Understanding ASHRAE Level Audits

DSC_7446 (2)EPCO performs energy audits, or energy assessments, for commercial businesses throughout Ohio. Depending on geographic region, there may be utility incentives to cover the cost of the audit. Not all energy audits are made equal, and it is essential to understand the various levels of audits available. The primary goals of an energy audit are to determine how the building energy systems are performing, how improvements can be made to enhance that performance, and how those improvements will affect the owner in both financial and non-financial factors.

Energy audits vary in depth and complexity, depending on a variety of factors including building energy systems configurations, project parameters, and the capabilities the energy auditor can provide. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) has defined three levels of audits that energy providers perform, which I will explain in greater detail.

ASHRAE Level 1 – Walk Through Analysis / Preliminary Audit

The ASHRAE Level-1 audit is the starting point for building energy optimization. This audit involves a review of the facility’s utility bills and operating data, a brief walk-through of the building and basic interviews with on-site operating personnel. This audit is intended to identify areas for potential energy improvements, understand the building configuration, and define the type and nature of energy systems. Your energy advisor should give you a short report detailing findings from the audit, which should identify an array of efficiency opportunities. Typically this report does not include detailed recommendations for improvement, with the exception of very visible operational and project flaws.

The ASHRAE Level-1 audit should help the energy team at a business establish a baseline for measuring energy improvements, and also give them an idea of how their building performs in relation to similar businesses. A common example can be found among many school systems. Often, they will have comprehensive controls in place for systems such as process cooling or heating. But, after years of evolving use, those control set points need to be recalibrated to align with existing facility use.

ASHRAE Level 2 – Energy Survey and Analysis

The ASHRAE Level-2 assessment builds upon the findings of Level-1, and evaluates the building energy systems in detail to define potential energy efficiency improvements. This should include the lighting, ventilation, building envelope, heating, and air conditioning (HVAC), domestic hot water (DHW), compressed air and process cooling or heating. This audit starts with a detailed energy cost and consumption analysis. Then, the assessment should evaluate air quality, lighting, humidity, temperature, ventilation, and other conditions that could influence energy performance or comfort of facility occupants. ASHRAE Level-2 should include in-depth discussions with the building management, ownership, and occupants to examine potential problem areas, and determine their goals for increasing energy efficiency.

Your energy advisor should provide you with a clear and concise report that includes a briefing to the building owner and management team, explaining a variety of Energy Efficiency Measures (EEMs) including operational changes, no-cost and low-cost measures, system controls and building automation modifications, and potential fiscal upgrades. The findings of this audit should also include performance metrics, as well as a method for the building owner to determine the next steps in proceeding with implementation of the plan. Anybody that hasn’t actively been involved with energy efficiency nor have an energy portfolio, we may put under the Level-2 umbrella. Very likely there is a cost associated with this audit, but depending on your geographic location, rebates may cover a good portion of it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a mid-size regional medical facility that asked us to complete an in-depth analysis regarding replacement of their existing HVAC system in exchange for a more efficient solution. Due to the complexity of the system and unique operation of the facility, equipment metering and engineering was required to identify the appropriate solution for the building’s needs. This required a cost, but the majority was covered through local utility incentives.

ASHRAE Level 3 – Detailed Analysis of Capital Intensive Modifications

The ASHRAE Level-3 audit is a very in-depth and detailed energy assessment. This audit involves data collection over the course of weeks or even months. Data loggers will monitor temperatures of affective space, lighting levels, pumps and motors operation, switching behavior, and other factors. This audit requires an intensive facility-wide assessment. We try to steer our clients away from this audit if at all possible, due to its high cost and length of time required. We would only perform this audit in specific situations. One such example would be businesses governed by strict regulations that mandate this level of reporting on an annual or semi-annual basis.

Conclusion

A carefully crafted energy plan will empower your business with the ability to more seamlessly manage your energy portfolio. At EPCO, we design a plan that factors each component of your specific energy fingerprint, including how you use energy, when it’s consumed, and most importantly, where you can save without disruption to your operation.  Whether you move forward immediately with each measure, or wait for a more opportune time, you will be better informed and prepared. For more information on energy planning, contact eauerbach@energyplanners.com or 216.559.4103

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