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Energy Management: Developing a Plan

Energy Management: Developing a Plan

In looking at energy management for churches the author addresses our call regarding energy management by looking at the best place to start--with an energy audit from a neutral third party.

Energy is typically the second biggest budget item on most utility budgets, and according the to the Environmental Protection Agency 30 percent of the way we use energy is wasted, or in other words 30 percent is used inefficiently through behavior.  This means we can potentially save 30 percent through behavior change meaning at no cost. 

The idea around the article is promoting stewardship and saving energy.  But where do we begin, as mentioned the best place to start is with an energy audit from a neutral third party.  Again our goal is to free up energy use, thus free up finances.  This money is going to the utility company anyways, why not do our part to conserve, recapture and redirect the funding for a Kingdom purpose.


Like anything when pursuing energy management we must plan and think strategically.  Many organizations will pursue energy management related projects without having a long-term or a short-term plan.  I certainly understand this is unavoidable at times.  If the condensing unit goes out, there is a need to replace.  We want a happy team and congregation.  However the development of a long-term sustainable plan can go a long way.  Churches, seminaries, and nonprofits typically have a long-term and short-term plan that pertains to their vision/mission.  This plan does not create itself.  It comes with planning, praying, dreaming, searching. It comes with VISION.

Perhaps this sounds a bit silly regarding facility & energy management, but what we need is vision.  How do we develop vision; how do we develop this long-term plan?  The answer is found in an energy audit. Think about it, there are so many different factors within the energy management realm. 

To name a few:

Building Envelope Insulation, windows, doors, roof & more
HVAC cooling, heating, pumps, ventilation, outside air & more
Lighting Ballasts, lamps, daylighting, delamping, lighting controls & more
Plug Load refrigerators, electric heaters, computers, etc Controls conventional thermostats, programmable, IP-Addressable, DDC & more
Utilities Gas, Electric, Propane, Oil, Water etc
Behavior maintenance, preventative maintenance, operations etc
Water Irrigation, Return temperature, domestic hot water, etc
Meters Sub meter, smart meter, water meter, sewage, etc

I could go on and on.  The sky is the limit, and all the different factors can get blurry and confusing if we do not have plan.  An energy audit helps to untangle this confusion and helps to develop a plan.


Our first recommendation when having an audit done on your facility is to choose the right auditor.  There are a number of organizations that promote free audits, but many times the companies are trying to sell you a service (HVAC system, lighting upgrades, Controls or more) or the organization is not as qualified to perform the audit.  Be sure to choose an organization that is seen as a neutral third party, and has vast array of experience (check references).  In my opinion it is better to pay for a professional detailed audit then to have a free one with strings attached.  Secondly there are different types of audits to choose from, and it is important to know the difference.

The ASHRAE Level I audit or "walk-through audit" is a basic and quick assessment, with the goal of identifying opportunities. It consists of an initial review of the property's utility bills and a brief site survey of the building, its systems and its modes of operation.  The primary objective is to identify, provide a cost & savings analysis of low cost, no cost and capital expense opportunities.

The ASHRAE Level 2 audit provides facility owners with a more detailed building survey.  Utility rates are analyzed in detail, electric & gas usage is broken down, the building is benchmarked, demand side management opportunities are identified, problem areas are investigated, financial goals are set, a detailed analysis of equipment is performed, control opportunities are identified and much more.  The objective is to develop an aggressive detailed plan that can address aggressive savings.

The ASHRAE Level 3 audit s a finely detailed audit covering all areas. It is an analysis over a longer period of time very similar to a retro-commissioning study.  Whereas the team measures instruments over a period of time in order to identify operational opportunities such as set points, sensor adjustments, scheduling changes, outside air calibration and more.

Energy Management is a very broad area, but the need to manage energy is only going to increase.  As a church body we should not only follow the curve, but we should take the lead. 

Part 3 in the series: Importance of Benchmarking

Colby May is Certified Energy Manager, having performed over 1,000 energy audits at facilities across the US. A graduate of Gordon Conwell, he has a specific interest in enabling the faith-based community in sustainability and stewardship in order to empower change. Colby, the CEO of LIT www.consultlit.com, can be contacted at colby@consultlit.com. He is also a husband of thirteen years, father of two adventurous sons and an ordained pastor.

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