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Utility Bills: Best Practices
While nearly all utility-bill-tracking tools perform basic functions, such as creating graphs that show energy use over time, some tools offer additional features that help you better evaluate a building's performance. These "best practice" features include:
- adjusting for weather conditions,
- adjusting for facility conditions,
- streamlining the entry of billing information, and
- transferring billing information directly into Energy Star's Portfolio Manager.
Adjusting for Weather Conditions
The energy use of a building varies from year to year with changes in annual weather conditions. The best tracking tools use statistical methods that account for the effects of weather so that yearly differences in energy consumption can be logically attributed to something other than weather. Tools that normalize for weather will generally provide regular updates on heating and cooling degree-days for your building's location. The figure below is a simple graphical example of the concept of weather normalization. (Note: Graphics in different tools may differ significantly.)
Gas consumption normalized for weather
Adjusting for Facility Conditions
Just like changes in weather, changes in other facility-specific factors such as occupancy levels, space usage, or production levels, affect a building's energy use. The best utility tracking tools can adjust energy use to account for these factors, and allow fair comparison of energy between any two periods. The image below is a simple graphical example of the concept of adjusting for occupancy rates. (Note: Graphics in different tools may differ significantly.)
Electricity consumption normalized for occupancy
Streamlining the Entry of Billing Information
Utility bills come in many different formats. The best utility-bill-tracking tools include features that simplify entering key utility bill information from different formats. Some tools provide wizards that streamline manual data entry and check for errors. Even more sophisticated tools let you import billing data electronically when the data sets are available in a standard file format (such as CSV, MV-90, and EDI-810). Finally, some tool providers also offer turnkey data management, in case you prefer to delegate the entire process to a third party.
Transferring Billing Information Directly into Energy Star's Portfolio Manager
Information obtained from utility bills is invaluable for benchmarking a building's energy use. The most well-known and commonly used benchmarking tool is Energy Star's Portfolio Manager which uses your utility bills to provide an Energy Star rating for your building. Eligible buildings with a rank of 75 or higher may even apply for the Energy Star label. Some tracking tools let you transfer billing information directly into Portfolio Manager, expediting the process of benchmarking your building against other similar buildings.