faulty or inefficient equipment before they become costly repairs or upgrades. 

Increased Employee Comfort: Part of the audit process examines building insulation and HVAC systems. Completing efficiency upgrades helps you create a more reliable and more efficiently heated or cooled space for you and your employees. 

Personalized Recommendations for Your Business: Energy auditors tailor the assessment project based on your businesses unique energy demands and energy conservation goals. These experts help you customize an energy strategy specifically for your business. 

Demonstrating a Commitment to Sustainability: By implementing energy efficiency upgrades, you demonstrate to your employees and customers that you care about the impact you’re making on the environment.

Increasing Your Property Value: By implementing your energy auditor’s recommended upgrades, your facility’s property values will increase. Things like solar panels, LED lighting, and modern HVAC systems contribute to higher property value. 

Longer Equipment Lifespan: Implementing regular maintenance or upgrading to energy-efficient appliances ensures that your equipment will stand the test of time. Energy-efficient models don’t have to work as hard as older, outdated equipment to provide the same level of performance. 

Get Help with an Energy Audit

Not sure where to get started? Taking the first step towards more energy efficient operations can be a daunting task. Below, we provide several resources to help you get started on your energy conservation journey.

Finding a trusted energy auditor

There are three main types of energy audit providers: utility companies, private sector companies, and state energy offices. Each comes with their own set of expertise and cost considerations.

Utility Company Energy Audits: Many utility companies offer free or low-cost energy audits. They may have their own energy conservation departments or provide supplemental energy saving reports or resources.

Private Sector Companies: Consultants, energy service companies (ESCOs), and Energy Star service and project providers (SPPs) can conduct audits, recommend conservation projects, and estimate the investment costs of upgrades. Some ESCOs will rebate the cost of the audit if you also use their services to implement efficiency improvements. 

State Energy Office: Your state energy office may offer free or low-cost energy audits. You can reference the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) interactive map to see if these services are available in your area. 

Financing your energy efficiency projects

The upfront investment costs of energy efficiency upgrades are often the reason these vital projects are postponed or abandoned. Fortunately, there are many federal, state, and local grants and tax incentives to help offset these costs. You can determine what financial incentives are available for your energy efficiency projects by visiting the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE.)

Start Saving on Energy Today

In conclusion, the journey towards energy efficiency through audits is a strategic investment that offers substantial returns. From reducing operational costs and demonstrating a commitment to sustainability to cultivating a culture of energy-conscious practices, the benefits extend far beyond the immediate financial gains. As you embark on an energy conservation journey, remember that every small change adds up, and collective efforts can make a significant impact. Equip your business with the knowledge gained from this guide, gather your energy audit team, and pave the way for a more energy-efficient and prosperous tomorrow.

Integrity Energy is one of the largest commercial energy brokers in the country. We’ve helped more than 40,000 businesses save on their energy bills over the past decade. Take the first step towards lowering your energy expenses by requesting a free quote today. Our energy experts provide expert guidance and customized energy plans with the most competitive rates on the market. Partner with Integrity Energy and start saving today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is an energy audit important?

An energy audit enhances office efficiency and financial savings. Businesses can strategically make changes that yield economic benefits by understanding how energy is consumed.

How long does an energy audit usually take?

Depending on the depth, energy audits can span from a few hours to a few days. The audit process’s level of detail and complexity determines the time required.

What can offices do to save energy?

Turn off lights when not in use. Upgrade lights to modern, energy-efficient LEDs. Use energy-efficient appliances. Upgrade HVAC systems to eliminate inefficiencies and leaks. Replace outdated windows with high-tech, insulated varieties. Simple actions, when embraced collectively, can lead to significant energy conservation.

Are there programs to help with energy audits?

Yes, many programs offer assistance and discounts for energy audits. Government and utility-sponsored initiatives are designed to support businesses in pursuing energy efficiency.

How can workers contribute to energy savings?

Turn off lights when not in use. Report energy waste. Suggesting energy-saving ideas. Embracing energy-efficient behaviors and raising awareness within the workplace can lead to collective efforts in energy conservation.

For more answers to your energy-efficiency questions, please review our General FAQ.