Getting a handle on facility energy efficiency

A facility energy audit is a great first step in a successful energy management program, but you’re not quite ready for a group of consultants armed with an array of equipment and software analysis tools. Fortunately, there are a variety of inexpensive, portable instruments you can use to walk through your facility to spot inefficiencies and locate cost-saving opportunities. These include:

  • Watt meters measure the power consumption and demand of individual motors, appliances, or mechanical equipment. With this information, you can locate the biggest energy users in your facility or identify equipment that’s wasting energy operating frequently at part load.
  • Light meters quantify the illumination levels in various rooms or areas and display them as lux or footcandles. Compare these levels to those recommended in the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Lighting Handbook to assess opportunities for reducing lighting energy use, such as controls and daylighting.
  • Infrared thermography cameras sense the heat energy emitted by a material and convert it to a thermal image. They’re useful for identifying thermal losses in walls and windows, showing you where to seal air leaks and add insulation.
  • Flue gas analyzers measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as the temperature, in the flue (exhaust) gas of boilers and other fuel-burning equipment. This information helps in evaluating the need for excess air control, reducing heat loss, and lowering harmful emissions.
  • Wireless thermometers can detect temperature differences in individual rooms or areas, indicating poor air flow or building air leaks.
  • Tachometers provide rotational speed measurements, which can indicate belt slippage or improper loading in fans, blowers, and other motors. This data is helpful in making adjustments to improve equipment efficiency.
  • Anemometers measure air velocity to determine the average air speed in a duct. The average feet per minute is multiplied by the area of the duct (in square feet) to determine the airflow (cubic feet per minute or CFM) moving through the duct.

You’re off to a good start in reducing energy waste and improving the efficiency of your facility. Where do you go from here? Compare your energy use against similar facilities. The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager™ is a free online tool containing energy use data for thousands of facilities around the country. You can obtain an energy score for your facility to find out where you stand in terms of efficiency.

Armed with this information, you’ll be well on your way to implementing a targeted set of energy-saving measures. Your local electric cooperative’s energy advisor also can provide information about your facility’s energy use. Contact your local electric cooperative for details.