Developing Software for Energy Management

Paul Desrochers

January 1, 2004

Benefits of an Energy Management Tool

A well-designed energy management program should:

  • Identify energy losses of bare sections of piping or equipment, or damage to insulated systems where energy efficiency is questionable.

  • Identify greenhouse gas reductions.

  • Provide payback period for repairs required.

  • Be capable of prioritizing repairs to insulation in place as part of a maintenance program.

  • Be capable of identifying, based on the existing condition of the insulation, the cycle frequency for re-audit.

  • Be capable of providing additional information relative to the "big picture."

Having been employed over many years in the petrochemical industry and directly involved with software systems that were developed for the maintenance management of industrial facilities, I have seen these software systems evolve from archaic, cumbersome systems that were meant to be used only by devoted personnel, to today’s software systems that were developed to be used even by individuals with limited computer experience. Today, these state-of-the-art software systems empower us with the latest technology to develop user-friendly programs for conducting energy management audits.

I would like to share with you my own personal experiences in developing the Maintenance Audit Program (MAP) for conducting insulation and energy management audits.

Facility Owners Want to See the "Big Picture"

In the past, the main objective of preventative maintenance systems was to identify, prioritize, and calculate the cost of related repairs to ensure the safety and long-term operation and reliability of facility equipment. With the increasing costs of energy and the emphasis being placed on energy savings and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to protect our environment, the need for software programs to assist in energy management has taken on an increasing role in the way business is conducted. However, although energy management is a key element, facility owners still want to see the "big picture" in determining the reliability of the engineered systems on their equipment. An energy management software program should incorporate a "complete systems" thinking approach. Although an insulation system provides an immediate reduction in energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, one must also consider additional aspects related to the condition of the equipment.

Evaluate the Total Engineered System

In developing the software program for energy management and in consultation with industry, many different considerations needed to be addressed. In addition to evaluating the insulation system on equipment, facility owners also required a program that would evaluate the total engineered system of their equipment. For example, the condition of the coating system under the insulation, the condition of the heat tracing system and the condition of the fireproofing system. An energy management program shouldn’t only be based on a systems maintenance approach to repair of equipment, but must further incorporate an engineering systems approach.

Industry Code Tables

An energy management program should incorporate a "fact-based" system of measurement. These tables of codes act as an unbiased guideline for determining the condition of the engineered system for prioritizing the repairs.

Thermal Insulation Codes

In order to provide a consistent means of evaluating piping and equipment within the facility, a set of insulation codes was developed to provide the certified energy appraiser with a means of prioritizing the repair requirements of equipment. The program also incorporates additional references to codes for determining the potential degree of failure to the insulation system on the equipment, while prioritizing the repair work.

To accomplish a complete engineered systems audit, discipline codes were established using the respective industry guidelines. These codes are also used to determine the audit cycle frequency. Audit cycles are necessary to measure the repairs and provide the facility owner with a true maintenance program for management of his piping and equipment.

Service Codes

Secondly, code tables should include a reference to service codes. Service codes are used to reference the type of engineered insulation system to be used to complete the repairs required.

Reason Codes

Finally, a reference to reason codes is required to identify the reason for the thermal insulation code used to prioritize the work. For instance, is the insulation required for freeze protection, personnel protection, and corrosion under insulation or for energy conservation to ensure the long-term thermal efficiency of the system?

As you are aware, a situation where a hot bare pipe surface is missing insulation would immediately indicate an increase in energy costs, or where insulation is completely saturated would also indicate an increase in energy costs, but could also indicate the potential for corrosion under insulation. So, as a certified energy appraiser, one must not only concern oneself with energy management, but should also be looking at the "big picture."

Equipment Codes

Equipment Cross Referencing

To assist in the auditing processes, the certified appraiser should ask the facility owner if an equipment identification system is used within the facility. This system of identification simplifies the means of identifying a piece of equipment in the field. Typically, the industry will label piping and equipment using an abbreviated form of identification; for example, exchangers could be identified as EX-112. By using this form of identification, the certified energy appraiser can then run a report by equipment groupings, thus narrowing down his search for equipment. Equipment abbreviations are commonly used in the industry as a means of equipment identification.

Plot Plans, P&ID’s and Line Lists

The use of facility Plan Layout Drawings (Plot Plans), Process and Instrumentation Flow Diagrams (P&ID’s), Equipment Line lists and/or isometric drawings, are imperative documents for conducting a thorough energy audit of a facility. The documentation is required to gather the detailed information required for entry into the energy management program.

Plan Layouts

Plot Plans can be used to sub-divide the facility into workable areas for the purpose of identifying the detailed location of a piece of equipment within the facility.

It’s essential that the certified energy appraiser work with the facility representative in setting apart the individual operating areas. Each area should then be identified by its own unique name (i.e., steam plant) as defined by the facility owner. A software program should be designed with the capabilities of separating the equipment by operating area.

