Replace the energy audit with the energy inventory
Watson: In a previous Blog after you said you stopped doing Energy Audits years ago, I asked you how you start working with a new facility. As I recall, your answer was that your first step is always to install an energy monitoring system.
Holmes: That’s right. Then the facility has a permanent, unbiased ongoing energy audit that shows where every dollar is spent every minute of every day. The data can be used to start generating no-cost and low-cost saving literally the first day!
Watson: My question is how do you know what points to monitor?
Holmes: Instead of doing an Energy Audit, we first do what we call an Energy Inventory. Do you know what an inventory is Watson?
Watson: According to www.merriam-webster.com an “Inventory” is defined as a complete list of things that are in place.
Holmes: Right; and in our case the “things” are the Energy Systems. Instead of trying to identify and estimate usage and potential savings, which we don’t believe can be done accurately during an Energy Audit, we start by identifying the significant energy using equipment and systems. From our experience we know which points need to be monitored to track energy usage and efficiency. We pick out the sensors and do a preliminary design for an Energy Monitoring System.
Watson: An Energy Monitoring System sounds expensive.
Holmes: It can be if you select the wrong points or make it too complicated. If you monitor too many points you can be overwhelmed with data. Too few and you can’t learn what you need to know. The key is to select only the points you need. The simpler the better. Done properly, our experience has shown time and time again that Energy Monitoring System is the best investment you can make with the quickest return.
Remember, for the first 20 years of our existence, we paid for all of the instrumentation up front and our only fee was a percentage of actual, documented savings each month. We learned how to get the most usable data at the least cost and analyze and present it in order to produce and maintain the greatest savings.
As a result, our perspective is quite different from those who make their money by selling energy audits or equipment, not from actually saving energy.
Watson: If I understand you correctly Holmes, what you have found to work best is, instead of an Energy Audit being the first step in an energy project, the Energy Inventory should be the first step, leading to the installation an unbiased, permanent, continuous Energy Auditing System. Then that system can be used to produce immediate low-cost and no-cost savings and to determine if and what capital improvements might be a good investment.
You are doing exactly what we were taught in engineering school Holmes; first establish a baseline and use actual data to evaluate opportunities, make improvements and validate savings.
Holmes: Right. And if someone proposes a capital project, the owner can get a written guarantee of promised savings and use the monitoring system to verify them on an ongoing basis.
Watson: So what you are saying Holmes is that valid scientific methods need to be employed to actually measure and verify energy savings. An Energy Monitoring System will serve as a completely unbiased, independent auditor. It will provide more than the subjective findings by those involved in the project.
I remembered a quote from one of my textbooks and found it last night, “Views not backed by data are more likely to include personal opinions, exaggerations and mistaken impressions.” Mary Walton, The Deming Management Method, The Putnam Publishing Group 1986
Holmes: You continue to amaze me Watson. You catch on faster than many who have been in this profession for years and are still wasting precious resources doing audits, studies and models instead of actually saving energy. I will leave you with a quotation that I have saved for more than 30 years that is just as true today as it was in 1983:
“Energy tracking to achieve energy efficiency shows you where you are, where you want to go and how you can stay on course. Without tracking, how does the energy manager know where to begin? If something is done, how can it be shown that the effort did any good?” C. Lewis Wilson, Heating/Piping/Air Conditioning, January 1983
Tell us about your experiences, both good and bad with energy professionals, what has worked and what hasn’t. Send us your comments, thoughts and suggestions on how to improve our profession so we can all continue to learn from each other. Thanks – Holmes & Watson.