The Future of Free Energy Audits

Most free energy audits are done today, in person, by a salesman.

These “auditors” are either unaffiliated with or subcontracted by the local utility company. The agenda is simple, use the energy audits to meet sales goals and help the utility meet their energy reduction mandates. 

To fund free energy audit programs, utility companies charge ratepayers monthly and give subcontractors a green light to solicit them. The subcontractors in turn, perform audits and sell businesses on projects in-line with their particular strengths.

When I was doing energy audits, I was employed as a commissioned salesman for a subcontractor specializing in lighting. And although I had a degree in mechanical engineering, lighting was the primary focus. This company was one of several subcontractors paid by the utility to do their energy audits.

With this approach, businesses are led down a pre-determined path from the time they opt-in to an energy audit. If the auditor is familiar with lighting, a lighting upgrade is encouraged. If the auditor is familiar with boilers, a boiler project is developed.

Both projects of course need to qualify for utility rebates to justify the whole system.

But what if the business needs neither new lights nor a new boiler?

Well, the good news is, this often-misleading system is slowly shifting with the emergence of software technologies.

Software that provides building intelligence directly to businesses, for free, through their online utility account. And interestingly enough, more and more utility companies are purchasing licenses and offering business customers free access.

The software pulls in a variety of information including energy usage, the building profile, weather information and energy reduction suggestions.

It gives direct control to the businesses themselves to see their performance and determine the best opportunities to focus on.

This removes the biases and shortcomings most energy audits today possess.

However, without adding internal resources, this shift will stress businesses without deep energy resources further.

Businesses whose operating expenses, particularly their utility expenses, are out of control and need advice to reduce them will be left to leverage technologies beyond their abilities.

Once this change really takes hold, businesses can expect less solicitations for free energy audits and more promotions for free software tools offered by the local utility company.

Utilities may even eliminate the outsourcing of energy audits altogether. But don’t expect them to staff up their internal teams with energy advisors.

The main driver in moving to technology based solutions is to reduce overhead and increase operating efficiency. The metric utilities really care about is cost/kWh saved.

Businesses will either have to add their own internal resources to drive operating efficiency, outsource the responsibilities to an advisory firm specializing in energy efficiency or continue risk being at the mercy of their utility expenses.


Jeff Julia is the founder of Energy Project Advisors which specializes in advising clients on utility expense reduction strategies.

He is also the author of Navigating the Maze of Energy Efficiency Projects.

Author: Jeff Julia

1 Comment

  • Thanks for explaining what energy audits are. Our electric bill is high and my husband wants to save money. My uncle suggested having an energy audit for our home and shared this article with us.

Leave a Reply