Energy management series: Out and about

Data can give energy professionals lots of valuable information about their energy estate, but don’t underestimate the importance of getting out and about and conducting a walkthrough survey of your buildings.

Physically surveying buildings will give you a better understanding of their energy performance, identify where energy and water efficiency savings can be made and reveal insights to support your energy management strategy.

It is likely that the current COVID-19 situation will affect how your organisation’s buildings are operating. However, if they are still using energy it can be a worthwhile activity to seek out opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of your buildings. These improvements can help you to reduce overheads, keep the property in good working order, and inform your long-term energy and environmental strategy.

Where do you start?

Before you conduct your survey, we recommend studying the energy data for your buildings first. Identifying peaks and troughs, or anomalies in your consumption data before completing the survey, will help you define where you can look to make the biggest impact on reducing wastage, improve efficiency and make savings.

Data from AMR or Smart Meters is particularly useful for showing trends and changes in your consumption over a period of time, and can explain increases such as a cold winter or an installation of new equipment that required more usage at the time. If the change cannot be explained, then it would be beneficial to investigate further with a survey.

Conducting the survey, areas for consideration

Analysis of data will highlight key areas to assess when you’re conducting the survey, to help you get to the root of the problem and identify opportunities for lowering consumption or being more energy efficient.

For example, if you have concerns over your heating energy consumption, it’s a good idea to investigate the insulation of the building, if it’s not sufficient you could be using more energy to heat the property. Also, check the HVAC system; the condition and age of the system could be affecting how efficiently it is functioning. Finally, check for window leaks and drafts, these will affect the performance of the system and drive up consumption costs.

If you establish irregularities in electricity use, you could look at the following areas:

  • Examine the building’s internal and external lighting; are there controls or sensors that put a stop to lights being left on too long? Replacing dated light bulbs with LED lights will lower consumption.
  • Is computer equipment being left on unnecessarily? This will impact your energy use.
  • Air conditioning units are a big cost for businesses. A dusty unit or an unsealed room will affect performance and could cost more money to run, so make sure you get it serviced.
  • Electrically heated hot water systems will be more cost effective if operated by timed controls, so you’re only heating what you need.

Water can often be overlooked during site surveys, but it is important to consider analysis of your water data to understand your consumption, and be able to spot anomalies and potential problems. Much like when you are examining your electricity use, there are a number of key areas to look out for when conducting a water site survey:

  • Take a look at your internal plumbing. Over a period of time, a continual cistern leak from just one toilet can equate to roughly 2500 extra litres of water a month (depending on the usage). If left, this would have a big effect on your water bill.
  • Pipework and external equipment should also be checked for visible issues. A leaking pipe can cause considerable damage to the fabric of a building, not only would your water bill be higher, you’d have to pay to fix any damage, and potentially need to close the site to allow for building work.

What to do next?

So, now you have your data and have conducted a site survey, what have you learned? You may need to embed changes to your energy strategy around driving down consumption, invest in new equipment or technologies, or fix existing equipment. Look at your whole energy estate to help guide you. For example, you may have a building in your estate that has brand new LED lighting and uses less energy than the rest of your estate. That alone provides a readymade business case to upgrade the lighting across all of your organisation’s sites.

Do not forget to make assessments of the energy saving equipment and controls that may already be in place to save energy. Where they are in place, make sure they are operating as they should be and suitably for the building use, and have not been adjusted or overridden. You’ll be surprised how often this can happen!

Ongoing checks and balances

There are a few things that you can do to avoid any dramatic spikes in over-consumption and utility overspend, these include:

  • Keep a regular eye on building controls to ensure they are in good working order and are operating in line with building use and seasonal weather.
  • Not allowing systems to fight against each other; make sure the temperatures for heating and cooling settings have not been set so that they could potentially be operating simultaneously.
  • Engaging and influencing staff to form sustainable and efficient habits can make a big impact on your building’s consumption. Encourage them to adjust their behaviours so they can support your energy strategy and avoid inadvertently wasting energy. Are staff aware of the different systems and controls, and how to operate them effectively? For example, are they opening windows when the heating or cooling systems are switched on instead of adjusting the controls or switching these systems off? Not everyone approaches energy use in the same way, so investing in training to coach colleagues on the impact of their energy habits can be worthwhile.

If you are looking to begin an energy saving journey to lower costs and improve efficiencies, our consultants can offer energy surveys and audits and an opportunity identification report to help you. Call our team today on 01908 690018 or contact us.

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