The word “audit” often has a negative connotation. But an energy audit of your commercial building's heating and cooling, appliances, water, and lighting systems can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses. Especially when you use the learnings from your audit to switch to more efficient energy technologies.
Just as you bring your car in periodically for an inspection or an oil change, you – as a business owner or leader – should examine various aspects of your business to find areas that need upgrades or repairs.
According to ENERGY STAR, businesses like yours spend $60 billion annually on energy. These costs include heating and air conditioning (HVAC), simple items like light bulbs to technology-related systems like computers and office equipment.
When Should Small Businesses Conduct an Energy Audit?
Now is a great time to commit to an energy audit. The COVID-19 pandemic has put increased pressure on businesses – small and large – to examine their expense base and free-up dollars to invest in business growth. Every dollar you save can be applied to hiring the right talent, marketing efforts, or new technologies.
Plus, health and wellness are top of mind for most companies and employees. Creating a work environment that’s safe, pleasant, and conducive to productivity is an imperative – not an option.
Step 1: Get into a Positive Frame of Mind
You’re not training for a marathon, but taking that first step in examining how you’ve been doing business requires the right level of mental preparation. Resistance to change is common – in life and business.
You may be all-in on the concept of an energy audit, but some of your team members may need to be sold on why your business needs it. You may need to spend some time speaking to critical decision-makers and employees and approaching the project as a team effort.
- Keep an open mind
- Listen to new ideas and take time before reacting
- Focus on analytics, not on emotions
- Strike the phrase, “Yes, but…” from your vocabulary and replace it with “If, then…” In other words, if you were to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month on energy, then what could your company do with that extra cash?
Energy may not even be top-of-mind for you. Start by walking around your place of business and noticing things like the temperature, lights, and computer systems that use electricity.
- Are lights left on after-hours?
- Are employees leaving computers running when they go?
- Do your systems require people to turn them on and off, or do you have sensors?
- And, of course, most important – do you know how much you’re spending on energy every year?
Now that you’re in the “high energy” frame of mind for an audit, let's move on.
Step 2: Gather the Facts
Collect your invoices related to HVAC, electricity, and lighting. That even includes the cost of light bulbs. Your bookkeeper or accountant may be able to help with this step of the process. If you have multiple business locations, you’ll probably want to look at each one separately.
Your monthly electricity bills contain valuable information like costs per kilowatt-hour. You’ll also be able to see how costs vary from month-to-month and season-to-season. A successful audit and its related outcomes may ultimately result in more predictable energy costs, enabling you to plan better and even-out your cash flow.
Step 3: Choose Audit Partners You Trust
Sometimes it helps to bring in professionals. The right energy experts can help identify major areas for cost savings.
Look for partners who can explain to you in plain language your current energy challenges and recommend the best systems for saving money and helping the environment. Talk to multiple vendors, check references and review case studies.
You don’t necessarily need to pay for an energy audit. For example, FES provides complementary lighting audits to companies seeking to improve commercial energy efficiency.
If you're working with multiple vendors, introduce them to each other so they can collaborate and build a fully-integrated energy-saving plan.
Step 4: Engage in the Audit
Now that you’ve selected the right audit partners, create a schedule and give them full access to the buildings and people they need to gather information. Explain to your team in advance who the auditors are and how it will ultimately help the company free-up money for new initiatives.
Be helpful and patient. If you have multiple locations or limited access to facilities or information, the process will take longer.
Schedule a time to review the findings and alternatives. Again, keep an open mind and be prepared to listen and learn. Ask lots of questions about how your results compare to similar companies and how subscription pricing (e.g., Lighting as a Service or LaaS) can enable you to forecast and reduce expenses.
Once you’ve decided on an action plan, move quickly. The sooner you make upgrades and changes, the faster you’ll free up dollars.
Step 5: Measure and (Ultimately) Enjoy Your Cost Savings
You’ll want to regularly check with your audit partner(s) to review the impact of changes on your bottom line.
- What other steps might you take to save even more money?
- How are your employees and customers reacting to the changes you’ve made?
- How do your savings compare to other similar businesses?
- What are some of the obstacles you still need to overcome?
Remember, the data is your roadmap for analysis and savings. Review it with your auditor and have open and honest discussions about how to improve your process and savings.
The most enjoyable part begins – spending those dollars you’ve saved on growth initiatives for your company!
Use this free energy audit checklist to complete your commercial energy audit.