Getting the Most from an Energy Assessment

By Ryan Zimmerman, Energy Engineer

In this day of increasing utility costs, energy efficiency and reduced consumption are the goals of every business – especially industrial firms. There are a lot of standalone measures manufacturing companies can take to improve their energy usage – but the greatest gains occur when they have a comprehensive energy efficiency plan. This plan begins with an energy assessment.

Energy assessment and energy audit are often used interchangeably. D.L. Steiner considers an energy assessment to be a more basic energy study that compares a facility’s current
energy consumption (in all forms: gas, electric, etc.) to reference standards in order to analyze whether its usage is “good,” “average,” or “poor” with respect to similar operations.

A key part of the energy assessment is a facility walkthrough to collect data and identify opportunities for improving efficiency or reducing consumption. The walkthrough entails more than just looking at lighting or for places to add insulation. Typically, what results is a list of possibilities from various areas where a facility can realize energy savings by making certain changes. Estimates of energy savings percentages or reductions in energy costs are also included.

The results of an energy assessment often warrant an energy audit. D.L. Steiner considers an energy audit to be a more in-depth and formal study. We’ll discuss audits another time.

The value you’ll receive from an energy assessment is directly related to the amount of information about your facility that you provide to your energy assessor. That said, here’s a basic list of what to make available:

Facility details – Whether your facility is a standalone or part of a complex; the square footage of each area or building; the type of heating and cooling used (electric, gas, other).

Utility bills – One to three years of billing history for all utilities (electric, gas, water, sewer, other); tariff rates; how your facility uses gas and water.

Product information – What your facility makes and how much is produced per month (pounds preferred to units); how much it costs to make; operations details (operating days, number of shifts, and shift times).

Facility drawings – If you have them, (1) a plot plan of the facility, (2) an electrical single-line diagram, (3) flowcharts of production processes.

Previous studies – The reports from any previous energy studies and the results they produced.

Supplying facility information to the energy assessor ahead of time is almost as important as the information, itself. This gives the assessor a chance to get to know your facility and how you operate, before coming on site, so the walkthrough can be devoted to collecting data about the facility – not becoming familiar with it.

On the day of the walkthrough, allow the assessor as much access to the facility as possible, and make sure any facility personnel the assessor wants to interview are available. The data an assessor needs for a meaningful energy assessment aren’t only found on drawings or billing records.

Energy-efficiency is the ambition of every business. By doing a little up-front work, you’ll get more mileage out of your energy assessment – to help your company take a giant step toward this objective.