How it Works
A municipal government is similar to a business or a household to the extent that it uses energy: its buildings, vehicles and equipment use electricity, natural gas, propane, oil, and gasoline. This energy use translates into expenses that must be met by the taxpayer. An energy audit can help the municipality use its energy more efficiently and reduce costs.
The audit can reduce energy bills for the municipality, and ultimately for taxpayers.
Identifies Maintenance Issues
Potential problems can be addressed before they escalate into system failures.
An objective basis for scheduling and budgeting for periodic maintenance can be established.
The municipality can be compared with similar organizations that use energy.
The audit can help to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from energy-generation systems.
Some buildings can use photo-voltaic devices to increase energy efficienty.
A municipality considering an energy audit should expect the following:
Experts May be Needed
Energy audits are typically performed by those with specific training and experience. Although the audits can be completed by individuals using on-line and "do-it-yourself" resources, municipalities typically operate a number of buildings and facilities, and a professional energy audit consultant may be able to provide the best analysis.
An Analysis Will be Conducted
An energy audit consultant will analyze the municipality's facilities, such as the municipal, fire and police buildings, water and sewer treatment facilities, libraries, recreational facilities, vehicles, etc., as well review utility bills. The consultant will look at the facility as an entire system with the aim of understanding how all of its elements use energy, including lighting, heating and cooling, windows and doors, insulation, stormwater drainage, and efficiency levels of the appliances. Structures will be inspected from the attic to the basement for problems such a mold and mildew to identify sources of wasted energy.
Some energy audits can include a "blower door test", which uses a fan to create air pressure to find air leakage. Some auditors also use devices such as infra-red-detectors to find inside air leaks. The consultant will assess how windows and doors have been installed and how well they operate.
Upon completion, an audit report should include options for improvements, including the return on investment for various improvements. Very often, simple improvements such as upgrading windows and doors and sealing gaps can significantly reduce energy use. Some energy-savings actions will require the initial purchase of new and more efficient heating, lighting and air-cooling appliances. Other actions, such as learning how to properly use an automatic thermostat, routinely closing doors and turning off lights, require no funding at all. The consultant can also provide a "benchmarking analysis" to gauge the facility's energy consumption against similar facilities.
Initial funding for the municipal energy audit may not be available.
Professional vs. "Do-it-Yourself"
As noted above, a professional auditor may be preferred in complex situations.
The audit may recommend system upgrades or repairs that may require unexpected capital outlays.
Recommendations from a municipal energy audit may require behavioral changes from staff.
The West Chester Area School District evaluated energy use in its 16 schools and reduced energy use and carbon emissions.
Chester County conducted audits of its main facilities using a grant from the US Department of Energy. The County installed high-efficiency lighting systems, lowered water usage, and installed geothermal heating and cooling facilities in its facilities.
In West Chester Borough, the Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reduction and the Borough Department of Building, Housing and Code Enforcement created a "Green Building Questionnaire" to promote energy-saving initiatives. The questionnaire is included with all commercial building and multi-family housing project permit applications, and can encourage the efficient use of buildings.