33 Basic Components Of An Energy Audit

An initial summary of the basic steps involved in conducting a successful energy audit is provided here, and these steps are explained more fully in the sections that follow. This audit description primarily addresses the steps in an industrial or large-scale commercial audit, and not all of the procedures described in this section are required for every type of audit.

The audit process starts by collecting information about a facility's operation and about its past record of utility bills. This data is then analyzed to get a picture of how the facility uses—and possibly wastes—energy, as well as to help the auditor learn what areas to examine to reduce energy costs. Specific changes—called Energy Conservation Opportunities (ECOs)—are identified and evaluated to determine their benefits and their cost-effectiveness. These ECOs are assessed in terms of their costs and benefits, and an economic comparison is made to rank the various ECOs. Finally, an Action Plan is created where certain ECOs are selected for implementation, and the actual process of saving energy and saving money begins.

3.3.1 The Auditor's Toolbox

To obtain the best information for a successful energy cost control program, the auditor must make some measurements during the audit visit. The amount of equipment needed depends on the type of energy-consuming equipment used at the facility, and on the range of potential ECOs that might be considered. For example, if waste heat recovery is being considered, then the auditor must take substantial temperature measurement data from potential heat sources. Tools commonly needed for energy audits are listed below:

Tape Measures

The most basic measuring device needed is the tape measure. A 25-foot tape measure l" wide and a 100-foot tape measure are used to check the dimensions of walls, ceilings, windows and distances between pieces of equipment for purposes such as determining the length of a pipe for transferring waste heat from one piece of equipment to the other.


One simple and useful instrument is the lightmeter which is used to measure illumination levels in facilities. A l ightmeter that reads in footcandles allows direct analysis of lighting systems and comparison with recommended light levels specified by the Illuminating Engineering Society. A small lightmeter that is portable and can fit into a pocket is the most useful. Many areas in buildings and plants are still significantly over-lighted, and measuring this excess illumination then allows the auditor to recommend a reduction in lighting levels through lamp removal programs or by replacing inefficient lamps with high efficiency lamps that may not supply the same amount of illumination as the old inefficient lamps.


Several thermometers are generally needed to measure temperatures in offices and other worker areas, and to measure the temperature of operating equipment. Knowing process temperatures allows the auditor to determine process equipment efficiencies, and also to identify waste heat sources for potential heat recovery programs. Inexpensive electronic thermometers with interchangeable probes are now available to measure temperatures in both these areas. Some common types include an immersion probe, a surface temperature probe, and a radiation shielded probe for measuring true air temperature. Other types of infra-red thermometers and thermographic equipment are also available. An infra-red "gun" is valuable for measuring temperatures of steam lines that are not readily reached without a ladder.

Infrared Cameras

Infrared cameras are still rather expensive pieces of equipment. An investment of at least $25,000 is needed to have a quality infrared camera. However, these are very versatile pieces of equipment and can be used to find overheated electrical wires, connections, neutrals, circuit breakers, transformers, motors and other pieces of electrical equipment. They can also be used to find wet insulation, missing insulation, roof leaks, and cold spots. Thus, infrared cameras are excellent tools for both safety related diagnostics and energy savings diagnostics. A good rule of thumb is that if one safety hazard is found during an infrared scan of a facility, then that has paid for the cost of the scan for the entire facility. Many insurers require infrared scans of buildings for facilities once a year.


An inexpensive voltmeter is useful for determining operating voltages on electrical equipment, and especially useful when the nameplate has worn off of a piece of equipment or is otherwise unreadable or missing. The most versatile instrument is a combined volt-ohm-ammeter with a clamp-on feature for measuring currents in conductors that are easily accessible. This type of multimeter is convenient and relatively inexpensive. Any newly purchased voltmeter, or multimeter, should be a true RMS meter for greatest accuracy where harmonics might be involved.

Clamp On Ammeter

These are very useful instruments for measuring current in a wire without having to make any live electrical connections. The clamp is opened up and put around one insulated conductor, and the meter reads the current in that conductor. New clamp on ammeters can be purchased rather inexpensively that read true RMS values. This is important because of the level of harmonics in many of our facilities. An idea of the level of harmonics in a load can be estimated from using an old non-RMS ammeter, and then a true RMS ammeter to measure the current. If there is more than a five to ten percent difference between the two readings, there is a significant harmonic content to that load.

