IllumeTALK, Episode 6: The All-Important Lighting Audit – An Investment in Success with Michael Davenport of TWhigham Consulting

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 By Kate Reynolds

Let’s IllumeTALK about Lighting Audits!

In this episode, guest Michael Davenport of TWhigham Consulting explains why lighting audits are the most important part of a successful lighting project or program.

Serving as the foundation, audits (also known as surveys) must include extremely accurate information, and those performing them must have the knowledge and experience needed to see potential installation problems that can make or break the implementation of an efficiency program.

Learn more about the Importance of Lighting Audits by listening to Episode 6 of IllumeTALK now:

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Aaron Woloszyn (AW): Hello everyone and welcome to another IllumeTALK episode. Today we're going to be talking about the lighting audit and why it is so important to efficiency programs.
Before we get started today, I do want to say that we still don't have a winner from the Title 24 episode. And if you don't know what I'm talking about give it another listen, but this time, wait until after the credits. Like any great movie, there might be an Easter egg for you.
It is often said that the most important piece to any successful lighting or energy project or program is the initial audit of that space. Having not only accurate information, but the knowledge and experience to see potential installation problems can make or break a successful implementation of an efficiency program.
With me today is Michael Davenport. Michael works for TWhigham Consulting, which is a firm we use for a lot of our national auditing needs. They've been a great partner of ours and they've been able to bring a lot of experience to our auditing process. Good morning, Michael, and welcome to IllumeTALK!
Michael Davenport (MD): Thank you, Aaron. I'm excited to be here. I'm a big fan of your podcast series I've listened to them all. This is an elite group, and I'm – I'm just happy to be a part of it.
AW: Thank you very much I'm happy to hear that. Tell me a bit about TWhigham Consulting and its history.
MD:  Timothy Whigham is our owner and president. He started this company in 2013. Tim and I have worked together since 2005.
AW: Oh wow, okay.
MD: And we've worked for one another, we've worked with one another, we've worked for different companies together, we've worked for the same company together. For 13 years, we've worked together in various capacities. In 2016, I came back and I was hired full time with them. Tim has three employees: Eugene Voyles, Nick Bonbright, and myself. And we focus – our mission is to provide best in class engineering services to our clients who are primarily in the energy efficiency business.
AW: I've talked to you and Tim quite a bit and you both seem very passionate about energy efficiency. What's the driving factor behind this?
MD: Well for me, I fell in love with this career from day one. I graduated from college with a degree in electrical engineering in late '91. My first job out of college. We were in a horrible recession, and I worked third shift retrofitting T12 fluorescent trauffers to T8.
AW: Oh wow.
MD: Little did I know at the time that was an omen for some great things to come.

