The Metropolitan Edison Company/Pennsylvania Electric Company Sustainable Energy Fund launched an Energy Audit Grant Program in 2013 specifically for nonprofit organizations. The program would enable nonprofit organizations to receive professional energy audits of the buildings they own and operate through grants funded by the Met Ed/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund. In its first year, the program was very successful in funding professional energy audits for nine nonprofit organizations’ buildings in the Met Ed and Penelec service territories.

Two of those organizations, The Learning Lamp and the Gateway Building, are working through the energy audit process for the first time. Leah Spangler, CEO of The Learning Lamp and Wayne White, Property Manager for the Gateway Building provided some insight for other organizations considering an audit.

The Learning Lamp, located in Johnstown, PA, is a multi-faceted program focused on academic achievement for students.  At The Learning Lamp, students can receive tutoring and attend summer school, families can learn more on homeschooling options, schools can enroll students in SAT prep, and children can participate in addiction prevention programs.

The Greater Berks Development Fund is currently housed in the Gateway Building in Reading, PA. For more than 60 years, the Greater Berks Development Fund has helped companies to locate, expand, and grow in Berks County. They guide firms through many processes such as relocation and financing to business growth.

Both of these are nonprofit organizations are located in the Met Ed/Penelec regions and applied for and received grants for professional building energy audits through the Energy Audit Program in its launch year, 2013.

Determining whether a facility needs an energy audit and how to fund it can be a difficult process, in part because most people are not generally familiar with the purpose of an energy audit. Energy audits are beneficial in that they provide an assessment of a facility’s many systems (heating, cooling, lighting, etc.) and the energy they consume. An energy audit is necessary to formulate decisions when it comes to energy management of a facility and therefore, should be the first step when planning a capital-intensive project.

While both of the facilities applied for the Energy Audit Program, they each had very different reasons for doing so. Spangler requested a grant from the program because she knew that energy conservation was a possibility and a must for their 1960s era building. On the other hand, White sought opportunities to control rental rates for new and existing tenants in the building by reducing operating costs for heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and lighting equipment. Still, both facilities were seeking expertise that was not available without the help of a professional building energy audit.

The process involved in obtaining a professional energy audit is not complicated and can be completed in about three to six months. The Met Ed/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund staff can help to simplify the process by providing more information such as lists of local, qualified firms that can perform the auditing services.

Once organizations are approved for an energy audit grant from the Met Ed/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund, they need to do research on energy audit companies and request quotes from three qualified firms. After a company has been hired, the auditor will conduct a Preliminary Energy-Use Analysis (PEA) which involves gathering about two years of energy bills to determine energy consumption and costs. The findings from the PEA provide background data for all other segments of the energy audit process that follow.

The results from the PEA along with a survey of the facility and interviews with building operations personnel are used to create an energy audit report containing recommendations for energy efficiency measures (EEMs) or energy conservation measures (ECMs).

White from the Greater Berks Development Fund stressed the importance of finding companies who are familiar with the American Society of Heating , Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits. With over 54,000 members worldwide, the ASHRAE focuses on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration, and sustainability within the industry. Companies can bundle a list of services and call it an energy audit, but ASHRAE provides the national standard for the energy audits.

Spangler said, “The process can be a little intimidating, but the final audit was very useful.” The energy audit concludes with a report of the auditor’s findings. In this report are the energy efficiency measures, charts displaying the findings from the energy bills from the past two years, and tables calculating the eventual payback of implementing each energy efficiency measure that was recommended.

Obviously the energy audit is meant to provide insight into a building’s energy usage that can be acted upon to make decisions. For White, the building energy audit shed light on which of the building’s systems are the high energy consumers as well as estimates of potential energy savings if those systems’ equipment were to be replaced with more energy efficient equipment. Spangler said that with the findings from the building energy audit, The Learning Lamp was able to build the costs into a planned renovation project.

When asked if they would recommend the Met Ed/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund’s Energy Audit Program to other nonprofit organizations in the region, White and Spangler both agreed, yes. Between finding ways to save money in energy costs during challenging economic times and discovering new information that would otherwise be unavailable, the energy audit program is a good tool for any nonprofit organization that owns property to consider.

Spangler and White had some very important tips to share with potential applicants of the Energy Audit Program in the coming years. White says to do your research and find an engineering firm that has experience with energy audits to perform your professional building energy audit. Check their references! Spangler recommends that you meet with several engineering firms and request several quotes and select the firm to perform your energy audit with whom you are the most comfortable talking.

For information on how to apply for an energy audit, go to the click here.