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This article was originally published in the May/June 1994 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.

 

 

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Home Energy Magazine Online May/June 1994


Confessions of an Addicted Auditor


My initial reaction to the prospect of a computerized audit was sarcastic disdain--right, a computer is going to tell me what's wrong with a building! I joked about the computer interviewing the boiler. Around this time, I was trading away my manual typewriter for a computer. I didn't fear the computer, but I certainly didn't trust it.

The concept of a computerized audit appalled me. I had been through hundreds of buildings, thousands of units, and saved millions of dollars in fuel over ten years. Certainly no computer, or computer programmer, could improve my audits. But after four years of this love/hate relationship, we now have respect for each other's skills, while we are each aware of the other's misgivings. The computer audit and I have bonded.

It's not been an easy relationship. It all began in 1988 on an XT computer that took almost 15 minutes to process a fuel analysis and workscope. I spent an entire evening on our first date, watching the data I entered crash time after time.

The Energy Audit using the Queens Information Package (EA-QUIP) is approved for use by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for multifamily dwellings, but it can analyze other building types as well. The audit was developed by the Queens College Center for the Biology of Natural Systems under the guidance of Len Rodberg, using the Computerized Instrumented Residential Audit (CIRA), a program developed at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in the late 1970s which was also used to develop the NEAT audit (see The National Energy Audit, p. 28). The people that made it happen, however, are Len and four auditors who crammed it into their computers and fought with error codes and crashes for the better part of 1989.

The software cannot and will not replace a good auditor. Rather, it backs up the decisions of a good auditor. The user inputs building data, and then the program models the estimated fuel usage of a building--assuming that description and compares it to the building's actual usage. The data entered into the model includes

General. Address, terrain, shielding, heated space, floors, common lighting, air conditioning.

Infiltration. Measured or estimated leakage, mechanical ventilation, blower door readings.

Roof. Type, insulation, air space, doors, windows, roof material.

Basement. Type, size, insulation, ceiling/wall penetrations, doors, windows, leakage.

Economics/Fuel. Investment level, discount rate, primary fuel, fuel and electric cost and actual consumption.

Heating System. Type, input, efficiency, draft/smoke/CO/stack/CO2 (fossil fuels only), ventilation, and condition of system.

Controls/Distribution. Thermostat(s), distribution system, heating temperature, and imbalances.

Appliances. Domestic hot water system, insulation, restriction and usage, stoves, refrigerators, and lighting.

Envelope. Walls, windows, doors, materials, and their configurations.

After the information is entered, the program models fuel usage, heating system run-time, internal and external gains, and heating load. Assuming actual and predicted usage are within accepted parameters, the retrofit recommendations can begin.

The retrofit option reviews energy conservation options, and ranks them as if installed separately, by payback and savings-to-investment ratio (SIR). It takes the most cost-effective items, in groups, installs them into the building model, and recalculates usage. It then picks the next most cost-effective measures, installs them, and recalculates the usage. This pattern continues until the program has analyzed all items with a SIR of 0 or better, and a report is generated. Printouts illustrate the existing conditions in the building as modeled, then display various types of analysis, including simple payback, cascaded savings and SIR for each item. The printouts impress building owners and help them understand the problems in their buildings.

This program requires IBM equipment with at least 128K RAM and is much faster when run from a hard drive. It requires approximately 2 megabytes. The XT that I originally ran EA-QUIP on is almost out to pasture, and my 486 does the necessary calculations in a much-reduced minute or two.

Four years of computer-assisted audits have made me a better auditor. EA-QUIP has told me on a few occasions that my building diagnosis was wrong, and it was right. Most interesting is what I've learned about which changes in a building reduce (or increase) fuel usage most dramatically. To my complete satisfaction, window replacements show a virtually insignificant change in fuel usage, even when factoring in the combined effect of increased R-value and decreased infiltration. (Owners typically want window replacements and we typically don't want to pay for them.)

EA-QUIP has improved our effectiveness in dealing with larger and more sophisticated building owners, and it has supported many agencies in getting close to dollar-for-dollar matching funds from owners of rental properties.

-- F. L. Andrew Padian

F. L. Andrew Padian is Director of Energy Audit Services for the New York City Weatherization Coalition and a private building consultant.

 

 

Related Articles

Advancing the Art of PRISM Analysis (Fels, Kissock, Marean, Reynolds)
¿Como Se Dice 'Retrofitter'? (Griffin)
Computerized Energy Audits (Penn)
Measuring the Performance of the National Energy Audit (Sharp)
The National Energy Audit (Harner)
New York's 'Targeted Investment Protocol System' (Gerardi and Sweeney)
Selecting an Infrared Imaging System (Snell)
Training Guide for 'Total Comfort' Professionals
Using Fuel Bills for a Targeted Investment (Padian)
The Wisconsin Audit System (O'Leary)

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