Energy is at the heart of every business. With energy costs and the need for sustainability rising, energy efficiency is critical for organisations of all sizes. From small businesses to multi-national corporations, it’s an area where companies can make substantial savings and improve sustainability — yet it’s often overlooked.
That’s where business energy audits come into play.
An energy audit is a systematic, in-depth examination of business energy consumption. It gives insight into where and how energy is used and, importantly, allows businesses to pinpoint areas for improvement. It gives companies a chance to save energy, money and the planet.
While carrying out a business energy audit is a smart move for any company, it’s particularly important for businesses with steam systems. Steam systems are used across a range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, healthcare and food and drink manufacturing. For businesses in these industries, energy audits are critical to uncover potential savings, increase efficiency and drive sustainability.
At Spirax Sarco, we have over one hundred years of experience helping businesses to optimise their steam systems for efficiency. In this guide, we’ve put together everything you need to know about business energy audits.
A commercial energy audit offers a thorough, practical approach to understanding your energy consumption. It helps businesses to identify energy-saving opportunities and develop strategies to reduce energy consumption.
In a nutshell, an energy audit is:
A systematic examination of an organisation's energy use
A method to understand where and how energy is consumed
A tool to pinpoint areas for improvement.
Steam energy audits specifically analyse the generation, distribution and application of steam within a system. The audit pinpoints areas of inefficiency and energy waste and finds saving opportunities.
Energy audits deliver numerous benefits and significantly influence a company's bottom line and reputation. The key benefits are:
Energy audits can provide a clear roadmap to substantial savings. By identifying energy wastage and inefficiencies, businesses can drastically reduce costs. With efficient system upgrades and optimisations, companies can lower business energy costs and improve operational efficiency significantly.
The environmental benefits of an energy audit cannot be overstated. The need to reduce global warming and climate change is undeniable, and businesses play a big role in the effort. By finding inefficiencies and opportunities to upgrade through an audit, companies can reduce their carbon emissions significantly.
Equipment that’s not running properly is one of the easiest ways to waste energy. Audits are a great way to identify system inefficiencies and find solutions. Improving equipment performance can lead to an overall productivity increase and a decrease in maintenance costs.
Some businesses, especially larger ones, are legally required to carry out energy audits regularly. But even for companies not bound by these regulations, energy audits can demonstrate a proactive approach to efficiency. By showing your commitment to environmental responsibility, you can set your company apart from competitors.
In today’s increasingly eco-conscious market, companies that demonstrate dedication to reducing their carbon footprint are highly valued. From individual consumers to investors, the push towards net zero emissions is an important factor in decision-making. By improving your energy efficiency, you can boost your company’s green credentials and show dedication to your social responsibility.
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to business energy audits. But how do they work?
The energy audit process is essentially the same for all businesses. It’s usually broken down into five steps and provides companies with an action plan for optimisations. Each step in the process is crucial for gaining an in-depth understanding of your energy usage and finding ways to save energy.
Before anything else happens, pre-audit planning takes place. This involves outlining the audit’s scope and objectives. This will usually involve in-depth discussions with key decision-makers and stakeholders to gain a complete understanding of specific needs.
This step lays the groundwork and ensures that all parties are on the same page regarding the audit process, objectives and outcomes.
With the pre-audit planning out of the way, the audit can start. The first part of this is a desktop review. This involves an in-depth review of your company’s energy data. This can come from numerous sources, including:
Other relevant documentation.
The aim of this step is to build a comprehensive picture of your company’s energy usage before moving to the on-site visit.
Armed with the data from the previous step, auditors will visit the site to inspect all systems. Auditors will inspect every element of the steam system. They’ll make detailed observations on:
The condition and operation of the equipment
Potential areas of energy wastage.
These observations provide a deeper understanding of how the system works in practice. It also allows the auditor to find discrepancies between theory and practice.
Following the on-site assessment, the data from both the desktop review and on-site assessment is meticulously analysed. This is arguably the most important step in the audit as it provides the basis for improvement recommendations. The analysis aims to identify:
Opportunities for improvement.
With the analysis complete, auditors will compile everything into a detailed report. This report includes a comprehensive action plan that includes:
Recommended energy-saving measures
Potential cost savings
The report and action plan will give your company a clear roadmap towards improved energy efficiency and sustainability.
While we’ve given you a fairly comprehensive overview of steam system audits above, it’s helpful to know the specifics. When it comes to steam system audits, certain key areas are usually given extra attention. The key areas have a high potential for significant energy and cost savings.
Unsurprisingly, steam generation and distribution are crucial focus areas during an energy audit. By taking a close look at boiler efficiency and the distribution network, auditors can identify energy loss areas and recommend improvements.
Insulation and heat recovery systems can reduce energy wastage significantly by conserving heat that would otherwise be lost. An energy audit will examine these systems for adequacy and effectiveness and identify potential improvements.
Condensate return systems can provide considerable energy savings. By recovering and reusing heat from steam that’s completed its primary purpose, companies can save significant amounts of energy. During your audit, these systems will be checked for faults and inefficiencies.
Steam traps and valves are vital for maintaining your system’s integrity and efficiency. These are often areas where significant improvements can be made. Auditors will pay close attention to them and check for correct operation and potential energy wastage.
Control and metering systems are absolutely essential for optimising your steam system operation. The systems provide valuable data and information on performance and can be adjusted to improve efficiency. An auditor will provide you with detailed information on how to improve your systems and save energy.
While it’s possible to carry out your own business energy audits, most companies will use professional auditors. This is due to the fact that professional auditors have the expertise, experience and certification to complete audits thoroughly and quickly.
When it comes to selecting an energy audit company, it’s important to take your time and consider your options.
One of the first things to look for is qualifications and certifications. A reputable company will have certified auditors with plenty of experience and knowledge of energy efficiency practices.
You should also look for companies that specialise in your industry. For businesses with steam systems, experience in this area is paramount. Understanding the intricacies of steam systems requires specialised knowledge, so look for companies with a strong track record in this area.
Checking references and testimonials can provide valuable insight into how reliable an auditor is and the quality of their work. Check to see who the company has worked with previously and how good their reviews are. A company with positive testimonials is more likely to provide a comprehensive and effective audit.
As the world works toward minimising our environmental impact and boosting sustainable operations, business energy audits are essential — especially for businesses with steam systems. Not only can audits significantly reduce costs and improve efficiency, but they can help you hit your carbon reduction targets.
For over 130 years, Spirax Sarco has been at the forefront of steam system innovation and optimisation. Our team has the experience, knowledge and passion to help you maximise your energy efficiency, smash your sustainability targets and save money.
If you’re looking to optimise your steam system to save money, energy and our planet, get in touch with us today. Our new Advance Steam Consulting is designed to help companies like yours start their journey to a more efficient and sustainable future.
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