Wattmeter/Power Factor Meter

A portable hand-held wattmeter and power factor meter is very handy for determining the power consumption and power factor of individual motors and other inductive devices. This meter typically has a clamp-on feature which allows an easy connection to the current-carrying conductor, and has probes for voltage connections. Any newly purchased wattmeter or power factor meter, should be a true RMS meter for greatest accuracy where harmonics might be involved

Combustion Analyzer

Combustion analyzers are portable devices capable of estimating the combustion efficiency of furnaces, boilers, or other fossil fuel burning machines. Two types are available: digital analyzers and manual combustion analysis kits. Digital combustion analysis equipment performs the measurements and reads out in percent combustion efficiency. These instruments are fairly complex and expensive.

The manual combustion analysis kits typically require multiple measurements including exhaust stack temperature, oxygen content, and carbon dioxide content. The efficiency of the combustion process can be calculated after determining these parameters. The manual process is lengthy and is frequently subject to human error.

Airflow Measurement Devices

Measuring air flow from heating, air conditioning or ventilating ducts, or from other sources of air flow is one of the energy auditor's tasks. Airflow measurement devices can be used to identify problems with air flows, such as whether the combustion air flow into a gas heater is correct. Typical airflow measuring devices include a velometer, an anemometer, or an airflow hood. See section 3.4.3 for more detail on airflow measurement devices.

Blower Door Attachment

Building or structure tightness can be measured with a blower door attachment. This device is frequently used in residences and in office buildings to determine the air leakage rate or the number of air changes per hour in the facility. This is often helps determine whether the facility has substantial structural or duct leaks that need to be found and sealed. See section 3.4.2 for additional information on blower doors.

Smoke Generator

A simple smoke generator can also be used in residences, offices and other buildings to find air infiltration and leakage around doors, windows, ducts and other structural features. Care must be taken in using this device, since the chemical "smoke" produced may be hazardous, and breathing protection masks may be needed. See section 3.4.1 for additional information on the smoke generation process, and use of smoke generators.

Safety Equipment

The use of safety equipment is a vital precaution for any energy auditor. A good pair of safety glasses is an absolute necessity for almost any audit visit. Hearing protectors may also be required on audit visits to noisy plants or areas with high horsepower motors driving fans and pumps. Electrical insulated gloves should be used if electrical measurements will be taken, and asbestos gloves should be used for working around boilers and heaters. Breathing masks may also be needed when hazardous fumes are present from processes or materials used. Steel-toe and steel-shank safety shoes may be needed on audits of plants where heavy materials, hot or sharp materials or hazardous materials are being used. (See section 3.3.3 for an additional discussion of safety procedures.)

Miniature Data Loggers

Miniature—or mini—data loggers have appeared in low cost models in the last five years. These are often devices that can be held in the palm of the hand, and are electronic instruments that record measurements of temperature, relative humidity, light intensity, light on/ off, and motor on/off. If they have an external sensor input jack, these little boxes are actually general purpose data loggers. With external sensors they can record measurements of current, voltage, apparent power (kVA), pressure, and CO2.

These data loggers have a microcomputer control chip and a memory chip, so they can be initialized and then can record data for periods of time from days to weeks. They can record data on a 24 hour a day basis, without any attention or intervention on the part of the energy auditor. Most of these data loggers interface with a digital computer PC, and can transfer data into a spreadsheet of the user's choice, or can use the software provided by the suppliers of the loggers.

Collecting audit data with these small data loggers gives a more complete and accurate picture of an energy system's overall performance because some conditions may change over long periods of time, or when no one is present.

Vibration Analysis Gear

Relatively new in the energy manager's tool box is vibration analysis equipment. The correlation between machine condition (bearings, pulley alignment, etc.) and energy consumption is related and this equipment monitors such machine health. This equipment comes in various levels of sophistication and price. At the lower end of the spectrum are vibration pens (or probes) that simply give real-time amplitude readings of vibrating equipment in in/sec or mm/sec. This type of equipment can cost under $1,000. The engineer compares the measured vibration amplitude to a list of vibration levels (ISO2372) and is able to determine if the vibration is excessive for that particular piece of equipment.

The more typical type of vibration equipment will measure and log the vibration into a database (on-board and downloadable). In addition to simply measuring vibration amplitude, the machine vibration can be displayed in time or frequency domains. The graphs of vibration in the frequency domain will normally exhibit spikes at certain frequencies. These spikes can be interpreted by a trained individual to determine the relative health of the machine monitored.

