The average operations department is not properly equipped to study energy performance in a campus, large multi-family community, hospital, or commercial complex. Many of the necessary tools are easily available and require little training, with the exception of infrared cameras and electrical testing equipment. Use these tools to their fullest capacity. In addition to locating heat loss issues, infrared cameras are invaluable tools for detecting roof leaks, flashing issues at roofs and windows, moisture wicking up from grade in masonry walls, circuit breakers that will fail prematurely, motors that are overheating, and more. For information on how your infrared camera can be used, visit the FLIR website.
Required tools for any consultant or building operations team include:
Moisture Meter with Probe – The Delmhorst J2000 is available online for about $320. Operation is simple. I generally use the meter to verify moisture intrusion issues in sheetrock. The presence of moisture can suggest wet insulation, which will not provide the expected performance, plus the possible presence of mold within the wall system.
With your infrared camera, look for obvious thermal differences on the interior of an outside wall where there should be none. The moisture meter can help you determine whether a thermal anomaly picked up with the infrared camera is caused by moisture or by missing or inadequate insulation. After a heavy rain or in a room that sees periodic flooding, I will use the moisture meter by pushing the probes fully into the sheetrock below the left and right corners of windows and directly above the base molding on exterior walls. Readings over 0.5% moisture can suggest the presence of excess moisture. Compare these exterior wall readings with baseline measurements from interior walls.
It is important to use these tools to their full capacity. All too often, an energy auditor will overlook serious building problems simply because they are not energy issues. The possible presence of mold is probably of greater importance to a building owner than a thermal leak. Mold represents a risk that must be managed quickly.
Light Meter – The Extech SDL400 Light Meter/Datalogger is available online for about $300. The meter will store readings and export logged data into Excel. Use the meter to measure lighting levels throughout your buildings, taking readings in all rooms and in key locations in large spaces; ASHRAE 90.1 2007 sets lighting power density allowances. The 2010 version is available to preview at the same link. The IES Light in Design application guide is available online as a reference.
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These recommended lighting levels can be compared to your meter readings. It may be apparent that you can de-lamp some of your fixtures and still have sufficient light. If you are considering fixture replacement, your engineer can provide a new energy efficient design.
Digital Thermometer/Humidity Meter – The Fluke-971 Temperature Humidity Meter is available online for about $250. Use the meter for logging space comfort conditions, verifying temperatures, verifying moisture intrusion, and locating drafts. Most importantly, use the meter to compare actual room conditions to HVAC setpoints.
Infrared Camera –Budget about $4,500 (with Level 1 training) for an entry level infrared camera from FLIR or Fluke. Our first FLIR camera cost about $5,700. Using the infrared feature set on automatic temperature range, properly focused, you can capture images of roll-up doors, painted doors, close-up shots of door and window frames, exterior wall systems, roofing, electrical panels with terminations exposed, motors, etc. Beware: glass and shiny metal will provide reflected readings, not surface readings. The camera will demonstrate:
- Thermal bridging in doors, windows, and frames
- Air leaks at cracked caulking, door sweeps, and frames
- Wet insulation in roof and wall systems
- Wire terminations that need to be tightened in power and lighting panels
- Leaky ductwork
- Condensate leaks and faulty steam traps on steam heating systems
Computer with Internet Access – Energy Star has provided Portfolio Manager as a free tool for tracking energy usage trends. Your utility usage data is compared against average buildings of the same type or function and geographic norms.
A basic equipment and training budget is about $5,800 to $8,500. This basic equipment is necessary for anyone performing an energy audit, or as basic equipment for energy management by any operations department at a campus or large building of 500,000 sf or greater.Smaller facilities may want to contract this work out to a Certified Energy Manager.