What is an energy audit?
Energy audits provide an assessment of a building’s overall energy use and performance. They identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption and optimize building system and operations performance.
An energy audit can provide information about potential energy-use reduction measures and their associated operational cost-saving opportunities. It is a crucial step to making informed decisions about building performance because it can help you understand what energy conservation measures to pursue to achieve your goals.
Energy audits provide a roadmap to:
- identify cost-effective solutions that have the greatest impact on reducing energy consumption
- enable a building-specific cost analysis of potential options for improvements
- facilitate larger internal discussions about how these building improvements fit into other building investments and operational practices
Energy audit levels
There are three types of energy audits, established as industry standards by ASHRAE. They are listed below from simplest to most detailed.
- Walkthrough Audit (ASHRAE Level I Audit). Provides an initial, cursory walkthrough of the building and its systems and equipment, which is accompanied by a review of a building’s utility bills. It is intended to only provide a high-level overview of no- or low-cost energy savings measures and should be considered a starting point to understanding potential savings opportunities.
- Detailed Audit (ASHRAE Level II Audit). Provides an analysis to identify measures with greatest energy savings and financial cost-benefit based on a fuel-use analysis alongside interviewing on-site staff.
- Investment Grade Audit (ASHRAE Level III Audit). Highly detailed engineering analysis of capital-intensive measures alongside financial analysis for potential investments.
Interpreting the report
When reviewing an energy audit report, cost effectiveness is the common way to evaluate the findings and determine which actions to take. However, this depends on the goals you are trying to achieve. Some things to consider when reviewing an energy audit report include:
- the incentives, funding, and financing options available to fund enhanced building performance improvement projects
- the potential non-energy benefits such as the impact on the health and wellness of the building’s occupants
- the potential to hire local, small, minority- and/or women-owned vendors to execute the recommendations in the audit report, all of which can positively support your brand and market positioning
Companies that do this
- The DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) provides one-on-one assistance in identifying energy efficiency improvement opportunities and available rebates and incentives to implement various energy conservation measures.
- Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) are full-service energy development firms that specialize in investment-grade audits for municipal, university, school, and hospital projects. They develop, design, build, and arrange financing for projects that reduce save energy and decrease operational costs. Additional, they guarantee energy savings.
- Professional consultants
Where to find a vendor
- The list of DCSEU’s Pay for Performance Contractors
- Search for an ASHRAE-certified professional
- The DC Department of Small and Local Business Development maintains a searchable list of Certified Business Enterprises. Search for NIGP codes:
- 9101600: Energy Conservation Services (Including Audits)
- 9184100: Energy Conservation Consulting
- 9184600: Feasibility Studies (Consulting)
- 9253400: Energy Management Engineering
Qualifications to look for
There is no one industry standard and there is a wide range of commonly recognized energy auditor credentials.
- Licensed Engineer (PE)
- ASHRAE-certified Building Energy Auditor Professional (BEAP)
- Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), Certified Energy Auditor (CEA)
- Energy Audit Institute, Commercial Energy Audit Certification
Equity and inclusion factors
- Select larger firms for investment-grade audits with a strong diversity and inclusion track record.
- Audits identify project opportunities of varying sizes. Smaller projects, such as single-measure retrofits (e.g. for lighting) or simple upgrades, provide a greater opportunity for small business utilization.
Where to learn more
Review the U.S. Department of Energy’s A Guide to Energy Audits, which outlines what to expect and the audit process, including how to find and hire a vendor.