Monthly Archives: July 2017

Plain Talk: What Is An Energy Audit? Why Do One?

What Is An Energy Audit?

A professional energy audit tells you how much energy you use, its cost, in what functions in your building, and provides multiple recommendations that will result in significant energy usage and cost savings, if implemented.

Some Of The Many Direct Financial Benefits

Real life examples show that properly-performed energy audits can provide a building owner direct financial benefits, such as:

• Significant energy cost savings beginning quickly, that grow in value as rates rise, and continue for a long time; (one upgrade saves costs for many years)

• Tenant attraction/retention, and, therefore, higher rents than less efficient space

• Greater worker productivity/buyer comfort (retail), all adding to tenant satisfaction

• Rise in of asset valuation (which would a buyer prefer, a building demonstrated to be energy efficient or a dark, leaky high oil/gas usage one?)

• Achievement of building certification standards, which will further raise the value

• Potentially obtain utility rebates, state grants and federal tax incentives. More and more entities want buildings to be efficient and will pay for verified achievements.

Simple Example

A simple example of energy efficiency is lights. LEDs can produce the same – even more – light for less than half the wattage of an incandescent or fluorescent. For example, if you replace one 40-watt fluorescent light with a similarly-sized 18-watt LED, then the bulb will use 22 fewer watts to create the same light. If it is used 10 hours/day, 5 days/week, 50 weeks/year, then electricity savings is 55 kWh per year. At $0.20/kWh, the savings is $11 per year. From just one light! If your building uses hundreds of lights, then the savings is so much more. There is no risk of failure; 18 watts means 18 watts.

How To Get Good Ideas For Savings? Have A Professional Energy Audit Done.

The professional group ASHRAE has defined 3 levels of professional energy audits.

Level I

• Brief analysis of the building’s historic energy bills

• Brief on-site building survey to gather basic information about energy use and systems (i.e., very rough count of lights, basic nameplate information about units)

• Listing of potential energy use- and cost-saving strategies, known as Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs). Rough savings and cost analysis for each one.

Level II

• Detailed analysis of the building’s energy bills, preferably previous 24 months.

• Detailed on-site building survey to identify more thoroughly the building’s energy systems and equipment (i.e., more thorough, accurate lighting count, more details about boilers, rooftop units, etc.)

• Identify, describe ECMs and provide a more detailed savings and cost analysis, including estimating payback (time it will take for energy cost savings to equal outlay plus operating costs of ECM) and return-on-investment.

• Discussion of any changes to building operations and maintenance procedures by each listed ECM, including secondary benefits (i.e., reduced maintenance).

Level III

Includes the components of a Level II Energy Audit, plus:

• More extensive data collection, particularly of the physical building, such as leak points, doors, and windows.

• Use of approved, site-specific energy computer models to estimate heat losses and infiltrations throughout year

• More refined energy and financial analysis from multiple vendors, including upfront costs, incentives, savings, and ROI.

• Evaluation of long-term energy savings and operational cost trends.

Smartest Way To Get Started

So now you will look for great long-term energy savings opportunities for your company. Count how have many buildings you wish to audit and their complexity. If your company manages many buildings, it may be useful to perform a Level I energy audit on all of them. While the ECMs may contain rough estimations, at least you can compare energy efficiencies leaving yourself with a group with greater opportunity to focus on. If you have a smaller number of buildings and/or they are complex (involve many functions or have many specific energy systems), then you may want to have Level II audits done to get good estimates at a reasonable cost. Level III audits are very expensive and generally do not justify the extra expense and effort unless such accuracy is necessary.

Hire An Experienced Pro

“You get what you pay for.” Why skimp and save a few thousand dollars on an energy audit if that means hiring someone without a professional engineer’s license or equivalent certification (i.e., CEM). They can provide numbers that are plain wrong or lead to missed opportunities or pursuing projects that are not worthwhile; lost money! This can cost your company much, much more than the savings of a “cheapo” firm. Hire a qualified energy auditor; there is a lot riding on it. Make sure the professional is experienced in buildings similar to yours.

