How Does a Mechanical Insulation Energy Audit Work?

Posted by |Industry News|April 9, 2019


When many people think of an energy audit, the first thing that comes to mind is evaluating their home to determine where they may be losing energy and money. A mechanical insulation energy audit is not the same as a home energy audit, but the purpose and benefits are the same.

An insulation energy audit gives business owners, building owners and facilities managers a complete understanding of the true dollar and performance value of their insulated systems. The process is an effective way to calculate how much money and energy a facility is losing with its current mechanical insulation system, whether because the mechanical equipment is under-insulated, or because the insulation is missing or damaged.

Developed by the National Insulation Association, the insulation energy appraisal process calculates the energy and dollars a facility or process is losing with its current insulation system and demonstrates how a more efficient system can:

  • Save hundreds of thousands of Btus
  • Improve the process control and efficiency
  • Reduce fuel costs
  • Contribute to a cleaner environment through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

What is a certified insulation energy appraiser?

When a facility owner or manager decides that they would like to receive an energy audit, the first step is to find a certified appraiser. Certified insulation energy appraisers have completed a comprehensive course with a professional instructor through the National Insulation Association’s Insulation Energy Appraisal Program, and gained skills in the following areas:

  • Interviewing facilities personnel or building owners to gather the most accurate information
  • Conducting facility walkthroughs
  • Using specialized software specifically designed to determine the cost-effectiveness of insulation
  • Determining greenhouse gas emissions saved through the use of insulation
  • Analyzing and completing a full appraisal report

During this process, it is crucial to use a certified appraiser. Performing your own facility walkthrough may be effective for noticing missing or damaged insulation, but a trained and certified appraiser can put a dollar value on the lost energy, which produces helpful documentation that is useful for budgeting and project proposals.

What are the steps in a mechanical insulation energy audit?

Step 1: Meeting with Facility Personnel

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- scope of the project and gather various information, including:

  • Type of fuel used for heat or cooling in the facility
  • Medium used to transfer the energy to the facility components
  • Age of the facility
  • Typical cost of fuel
  • Hours of operation for the various components of the system
  • Efficiency of the heating or cooling equipment
  • Safety requirements of the facility

Step 2: facility Walkthrough

During a walk-through, the appraiser will measure and document all applicable pipes, ducts, and equipment, both insulated and uninsulated or damaged. The appraiser may also point out areas of concern with uninsulated areas or damaged insulation, such as personnel safety, regulatory compliance, corrosion under insulation, process control, or impact on adjacent equipment.

The facility walkthrough encompasses the bulk of the energy audit. The appraiser will use a heat thermography gun or laser gun to identify hot or cold mechanical systems with insulation missing or damaged to the point of dysfunction. The auditor records specific information when he recovers a problem, such as:

  • Temperature of the surface of the item
  • Ambient condition
  • Size of the item
  • Length of the item
  • Number of fittings, valves, and flanges
  • Conditions around the item (ambient temperature, etc.)
  • Thickness of the adjacent insulation if any
  • Required finish

Step 3: Custom Calculations

Once the appraiser has completed the interview with facility staff and walk-through, he or she calculates the data using specialized software to put a dollar value on Btu losses and calculate greenhouse gas emissions. The software can generate

  • Btu reductions
  • Greenhouse gas reductions
  • 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

This is valuable data that an owner can use to make educated decisions about facility operations.

Step 4: Presentation of Final Report

Once the energy audit and calculations have been completed, a final report is generated. Given the information above, the insulation contractor will calculate the cost of a new mechanical insulation system 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 software, the owner has an idea of the ROI of a new mechanical insulation system.

Mechanical insulation energy audits are invaluable tools for helping owners and facilities managers make decisions about plant operations and improvements. Contact NCMI today to learn more about setting up an energy audit for your facility.

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