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As an energy auditor, you use a systemized approach to measure, record, and evaluate the flow of energy, determining if it is being used efficiently and pinpointing where it is being wasted. Energy audits usually fall into one of three categories: home, commercial buildings, and industrial plants. They also range in complexity, from a quick walk-through inspection to a comprehensive analysis of the implications of alternative energy efficiency measures. Once an energy audit has been conducted, you work with a team of professionals to analyze the results and produce a technical report for the client that reveals areas where energy efficiency can be improved.
At a glance
Imagine you are wearing your bright white hard hat, steel-toed boots, and safety glasses. With clipboard in hand, you begin your tour of a massive bottling factory. You are an energy auditor and you have been hired by the factory to perform an energy audit of the facility.
The factory's owners are concerned with rising energy costs and have asked you to evaluate their operation and find ways to reduce energy consumption. The owners also want to demonstrate their commitment to a progressive environmental policy to the facility's staff and the public. Making the factory more energy efficient is one way to do so and will in turn help meet Canada's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. You and your auditing team will spend several days at the facility reviewing processes and operating data and observing workers, looking for ways the facility can reduce the amount of energy it uses and decrease energy costs.
As an energy auditor, you are an expert on how facilities like this bottling plant can cost-effectively manage their energy consumption. One of the first things you look at is the monthly energy costs on the factory's utility bill. You will also look at the energy rating of the equipment in the plant, for example the motors, boilers, and heating furnaces, because the energy rating tells you the maximum joules of energy each machine uses per hour. In this case, the factory's machinery is only a few years old, so its equipment already has a very efficient energy rating.
In addition to the energy rating, you will review the plant production logs and maintenance records for potential opportunities. For example, the bottling plant has hundreds of metres of conveyer belts: if the bearings on the conveyor belts are not greased regularly, the belts do not move as smoothly as they should and require more energy input to keep them moving. You'll also check if the furnace or any other machinery has night settings that will stop them from using as much energy when no one is on site. Next you will spend considerable time interviewing workers as to their practices, looking for ways individuals can help reduce energy consumption. The result of your energy audit will be a report for the bottling facility's owner detailing current energy usage and making recommendations with evaluations of economical opportunities for making the facility more energy efficient.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an energy auditor:
- Plan and schedule projects and audit methodology and procedures.
- Inspect and analyze homes and building structures, heating systems, ventilation, air conditioning, water, and industrial processes to ensure energy use is optimal.
- Assess process equipment and machinery for energy consumption.
- Use testing equipment to identify energy conservation potential.
- Analyze energy consumption for residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial customers.
- Educate users on energy-use habits and potentials for consumption and cost reduction.
- Analyze audit documentation and data and prepare a report of audit findings.
- Present audit findings to clients.
- Prepare cost estimates for potential retrofits.
- Make recommendations for, coordinate, and participate in construction of retrofit measures and energy efficiency upgrades.
Energy auditors work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:
In the office:
- Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing audit reports
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, and government departments, and presenting audit findings and recommendations to clients
- Reviewing documentation, policies, procedures, and reports
- Researching energy technology, and consulting with other auditors and professionals
In the field:
- Touring and inspecting sites and conducting interviews
- Taking measurements and recording data and observations, including documenting equipment specifications, schedules, occupancy details, and facility use patterns
- Compiling audit evidence and results
- Presenting audit findings to clients and stakeholders
Where to work
There are a number of places energy auditors can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Utility companies
- Environmental and engineering consulting firms
- Energy or property management firms
- Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations
- Universities, colleges, and research institutes
- Construction contractors
- Industrial, institutional, and commercial facilities
Education & requirements
If you are a high school student considering a career as an energy auditor, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as an energy auditor is a university undergraduate degree.
If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an energy auditor, the following programs are most applicable:
- Civil Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Engineering Technology
- Environmental Technology
- Pure and Applied Science
In addition to the above programs, energy auditors may also have a background in skilled trades, for example as electricians or building construction tradespeople. It is not necessary to be certified in order to work as an energy auditor, though some practitioners with engineering backgrounds may be required to obtain their licence and Professional Engineer status through their provincial association. Requirements for professional status vary among provinces.
While the rest of his friends were slogging through their first year of university, Dan Boudreau was taking time off. During his two-year break, he worked a number of what he calls dead-end jobs, earning minimum wage. "That experience was enough of a wake-up call to prompt me to apply for university.” Five years later, Dan had his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Brunswick.
Today, Dan works as a project manager with Enerplan, an energy management company based in Moncton, New Brunswick. As a part of his job, Dan regularly conducts energy audits. "Over 90 percent of the time, we conduct energy audits to help our clients reduce their own energy costs.”
The most important starting point before the energy audit contract is even won is looking over the proposed client’s energy bills. By doing this, Dan can compare the building or structure to a similar benchmark building and determine how much energy the building is using compared to the average energy expenditure.
Then Dan heads out to the site to conduct a visual inspection. On site, Dan can be found crawling over pipes, crawling under ductwork, and generally trying to get a good feel for what he can do to save the company energy. "I just love getting on my hands and knees and seeing how a building works.” Dan also takes several different energy measurements to determine what areas, such as windows and doors, are losing the most energy. Once his inspection is complete, he heads back to the office, where he writes up the proposal.
When the contract is won, Dan researches a variety of solutions to reduce a building’s energy emissions. Usually this can be completed at his desk and involves referring to similar projects he’s worked on, as well as researching new and innovative ways to conserve energy. Often the solutions are simple. "We’ve seen a lot of offices where the air conditioner and the heater are running at the same time, essentially fighting each other energy-wise.” In this case, Dan recommends that his client install an energy management control system (EMCS), a computer-operated system that can control everything from the heating, lighting, and air conditioning in a building. "An EMCS ensures that a building’s systems—heating, ventilation, air conditioning, etc.—are running as efficiently as possible.”
Despite offering this type of solution, Dan says people are apprehensive when they see an energy auditor in their office. "A lot of people think that we are going to reduce the temperature and leave them freezing in their office.” Energy auditing is about more than lowering the temperature to reduce energy costs. It’s about figuring out the best, most efficient ways to use energy: "Anything we can do to reduce our energy consumption would go a long way to preserving the environment, as well as save us money.”