The more sophisticated machines are capable of trend analysis so that facility equipment can be monitored on a schedule and changes in vibration (amplitudes and frequencies) can be noted. Such trending can be used to schedule maintenance based on observations of change. This type of equipment starts at about $3,000 and goes up depending on features desired.

3.3.2 Preparing for the Audit Visit

Some preliminary work must be done before the auditor makes the actual energy audit visit to a facility. Data should be collected on the facility's use of energy through examination of utility bills, and some preliminary information should be compiled on the physical description and operation of the facility. This data should then be analyzed so that the auditor can do the most complete job of identifying Energy Conservation Opportunities during the actual site visit to the facility.

Energy Use Data

The energy auditor should start by collecting data on energy use, power demand and cost for at least the previous 12 months. Twenty-four months of data might be necessary to adequately understand some types of billing methods. Bills for gas, oil, coal, electricity, etc. should be compiled and examined to determine both the amount of energy used and the cost of that energy. This data should then be put into tabular and graphic form to see what kind of patterns or problems appear from the tables or graphs. Any anomaly in the pattern of energy use raises the possibility for some significant energy or cost savings by identifying and controlling that anomalous behavior. Sometimes an anomaly on the graph or in the table reflects an error in billing, but generally the deviation shows that some activity is going on that has not been noticed, or is not completely understood by the customer.

Rate Structures

To fully understand the cost of energy, the auditor must determine the rate structure under which that energy use is billed. Energy rate structures may go from the extremely simple ones—for example, $1.00 per gallon of Number 2 fuel oil, to very complex ones—for example, electricity consumption which may have a customer charge, energy charge, demand charge, power factor charge, and other miscellaneous charges that vary from month to month. Few customers or businesses really understand the various rate structures that control the cost of the energy they consume. The auditor can help here because the customer must know the basis for the costs in order to control them successfully.

• Electrical Demand Charges: The demand charge is based on a reading of the maximum power in kW that a customer demands in one month. Power is the rate at which energy is used, and it varies quite rapidly for many facilities. Electric utilities average the power reading over intervals from fifteen minutes to one hour, so that very short fluctuations do not adversely affect customers. Thus, a customer might be billed for demand for a month based on a maximum value of a fifteen minute integrated average of their power use.

• Ratchet Clauses: Some utilities have a ratchet clause in their rate structure which stipulates that the minimum power demand charge will be the highest demand recorded in the last billing period or some percentage (i.e., typically 70%) of the highest power demand recorded in the last year. The ratchet clause can increase utility charges for facilities during periods of low activity or where power demand is tied to extreme weather.

• Discounts/Penalties: Utilities generally provide discounts on their energy and power rates for customers who accept power at high voltage and provide transformers on site. They also commonly assess penalties when a customer has a power factor less than 0.9. Inductive loads (e.g., lightly loaded electric motors, old fluorescent lighting ballasts, etc.) reduce the power factor. Improvement can be made by adding capacitance to correct for lagging power factor, and variable capacitor banks are most useful for improving the power factor at the service drop. Capacitance added near the loads can effectively increase the electrical system capacity. Turning off idling or lightly loaded motors can also help.

Wastewater charges: The energy auditor also frequently looks at water and wastewater use and costs as part of the audit visit. These costs are often related to the energy costs at a facility. Wastewater charges are usually based on some proportion of the metered water use since the solids are difficult to meter. This can needlessly result in substantial increases in the utility bill for processes which do not contribute to the wastewater stream (e.g., makeup water for cooling towers and other evapo rative devices, irrigation, etc.). A water meter can be installed at the service main to supply the loads not returning water to the sewer system. This can reduce the charges by up to two-thirds.

Energy bills should be broken down into the components that can be controlled by the facility. These cost components can be listed individually in tables and then plotted. For example, electricity bills should be broken down into power demand costs per kW per month, and energy costs per kWh. The following example illustrates the parts of a rate structure for an industry in Florida.

Example: A company that fabricates metal products gets electricity from its electric utility at the following general service demand rate structure.

Rate structure: Customer cost Energy cost Demand cost Taxes

Fuel adjustment

$21.00 per month $0.051 per kWh $6.50 per kW per month Total of 8%

A variable amount per kWh each month

The energy use and costs for that company for a year are summarized below:

Summary of Energy Usage and Costs


kWh Used (kWh)

kWh Cost ($)

Cost ($)


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