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Mechanical Insulation Energy Audits
Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Mechanical Insulation Energy Audits


The best way to show the potential energy savings, greenhouse gas reductions, and cost savings for mechanical systems is to perform a mechanical insulation energy audit.  We will show the value of such audits in the following paragraphs.

A mechanical insulation energy audit is really very simple.  There are various steps that must be completed by the auditor to get accurate results but with the help of the 3ePlus program created by the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association the information can be very effective in reducing energy consumption.  

When a facility owner or representative decides they would like to see the savings from their facility they must first find a qualified auditor.  The person performing the audit should be a certified energy appraiser specifically trained to perform mechanical insulation energy audits.

The first step in performing an energy audit is for the auditor to meet with the plant owner or owner’s representative.  During this meeting the auditor will determine the type of fuel used for heat or cooling in the facility, the medium used to transfer the energy to the facility components, the age of the facility, the cost of fuel, hours of operation for the various components of the system, the efficiency of the heating or cooling equipment, safety requirements of the facility, and other pertinent information.  

After the meeting with the plant staff, the auditor will schedule a time to be in the facility to perform the actual audit.  This process can be very time consuming depending on the condition of the facility.  A well maintained facility takes less time to audit than a poorly maintained facility.  The auditor usually begins at the source of the heat or cooling (boiler room or chilling equipment) and works away from that source.  Armed with a heat thermography gun or a laser gun the auditor works through the facility identifying hot or cold mechanical systems with insulation missing or damaged to the point it is not functioning properly.  When an opportunity is identified, the auditor records the temperature of the surface of the item, the ambient condition, the size of the item, the length, number of fittings, valves, flanges, the conditions around the item, thickness of the adjacent insulation if any, required finish, and any other important items.  The information is important to the proper use of the 3ePlus program.  This process is followed throughout the facility at the direction of the owner.  In some cases, the owner will only want to do a wing, floor, or a portion of the facility.  Upon completion of the survey the data is entered into the 3ePlus program.  

The 3ePlus program requires specific data for the proper results.  The program requires the hours of operation, ambient condition, wind velocity, item temperature, item size and material (steel, copper, etc.), desired insulation material and finish, cost of fuel, percent of efficiency of the equipment, and other pertinent information.   The program can generate BTU reductions, greenhouse gas reductions (C02, NOx, CE), proper insulation thickness, percent of efficiency of the proposed new insulation system, surface temperature prior to and after mechanical insulation is installed, cost of the process per foot per year, savings per foot per year, and other valuable pieces of information that an owner can use to make educated decisions about plant operations.  

The auditor will then calculate the cost of the new insulation program for the facility.  The cost may be calculated on an overall project basis or an item-by-item basis.  When the cost of the insulation is compared to the savings calculated by the 3ePlus program the owner would then know the “pay back” of the system.  On steam systems the payback is usually 6 to 14 months.  On hating hot water the payback is 18 to 24 months.  On domestic hot water the payback is 2.5 to 3 years.  Cold system insulation paybacks are longer because the heat gain is not as dramatic as heat loss.  

After the auditor has completed the task of entering the data into the 3ePlus program they will place the data in an easy to understand form so the owner can understand the value of the mechanical insulation system.  The form may show the overall savings or an item-by-item savings.

A mechanical insulation energy audit, performed by a certified energy auditor using the NAIMA 3ePlus program, is a very accurate way to determine how efficient a facility is operating.  Positive action by the owner can put energy savings on the bottom line and afford future savings well into the future.