Process and Instrumentation Flow Diagrams

The use of P&ID’s is essential in identifying equipment in the field. P&ID’s also provide line number identification of piping, the flow of the process and additional information relative to the piping and equipment. For instance, the size of the piping, the service of the piping (i.e., steam, condensate, etc.), design temperature, operating temperature, heat tracing medium, insulation thickness and insulation type.

Line Lists

The use of line lists can assist the certified energy appraiser in quickly identifying the piping circuit and equipment connections, linking a specific section of piping to other piping and, finally, to the equipment.

Pre-Job Meeting

Prior to beginning the audit, a meeting must be scheduled with all parties who have a vested interest in the energy audit. A total detailed scope of the work should be discussed to determine the client’s specific needs and requirements. The first step is to obtain a plot plan of the facility and sub-divide the facility into workable areas. Secondly, request from the facility owner the necessary information about the current use of energy for input into the 3E Plus® version 3.2 program (an insulation thickness computer program developed by the Insulation Manufacturers Association). This information can also be obtained from the energy provider if it’s not available from the facility. Once the pre-job meeting has been completed and the facility has been divided into workable areas, the appraiser is now armed with the necessary information required to conduct an in-depth audit of the facility. Most importantly, prior to setting foot on a client’s property, understand completely all the rules and regulations of the facility and that the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn while on the site.

Equipment Detail Information

Data Collection

The energy management program uses a data collection sheet to gather consistent information pertaining to the equipment. Specific information is documented, such as equipment identification numbers, the operating area in which the equipment is located, the detailed location of the equipment within the operating area, the equipment group, the type material of which the equipment is constructed (i.e., carbons steel, stainless, etc.), the state of the equipment, the design temperature, the operating temperature and a detailed description of the equipment. The operating temperature can be determined by the use of a surface temperature gauge, or infrared thermography if not identified on the documentation provided by the client.

Next, examine the entire insulation system to determine the degree of failure and document findings in detail, providing a thorough description and recommendation for repair. If a shutdown of the equipment is required to complete the entire repair required, the energy management program is equipped with this function. It’s important to be as accurate as possible as someone else will need to find the equipment and complete the scope of repairs mentioned in the report without assistance. This also goes for the contractor; the client may choose to give the report to the local contractor to complete the repairs and requires enough detail so they can also find the equipment without assistance and complete the repairs based on the report.

Insulation Priorities

Document the date and the name of the certified energy appraiser who performed the audit. Prioritize the condition of the insulation system using the insulation code table. The priority classification is also used to determine the audit cycle. Reference to the service code for repair and reason code are then documented.


A thorough energy audit should include a cost estimate of repair. The certified energy appraiser should make it quite clear to the client with a written disclaimer that the cost estimate is given for rough budgeting purposes only and for determining the payback period. The estimate should not be used for comparison of accuracy when requesting quotations from a contractor. For this reason, if the certified energy appraiser is not experienced in providing cost estimates, it’s recommended he request the assistance of a professional within that field of expertise. As mentioned earlier in this article, the facility owner is most often concerned with the "big picture" of the equipment and may request additional information pertinent to the equipment such as the condition of the substrate of the equipment, the coating system, the tracing system, the fireproofing system, or as may be indicative in older facilities, the presence of asbestos. For this purpose the energy management program incorporates the use of other industry codes and reporting features to provide a thorough investigative analysis.


Energy Analysis Summary

Once all information has been gathered, the energy management program incorporates the use of 3E Plus for determining energy losses, heat gain and greenhouse gas emissions. Estimated costs of repair used in the energy management program are then calculated to determine the payback period for the insulation repairs. This complete system of measurement provides the facility owner with a direct roadmap to realizing the energy savings available through proper insulation maintenance of the equipment.

Other Reporting Features

Now that the facility owner has the information necessary to make an informed decision regarding the type of energy costs he can recuperate by implementing insulation repairs that provide an immediate reduction in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, he may now require additional assistance in determining which equipment should be worked on first based on his existing maintenance budget and long-term maintenance projections. Having explored different types of reporting features and in consultation with industry, the energy management program provides several different variations in reporting. Incorporated into the program as additional reporting features to assist the facility owner in determining his insulation requirements are the following reporting capabilities.

1. Summary reports that can provide a prioritized list of equipment repairs.

2. Detailed reports that identify the full scope of repairs to the equipment by priority.

3. Summary reports identifying the cost of repair for each piece of equipment.

4. A separate column within the summary report to identify the cost of access to the equipment to complete the repairs (i.e., scaffolding, manlift, etc).

5. A summary report identifying the overall facility cost of repairs by area and priority for the purpose of long-term planning strategies?

Incentive Programs

A high quality energy management program, together with other incentive energy management programs offered by select energy providers and federal agencies (dependent on you location in North America) will provide the tools needed by the certified energy appraiser in providing the client with a cost effective incentive program for auditing insulation to determine his current and future energy usage.

Editor’s note: Publication of this article on the MAP program does not necessarily signify NIA’s endorsement of the program over other energy management software tools. This article is designed for informative purposes.