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Comprehensive 7-Step Energy Audit Guide for Business Owners

Jan 20, 2022

Comprehensive 7-Step Energy Audit Guide for Business Owners

So you’ve converted to LED lighting, now what? To reduce your overall electrical consumption, you need to start with an energy audit.

If you are a business owner who has already converted from fluorescent to LED lighting, then you’ve made a great stride towards being more profitable. However, reducing operating costs beyond lighting requires understanding your electric usage–which requires an energy audit.

An energy audit involves assessing where your electricity dollars are going. Curious and good with numbers? You can perform your own assessment by taking inventory of all of your equipment (e.g., lights, HVAC, hot water, computers, manufacturing processes, etc.) and calculating a best estimate of your company’s energy consumption. But if you don’t have time to wrap your head around kilowatts and baseloads, you can hire an energy consultant to complete this review. 

Need to replace a specific piece of equipment? You’ll need an installed measure proposal, which tells you the energy use with operating cost before and after replacement and allows for an informed decision. 

Whether you do it yourself or work with a professional energy auditor, this review will provide crucial insights to help you reduce operating costs beyond lighting. The initial consultation for an energy audit or installed measure proposal is always free from Energy Services of New Hampshire.

Ready to start your audit? Follow the steps below.

7 Steps to Perform Your Own Commercial Energy Audit

Step 1. Look for the kilowatt-hours and dollars.

First, grab your most recent electric bill. You’ll need to review it to understand the volume and cost of your company’s energy consumption. In our sample utility bill below, you’ll see two highlighted fields: 

  1. Electricity usage in kilowatt-hours, and
  2. Current charges (bottom).

What is a kilowatt-hour? A kWh is a unit of energy equal to 10 100-watt incandescent light bulbs running for 60 minutes. In other words, one kWh = 1,000 watts being used continuously for one hour.

Step 2. Calculate the gross cost per kWh.

Divide the total dollar amount of your bill by how many kWhs were consumed to determine your gross cost per kWh. Using our sample bill below, this would be $314.46 / 1,695 kWhs = $0.18 per kWh. 

Sample Energy Bill

Step 3. Identify the baseload.

The baseload is the monthly electric consumption that does not include heating or cooling. Knowing baseload is essential to performing an accurate energy audit. Take your average kWhs for months with little heating and air conditioning use, such May and September. Multiply that average by 12 to calculate your annual electric baseload in kWhs.

Step 4. Identify the heating and cooling load.

Create a spreadsheet with a column for read dates, days in the billing period, kWhs, and cost. Include at least 12 months of consumption so you can identify weather-related trends. 

Take the total electric consumption for a year and subtract the annual baseload. The total is the electricity used for heating and cooling. To understand what makes up baseload by end-use, you’ll first need to estimate the large end-uses of electricity. 

Step 5. Calculate electric usage by end-use for lighting.

Lighting is one of the largest electricity consumption areas. Fortunately, you have a good place to start since you have already converted to LED lighting. The watts for each new fixture are usually found on the quote or invoice from a lighting upgrade, which you can use to understand the electric consumption. A solid estimate would be 0.75 watts per square foot. So, if you have a 1,000 square foot space, then 1,000 ft2 x 0.75 = 750 watts. Note that:

  • Watts / 1,000 = kilowatts (kW)
  • kW x hours of operation per month = kWhs per month for lighting

Step 6. Calculate all other electric usages.

Subtract monthly lighting from your baseload to get kWhs for all other end uses of electricity. This usage could include electric water heaters, copiers, computers, and production loads for manufacturing. To understand your facility’s kWh usage, you need to know how many watts the equipment draws and how many hours it operates. 

You can find watt usage for each piece of equipment by looking at the equipment’s nameplate. Typically, this tag (often metal but can be a sticker) lists the model number and serial number. It will also note how many watts or amps the equipment uses. Remember the formula: Amps x Volts = Watts.

Anything that plugs into a regular outlet is 120V. For equipment directly wired into the circuit breaker panel, the voltage is usually listed on the nameplate.

Step 7. Figure out your total electrical operating cost.

Repeat the process outlined in Step 6 until you capture the most significant electric users–this is normally 80% of the baseload consumption. Assign a percentage to cover all small end-uses. Once you have a reasonable representation of the electricity usage, multiply the kWhs by the gross cost per kWh to get the operating expense. 

Equipment manufacturers will tell you monthly kWhs of their products to help you compare existing equipment consumption to what a new piece of equipment would cost. You would need to duplicate this process for all your appliances to understand your current energy usage and what it would be if you replaced it with more efficient equipment.

Commercial Energy Audit Services

If a DIY energy audit seems overwhelming and you simply don’t have time, you can work with a responsible energy auditor to complete this review for you. Need to get a specific piece of equipment replaced and understand the energy usage and operating cost before and after replacement? Ask about our installed measure proposal!

The best part? Energy Services of New Hampshire provides a free initial consultation to develop an energy proposal. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary audit. We look forward to helping you create your most energy-efficient business!

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