A professional energy audit is an important part of your environmental assessment, and the only element that requires technical expertise.
An energy audit is a professional examination of a building with respect to energy efficiency. Considerations include:
- Efficiency of the heating / cooling (HVAC) and plumbing systems
- Heat loss potential (insulation and windows)
- Systems management (use of programmable thermostats)
- Lighting fixtures (exit signs, light bulbs, motion sensors)
- Appliance energy efficiency ratings
Based on this information, the auditor calculates current energy usage and recommends high, medium, or low priority improvements depending on estimated energy savings, required investment, and the speed of return on said investment. Auditors often provide information about potential rebates for said improvements.
Cost of the Audit
Unless your congregation is fortunate enough to have a willing volunteer with the expertise to conduct an audit, you will need to contract for it. Many states provide resources for low-cost, subsidized, or free audits. Some contractors that install heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems conduct audits and arrange a payment plan using savings gained from implementing the recommendations. If your state has an Interfaith Power and Light program, it may be able to provide an energy audit or recommend a contractor. Research all your options before making a decision.
Whether or not you qualify for a low-cost or free audit, the return on your investment usually makes the process worthwhile. The higher your current energy costs, the shorter the payback period once you implement the recommendations.
There are a few situations where an energy audit is impractical or unnecessary. If this is the case, include an explanation in your application.
- Recent Audit. If you completed a professional energy audit within the last three years, you do not need to repeat the process at this time. Your application should Include the audit summary and recommendations, along with a brief report on steps taken towards implementation.
- New Building. If your building is five years old or newer and designed with energy conservation in mind, an audit probably isn’t necessary. Documentation of your building design and a review of energy use for the last two years may be sufficient, unless you discover anomalies that concern you.
- Low-Use Building. If you own your building but only use it once or twice a week, major capital investments are unlikely to be cost effective. Rather than paying for a complete audit, look for low-cost improvements that can save energy, such as switching to compact fluorescent bulbs or adding weather stripping.
- Rented or Leased Space. If you rent or lease space, it may not be possible to conduct an independent energy audit. Contact the building’s owner to work out a solution. You might offer to find a low-cost resource, share the cost of the audit, or implement one or more recommendations at your own expense if the owner pays for the audit.
NOTE: If you don’t conduct an energy audit, or the audit shows that major changes are unnecessary, you can still include an energy conservation project in your action plan.