Energy audits: Why we prefer paper notes over energy auditing apps

Ty Clark
Published on May 02, 2021
Energy auditors, listen up: Take paper notes in the field.

That statement may seem counterintuitive. After all, we live in the 21st century where mobile device possess all the tools we could possibly need for energy audit reports. Energy auditing companies can go out into the field for a lighting audit, log everything on a mobile device, and then never have to go back into the office to digitally type up their notes.

So, why paper?

At Bay Efficiency we gave auditing apps a fair shot. We conducted ASHRAE energy audits and lighting audits over millions of square feet. Before we even had a software division to create our energy auditing tool LightBids we tested out all of the software platforms that we could get our hands on — including Ecoinsight, Retroficiency, and kWhours — trying to find a fit for our California energy efficiency audit services division.

Here is what the experience taught us.

While you’re logging data in the app, you might miss something

No two buildings are alike. The key details in a commercial energy audit will come from careful observation and attentive listening.

Building engineers walk fast, talk fast, and go off topic as they walk past things in the building. These off-topic comments can be the true gems of the whole audit. You could be walking down the hall and the building engineer can start talking about things that eventually will be the key to the entire sale.

With a notepad, it’s easy to write a comment down and put a star next to it — so that you can be sure it’s included in the final energy efficiency analysis delivered to the client.

When we used a tablet app though, we were desperately trying to move through the screens to get to the notes page. When we did find it, we were hastily typing with two fingers, trying not to miss any details. Inevitably we would end up forgetting the second half of what the building engineer said, or completely miss what he was pointing out in the next room down the hall.

If you are doing a self-guided building energy audit where you can take your time, then taking notes on a tablet works fine. But if you’re following a fast-talking building owner or engineer, then it is probably better to stick to the old-fashioned notebook approach.

The energy efficiency audit is all about the sale

Never forget the true purpose of why you offer energy audit services. It may sometimes seems like a monotonous process of repeated note-taking and data inputs. But at its core, and audit needs to be a sales tool.

This is your chance to convince the building owner to upgrade aging equipment. It’s your opportunity to carefully hear what the owner is saying and then respond with well-articulated suggestions that prove the value of making a change.

In order to sell, you have to be in touch with the building’s drivers. You need to understand their pain points. At Bay Efficiency, we tried to accomplish this while using technology — but we came up short. We just couldn’t replicate the process of quickly jotting down notes on paper, looking at the building owner, and hearing all of the details.

If the commercial energy audit isn’t a sales tool, then it’s just a way to create a big stack of paper taking up space on someone’s bookcase. Ditch the technology in the field and stick to paper notes. It’s an extra step, but one that will help close the sale.

Ty Clark
Published on May 02, 2021