What your utility bill isn’t telling you

Written by April Wright

Once a month your utility bill falls in your lap and you review it. Your detailed billing information includes your service dates, previous reading, current reading, kWh usage, cost per kWh, and of course what you owe. If you’re lucky, you get a graph. This is what the average bill looks like.

Utility Bill Example

Source: National Grid

But how do you know what you are actually paying for? Where do you begin to modify systems or behaviors if you don’t know which ones use the greatest amount of energy within your building? With real-time data you can do just that.

Imagine, instead, you had access to this every day.

Here are 5 things real-time data shows you that your utility bills do not:

1. Your building’s baseload. Without real-time data, you don’t have an understanding of your building’s baseload—or the energy consumption that occurs when your building is unoccupied. Making adjustments to lower your building’s baseload is oftentimes a great place to start when reducing energy. As was the case for 5th Avenue Theatre who found a spike in their energy consumption at midnight when the building was unoccupied.

2. High energy users. The built environment is complicated with many variables influencing how energy is used. Your climate, number of occupants, age of equipment and systems, days since last maintenance can all have implications on how your systems run. With individual sensors monitoring critical infrastructure, you can see in real-time where the stress points exist and make plans to mitigate them.

3. Abnormal spikes/irregular energy use patterns. No building is immune to age of the systems and/or equipment inside them. At the same time, a system or equipment failure could be costly to general operations or even product stored within the equipment as was the case for a local hotel kitchen, which you can see in the image below. With real-time data, spikes and irregular energy use patterns can be observed in advance allowing you to prevent down-time of key systems.  

4. Review project ROI. If you’re investing in energy projects to save on monthly bills, real-time data allows you to set a baseline and see the exact amount of energy that project is saving you. Take this a step further to unlock local funds or rebates by proving your energy savings similar to Culver Academies who installed Buddy Ohm as part of their Green Revolving Fund (GRF).

5. Unlock real-time alerts. Nothing is worse than receiving your utility bill and seeing a huge spike in energy use. With access to real-time data, you can set alerts on key systems or equipment so you’re contacted immediately via phone or email, in time to make adjustments.

The next time you review your monthly utility bill, think of what you can gain by measuring energy use in real-time. Real-time energy monitoring data gives you the information to control your energy-efficient upgrades and initiatives, the ability to measure success as well as the peace of mind to catch costly system or equipment failures before they occur.

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