AW: Then you've been in lighting ever since?
MD: Well no. I had to get off third shift. So I worked my way on to day shift jobs, worked as an auto mechanic, worked as an electrical designer on AutoCAD and in 1996 I landed my first job in energy efficiency business; engineering and auditing for a lighting company. And it's been an amazing career. I love it. The adventure, the sleuthing, the engineering challenges, it's just something I love. I hope I get to do this for a long time to come.
AW: Well I hope so too. Let's get into the nitty gritty of it. Whether it's like a retail store or a school or even maybe a manufacturing or distribution plant, the survey or audit sets the stage for what's to be done so to speak. So why is an accurate survey so important in your opinion?
MD: I'm glad you asked that question, and I'm glad Illumetek believes strongly in doing a good survey upfront.
AW: We do.
MD: So it's going to require some investment to do it right upfront. There are other business models out there and those are to spend as little effort as possible on the front end and then come back once the contract is signed and do a more thorough job. And the mistake is usually made when they don't go back and do the more detailed survey.
AW: Of course.
MD: And the surprises that eventually come up all fall on the PMs. I believe there's a lot of value in doing a thorough energy audit upfront, uncovering those surprises. So in the '90s we were retrofitting T12 to T8, the electronic ballast that drove the T8 lamps was the most expensive part of the retrofit kit. 25 or 30 dollars per ballast. So in a lot of cases we took a 2 lamp troffer and we would put a 4 lamp ballast in every other fixture and then you would run lamp wires to the other fixtures only.
AW: Okay.
MD: So half of the fixtures in your building would have no power. How are you going to know that unless you open it and check it out, you know?
AW: So it's more than just walking in accounting lights?
MD: That's right.
AW: As they say.
MD: It's a little bit more complicated.
AW: Yeah just a just a tad. So surveying retail versus, you know, commercial industrial spaces. Is there a difference in method or approach?
MD: Yes. It’s very different. You know commercial space they don't directly sell the products that they have on the shelves. So, the facility managers are interested in providing the best environment for their employees, they're interested in meeting minimum safety standards, they're interested in reducing their energy spend as much as they can. A retail space on the other hand, is an art form designing the retail space, so they are interested in performance, color, beam angles, comfortable air temperatures, finishes, fabrics, everything. You need to have your eventual outcome in mind when you begin the audit. You want to know what direction you're headed with it and keep that in the back of your mind when you when you do an audit.
AW: I couldn't agree more. You know having the end goal there before you even get in the space can kind of give you an idea of what the vision is.
MD: That's right.
AW: That brings a lot of value. So talk to me about some common obstacles you see with this process. You know something the average person – or average facility manager or energy manager or whoever – might not think about.
MD: Really I think the time that it takes to do it right is probably the biggest obstacle. It's something that a lot of people have experience with. Companies coming in and doing a 20 minute, 30 minute, one-hour audit, and that's what they expect. So, you want to come in and spend a day and a half, you know walk in their facility and they may not understand why it should take that long. So, you know just educate the customer and tell them you know we're going to do a thorough job, we're going to open fixtures, we're going to look at the panel boards, we're going to take some readings, we're going to do everything that we need to do to put together the right project for you. It's really kind of the biggest hurdle that I see.
AW: I've always felt that the word audit was better than the word survey because when you think about being audited I always think about the IRS. OK I'm being audited. They go through every little nitty gritty thing, you know? So, when you're doing a lighting audit of your facility you want them to go through every little thing so that they have a clear snapshot of your, you know, of your facility.
MD: That is true. I've always preferred the word survey because when you walk into a facility and you say “I'm here to do an audit”, they look at you and they go “oh gosh I'm in trouble”, and I don't like to put people in a situation like that.
AW:  You know I never thought about it like that.
MD: But I think you're right though, I think the audit carries with it, a little bit more gravity.
AW: It's a little more serious. You know you think of "survey" and you know, no offense of course, but like you're just going to go "OK, I gonna walk in count a bunch of lights and I'm gonna walk out." There's a lot more to it than that. I've been pushing the word "audit" over "survey" for quite a while.
MD: Yeah.
AW: What's one piece of advice you'd give someone beginning the auditing process?
MD: Well I would say just to budget the time to do it properly, you know have a proper energy audit done so that's good you may have to pay for that. But it's important you get a professional that does it for a living to come in and gather all of the data that is needed. Just put the effort in. The fees upfront to do the energy audit when compared to return trips and the impact on your project of mistakes, it’s insignificant, it’s not worth it, and the value is there, easily.
AW: Let’s fast forward to, you know, kind of like the present and to the future a little bit. Everyone's been adopting LED and you know we've been talking about controls in IoT and the industry now for a while. How are these tech influences changing the way spaces are being looked at from an auditor's point of view, and from your point of view?
MD: Well the technologies are very mature now and maturing quickly and they're getting to a very mature place. So, there's an application, there's a solution for every situation out there. There's no more sort of low hanging fruit. You know, just don't touch these fixes because they're hard. There are solutions for everything now. Look at the A19 bulb; when the first LED A19 bulbs came out they were all weird shapes and they had fins, they had clear glass and they had white globes.
AW: And they were like wrapped in like a rubber. So they didn't shatter that.
MD: Yeah.
AW: Just very interesting
MD: Everyone had their own idea of the right way to do it. Well now it's a commodity. They've got these things perfected. They are exactly the same shape and size as an incandescent A19. There's a factory somewhere stamping them out by the millions. And the price points below three dollars. So, controls is kind of the same way, when the occupancy since they first came out it was about the time when desktop computers were really getting to be, you know, showing up on everyone's desk. And so we put this Occ. Sensor on the wall and we sat dead still at our computer and the lights go off and then you're over there waving your arms that you're drowning trying to get the lights back on. And so, people were like "I hate this thing. Take it out." Well, now the technology is mature. And they work. they just work so well and they're seamless. Nobody, I mean people don't even notice that they're there anymore.
AW: That's a good point. That's a good point. So before we wrap up, do you have any cool, funny or strange auditing stories you want to share with our listeners? I imagine you see all kinds of stuff when you're at facilities, whether it be retail or you know industrial plants or whatever. Anything come to mind in your years of experience?
MD: Ohhhh. The adventures. I mean I could talk for a couple hours more. I've seen some really cool stuff. I worked on a project for the Bureau of Land Management, which is under the United States Department of the Interior, and they hold a wild horse roundup every year out in Nevada/Utah. They capture these wild horses and they bring in a vet and they give them a health checkup and then they sell them, they give them out to adoption to the local community.
I got to go see that facility. That was part of a large project that we did. It won a Presidential Award for Leadership.
AW: Oh wow. That's pretty cool.
MD:  It was a really cool project.
AW: Well Mike, I really appreciate your time today, man. This has been great. I think we covered a lot of really cool facts about auditing, or surveying, however you want to say it. But thank you very much. I appreciate it.
MD: Oh you're welcome. Thank you.
AW: And thank you all for listening to another episode of IllumeTALK. As always, you can reach out to anyone here at Illumetek on LinkedIn, or by going to our Website,
And to stay on top of the latest IllumeTALK podcast news, follow us on Instagram, @IllumeTALK.
IllumeTALK is a production of Front Porch Media. I'd like to thank our producer, Brigid Coyne, audio engineers Dave Douglas and Eric Koltnow. To learn more about this and other podcasts, visit

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