As you can see, there is no magic wand that can be waved to bring instantaneous, substantial energy cost savings. One must invest time and money and bring in smart, experienced professionals to do it right. But once done right, the savings and the direct financial benefits are tremendous. Most good energy projects have ROIs better than what is achieved on Wall St. Good luck!

CCES has the technical expertise to perform all types of energy auditing for diverse building types to maximize your financial benefits. We can get you the applicable incentives you deserve and can project manage ECMs you choose as most relevant to your building. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

It Is Not Only Climate Change; Evidence That U.S. Toxic Air Pollution Still Harms Many

Of course, Climate Change is a big news item. How can it not be? The entire scientific community is in agreement that mechanisms are in place that will cause drastic changes to our climate and, therefore, our whole economy and way of life in a relatively short time. And President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement has heightened the concern. Many in the media, when addressing Climate Change, show pictures of people walking around with masks over the faces and or stacks with large quantities of colored smoke escaping into the atmosphere. That has little to do with Climate Change. In fact, what it represents is a different, serious problem, and that is emissions of toxic air pollutants which can affect the health of people downwind of a source. While the U.S. has made great strides in the last 40 years of bringing down the ambient levels of many toxic compounds, a June 2017 study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that toxic air pollution is still a major problem, and leads to the premature deaths of thousands of Americans each year. See: This is particularly true for the pollutants ozone and PM-10 (fine particulate matter).

The study estimates that about 12,000 lives can be prolonged annually by reducing the ambient level of fine particulate matter by 1 microgram per cubic meter below the current USEPA standards. The Clean Air Act requires the USEPA to revisit emission standards of criteria pollutants every 5 years, and adjust them accordingly based on the latest scientific knowledge. A House Committee recently passed a bill slowing down the oversight to once every 10 years.

A recent article in Scientific American ( discusses this in detail, and recommends continuing the movement to shift away from coal-fired power plants to natural gas. This trend has been touted as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus, addressing Climate Change. However, the article points out that these benefits are actually minor because increased digging for natural gas and other leaks leads to greater methane emissions, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The article points out that replacing coal-fired with natural gas-fired power plants would be more effective extending live, reducing hospitalizations, which would save the US economy tens of billions of dollars each year in hospital costs and productivity gains.

Yes, let’s focus on Climate Change because of the extreme, irreversible changes that are likely to occur if not properly addressed. But let’s remember that while the U.S. has made progress, there is still a ways to go to further protect public health in the U.S. and worldwide due to toxic compounds that are emitted from the same sources.

CCES has the experience to assess your emissions inventory and to develop a cost-effective plan to reduce emissions to meet regulatory requirements and improve your impacts. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Proof of Benefits of Going Green: How To Get Started

Last month I wrote an article highlighting the growing proof that making a building more “green” and energy efficient has many financial benefits, beyond just saving utility costs. Scientific research has shown “green” buildings lead to greater asset value, larger revenue, and fewer sick days and greater productivity and attention span of workers.

If this has convinced you to look into “greening” your building, here’s how to get started. Here are crucial items to consider as you move forward, usually overlooked:

1. You know what “green” is, but you need to explain fully what it is to the building owner or corporate manager. Develop realistic expectations for all stakeholders. What does the group want to achieve? Are they achievable? Any limitations? I once performed a preliminary “green” evaluation of a company’s headquarters building, including a complex analysis of potential energy efficiency strategies. A high-level contact was surprised; he literally thought that the project’s goal was to recommend where to plant trees! (He hadn’t read the Scope of Work!) Make sure all involved have unified goals, and understand the project is a complex process.

2. Determine your ultimate “green” goals. There are many types of “green” projects. Determine what is right for your building or company based on needs, budget, etc. You may wish to have your work officially certified under the LEED or WELL program. Or you may wish to bypass any official certification, and perform small, focused upgrades. That’s fine, too. What does management want most to achieve: reduced costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better work environment? Do you want to be a leader in your field or “just a player”? There is nothing wrong with reduced goals if you have budgetary constraints. There is something to be said about watching others and learning from their mistakes. These approaches need to be thought through and decided early on.

