February 22nd, 2022

First part in a series about commercial, industrial and institutional energy evaluations

Growing up, I have many memories of my parents telling me over and over to stop wasting energy. Whether it was “turn off the light when you leave” or “close the door, we don’t live in a barn” or any number of other colorful phrases – I heard them all.

At the root of it all was energy – and what it cost us.  Whether it was wasting electricity from leaving lights on, heat from not closing the doors or water from letting the hose run, my parents watched them all. They also made sure we were all aware if the impact we were having on their wallets. Also, although this wasn’t really an issue back then, the impact we were having on the environment.

Here we are 40+ years later and I am tasked with writing an article about energy evaluations and their benefits.

Energy audits are used in the residential and the commercial/institutional/industrial building sectors. An energy audit is a process and inspection survey to understand the energy use of the building and to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency while maintaining or improving occupants’ comfort. The energy audit can range from a simple walk-through of the building to a detailed audit with onsite measurements, tests, and analysis of many, if not all, building systems. 

First and foremost, an Energy Evaluation will help identify process inefficiencies and potential utility savings.  According to the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy publication Best Practices: Steam (https://www.energy.gov/eere/amo/steam-systems) the benefits include:

  • Energy efficiency improvements can reduce utility bills and improve your plant’s bottom line.
  • Many improvements require little or no extra investment, are easy to implement, and have payback times of less than a year.
  • Strategies that increase energy efficiency often reduce operation and maintenance costs, minimize waste, and enhance production.
  • Energy efficiency helps to reduce negative impacts on the environment and can enhance corporate community relations programs.

Since we know that an energy evaluation can benefit your facility, how do we go about getting one? In researching this article, I found a multitude of books, publications, web articles, checklists, guides and other information which all assure me they are the “best” way to proceed or offer the “most” savings.

This series hopes to break down the process into four segments and give a high-level view of what you will need to bring these savings and efficiencies to your facility. According to the Steam System Survey Guide written by Greg Harrell, PHD, PE and published by Oak Ridge National Library in May 2002 there are four main areas:

  • First, the analysis basis must be determined; guidelines are provided for profiling individual steam systems. Methods are presented to estimate the fuel costs and operating characteristics of the facility and to identify improvements in energy efficiency that translate to operational cost savings.
  • Second, the steam properties of the facility are identified to allow calculations to be performed in latter sections of the analysis.
  • Third, the boiler operation is investigated. This analysis centers on evaluating the fuel-to steam conversion efficiency of the boiler.
  • The fourth analysis area is concerned with resource utilization throughout the facility. The main concerns in this area are to use the most appropriate fuel, to maintain the proper steam balance throughout the system, and to integrate process energy.
  • The fifth category investigates the loss of energy throughout the distribution system. The main categories of loss are leaks, insufficient insulation, and unrecovered condensate.

When reading the above, my eyes started to glaze over. I needed to find something a little more basic and break it down into manageable bites. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call our bites planning, investigation, implementation, and maintenance. And this article’s “bite” is all about the first step…


At Associated Steam Air & Hot Water, we want to help you improve your processes and save money.  Before coming on site for any evaluation, there are several key pieces of information that will be needed to perform a comprehensive audit.  While these will vary slightly depending upon the facility type, at the highest level they include understanding the fuel type and cost, processes impacted, age of the system, goals, and timing.

The following information is beneficial in identifying the scope of areas to be evaluated:

1. Type of Facility

2.  Age/Description of the physical plant

3.  List of all systems consuming energy & their purpose

4. Energy source(s)

5. Energy cost (utility bill or another metric)

There are a variety of combinations of the above factors which impact how the audit is structured.  For example, you may be managing a commercial or institutional building that has a boiler that generates steam which is piped to the various offices for heat.  The boiler uses electricity to heat the water and generate the steam. Or you may have an industrial process which uses natural gas or coal to heat water that passes into a turbine and generates electricity, which in turn powers rotating or other process equipment. Maybe you are in a healthcare facility which needs immediate distribution of hot water to multiple outlets and the water is heated and mixed in a remote physical plant.  Obviously, there are an unending number of combinations which can impact your bottom line.  Having the initial information readily available allows your energy audit to establish an accurate baseline for comparison.

So you have described your facility, identified the system that use energy, gathered information on the costs – now what?  Join us for Part II in the series, EVALUATING ENERGY USAGE.

And in the meantime, my mother says to turn off the lights and close the door!

At Associated Steam, Air & Hot Water we understand that the success of any project depends upon an understanding of the facility needs, optimum selection and design of the system, and reliable performance of the system equipment. Established in 1954, our team offers over 200 years’ industry experience, with staff ranging from Engineers to Contractors. We interrelate with consulting engineers, contractors, end users and maintenance staff to ensure your satisfaction.  Associated’s body and depth of experience makes us the ideal partner for all your Steam, Air and Hot Water needs.