There are a few problems that work against you when trying to find a company to perform a good energy audit for you.
* Everybody and their brother now claims to do energy audits
* Nobody quite agrees on exactly what an energy audit is
In this paper, I am going to cover these problems and then tell you how to select a quality energy auditor and not get ripped off.
Everybody and their Brother Now Claims to do Energy Audits
With the struggles of the economy in the United States, everyone who is not making money is looking around to see what sectors are still making money. Energy consulting has done well so far. The energy consulting companies are not laying off people, rather, they are hiring. And with the focus on cost-cutting, companies are starting to realize that utilities are not a fixed cost, but actually, a cost that can be reduced by 10% to 30%. Throw in the promise of stimulus funds, and you have a new service offering for companies that are seeing their sales plummet. We are seeing real estate management companies, real estate brokers, electrical and mechanical contractors, and equipment sellers all trying to sell and perform energy audits. On top of that, now some of the very large companies have entered the market. And then there are the legions of unemployed who are constantly calling us asking us to teach them how to become energy auditors. There is a good and a bad to the rush into energy consulting. The good is that with more competitors, costs go down. The bad is that the with decreased costs the quality of the work suffers as well. Companies new to auditing often don’t have experienced auditors and produce poor quality audits Often these contractors and real estate companies don’t even do the audits themselves, but contract them out to others. They are just taking a cut off the top.
Every Company has a Different Idea of What an Energy Audit is
Energy Audit was a term that just had too many meanings. Two different companies could theoretically perform an energy audit, and one could spend 5 hours, and the other 80 hours. With this type of variation in audits, the customer and the auditor often had different ideas in mind on just what was to be done.
The American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has taken important steps to clarify just what should comprise an audit. ASHRAE has defined the requirements for 3 levels of audits, entitled ASHRAE Level 1, ASHRAE Level 2 and ASHRAE Level 3 audits. Because of this, a customer can ask for a Level 1 audit, and all the vendors should be able to deliver the same level and quality of report. Unfortunately, this is still not true.
Recently we placed a bid for $4,500 for an ASHRAE Level 1 Energy Audit, and were beat by the competition that did the audit for $823. We typically spend about 40 to 50 hours on an ASHRAE Level 1 audit. Assuming our competitor spent 40 hours, and charged $823, that comes to charging $20/hr for OSHA Training For Cannabis Businesses the work, which you know they didn’t do. We figured that either: the auditor that won the job is not delivering much, the auditor is using the audit to sell products and services, or the auditor is being paid very little.
Fortunately, we got to see the $823 audit once it was completed. The auditor didn’t deliver much. It was 3 pages, and a handful of ASHRAE forms filled out. Although it was sold as an ASHRAE Level 1 audit, it wasn’t. The audit did not address most of the ASHRAE Level 1 requirements. Customers just don’t know what comprises an ASHRAE Level 1 audit. That is the problem.
You Get What You Pay For
Think about it, you do get what you pay for. Right now in San Luis Obispo California, plumbers are going for $100/hr or more. Energy auditors, with the same amount of experience, but also, who have studied energy in school (most are mechanical engineering graduates), and have learned a highly technical field should be charging more than your local plumber or electrician. When you get a quote for an audit, just divide it by $100/hr, and you will get a ballpark number of hours they expect to spend on the job. Experienced, credentialed energy auditors in the US are commanding about $100,000/year right now. Good auditors are expensive, but so are good plumbers. You get what you pay for.
Why Some Companies Offer Free or Nearly Free Audits
Some companies will offer energy audits for free, or nearly free. When this is done, usually the company offering the audit is trying to sell an “energy saving” device, or perhaps wants to do the installation on the energy efficient measures once they are found. I have no problem with the second type of vendor, as their audits may be good, but often the first type of vendor is typically not providing a comprehensive energy audit, but only an audit that focuses around their product. What is important for the customer is that these limited scope audits are going to miss some real energy savings opportunities due to the auditor’s narrow focus.
There are also well-meaning nonprofits who will perform audits for free. These audits are often very cursory, and are not performed by experienced auditors. Often these nonprofits will get a grant to save energy. The grants are usually not for very much money, and as a result, they cannot hire experienced energy auditing staff. The result is poor work.