3. Make sure the contact understands that there is no formula to become green. No shortcuts. No “magic wand.” It takes an understanding of the specific building, its physical structure, the equipment within, the people and productivity inside. Anyone promising you a quick fix will not produce the fix for you, and it’s likely not quick either. Therefore, hire an experienced pro, preferably an engineer.

4. Be prepared to work a little. After you hire the experienced pro, don’t just sit back and expect him/her to do everything. Work with that person to ensure that the work is done to meet your needs. First, begin by providing the pro with the data needed to perform the analysis. Nearly all “green” projects will require the engineer to evaluate current and historic data: concerning the physical building, its history, size, uses and 24 months of recent energy, water, and sewer bills. You should begin to prepare this information as you are reviewing proposals or performing the administrative work to bring the engineer in. Be prepared to field questions from the engineer because while the building may be second nature to you, it is new to the engineer. Time can be saved by anticipating such questions and providing the engineer with information you think is important.

5. Site visits. It is likely that the engineer will need to make multiple visits to the facility to perform counts of equipment and to assess how equipment is operating in order to determine which items things could improve or be more efficient. Ensure that a person knowledgeable about the building and its equipment and operations is with the engineer at all times to answer questions or fill in on procedures. The site visit may involve testing of all major equipment. For a robust energy evaluation, it is important to test both the heating equipment (boilers) and cooling equipment (AC) for a building. For one energy audit, I was asked by building management to “get it over with”: to test both on the same visit. So on a 95°F day, we tested the building’s boiler! (We did it during lunch hour when many employees were out of the building!). But it is crucial for you to work with your “green” engineer to enable all goals to be met and data to be gathered.

6. Ask for and review interim reports. Sometimes building managers then step back and wait for the “green” professional to perform the analysis and develop the strategies and conclusions. But there is nothing wrong with asking the engineer for an early, interim report to make sure the professional has not strayed from the agreed-upon goals. When reviewing an early draft report, remember there may be gaps in it or certain calculations or conclusions you are interested in that are missing. But do review it and speak up if the direction it is going, you feel, is not what you want. Having such a discussion ultimately saves the engineer time and aggravation to be steered in the right direction early.

OK, OK, A Word About Costs

It is probable that as a “green” evaluation is being implemented, you are thinking about money. Good projects are not free and you may have had to put yourself on the limb to get the upfront cost for this project, not knowing what the exact results will be. Yes, it costs money to study your building before the design, procurement, and installation of smart strategies which, at that point, you have a better idea of the financial benefits. Remember, there is growing evidence that all green projects done right will pay back initial costs in a reasonable timeframe. I have seen numerous such projects pay back initial investment in terms of utility cost savings alone (not including the secondary benefits) by 15, 20, 30, and even more percent per year. Yes, the equivalent of putting that money in the bank and making this much interest. No bank nor Wall Street investment pays like a good energy project, without risk (a 20-watt bulb replacing a 60-watt one will save you two-thirds the energy; nothing magic; it’s the numbers!). So be confident working with your engineer to implement smart upgrades.

Also, a growing number of utilities and governments offer financial incentives or tax breaks to install and operate energy efficiency technology. IRS Section 179D (tax deductions for energy upgrades) has expired, but a new version was recently co-sponsored by 30 US Senators from both parties. 179D should return and be retroactive. Also, lenders see that there is a reduced risk on lending for an energy or green project because the financial benefits will be there and the borrower should be able to pay the loan back. This results in more competition to loan money, and lower interest rates.

CCES has the experience and expertise to help your building become more energy efficient and “green” and will work with you to meet your goals, however humble or extravagant. Work with us to get the maximum financial benefits from going green. Contact us today at or at 914-584-6720.