Some of the nation’s largest utilities and government agencies are putting zero-touch energy audits to the test. Just like a traditional energy audit, these remote energy auditing platforms uncover opportunities for energy savings in commercial buildings … but they do it without anyone setting foot inside, monitoring or measurement devices, or interaction with the facilities manager.
Relying on GIS (geographic information systems), the Internet, and a process for remotely analyzing a building’s energy use, zero-touch audits require some utility data (one year of hourly interval electric and gas billing information). This information is combined with building characteristics mapped through GIS and high-frequency weather and climate data. If needed, the data can be broken down to pinpoint use by system, such as HVAC, lighting, or plug load.
Using available data to make sense out of a building’s energy use, the idea of a zero-touch audit is to offer a fast way to obtain actionable results. While extremely useful, some professionals argue that traditional energy audits are labor-intensive and involve too much data collection and analysis. They oftentimes require specially trained experts. For companies with hundreds or thousands of facilities, the energy auditing process can seem unworkable.
To evaluate the accuracy of zero-touch energy audits, the U.S. Department of Energy funded a research project earlier this year. When comparing information collected in remote audits to data gathered from 50 submeters at a 312,000-square-foot building in Massachusetts, the zero-touch audit came up with results very similar to the submeter data.
Zero-touch energy audits have also revealed some low-cost ways for the town of Lexington, MA, to save 7% on electricity bills in their major government buildings. A remote audit determined that lights and HVAC systems were running after-hours, temperature setpoints weren’t accurate, and start/stop optimization for building systems wasn’t set correctly.
Do zero-touch energy audits sound like an option for your facility? Why or why not?