Sometimes I think the world of “Energy Efficiency” has been built up to a mythical ideology. I don't want to downplay how important it is to hire a processional, but there are some ways, with assistance of a pro, to make efficiency and reducing operating costs much easier. We will cover these over the next few posts, but first we want to start with energy bills.
I've heard it said before that there are no days off when you run a business. Because there aren't any days off, it can be difficult to stay on top of many less demanding facets of your business. One part I see overlooked often is the story that utility bills tell.
Utility bills do a great job of providing a historical picture of what happened during the last month, season and year. So, if these bills give us a story, why don’t we read it? Usually it's one of two reasons: 1) We don't have time to read the story, or 2) We don't understand what we are reading. Here are some “stories”:
Story #1: Why is the electricity use up for two months?
Extra information and hint: The building is NOT air-conditioned. The meter is NOT read on the same day every month. (Actual reason is at the end of this article.)
Story #2: Why is the natural gas use so high during summer months?
Extra information and hint: There is no heating or cooking load in the summer months.
(Actual reason is at the end of this article.)
As you will note, making a chart of the utility use is very helpful for spotting irregularities. (Maybe that’s why some utilities now provide a chart with their bills…) Most businesses, however, have a hard time finding an extra few minutes to take a detailed look at utility bills when their plate is full of other responsibilities. Even if you had the time, would you know what you were looking at? Sometimes the answer is obvious, but only if you look at the pattern and spend a few minutes thinking about it. Often, though, it takes some digging and often the digging takes some expertise greater than a shovel.
The first step is to ask: Should my heating bill be going up? (If so, how much?) Why did I use all the water? Why was my electricity use down last month? Just asking the question is a powerful first step. If you bog down, though, a pro can help provide greater understanding. With understanding normally comes either peace of mind or a good chance that the story can start to make sense and you see a path to substantial savings. What we’ve shown above is month - month energy use, but similar benefits can be derived from year - year comparisons, although those are harder to evaluate while sipping a latte.
Spikes in utility bills can often point to a piece of equipment not functioning appropriately or starting to break down. High utility bills compared to similar weather in past years can also point to HVAC optimization opportunities. Finally, and not unusually, a pro reviewing your bills can give you peace of mind that are paying the correct rate, have the correct taxes and proper additional charges.
You have a lot on your plate, why not ask a pro to review your bills to help you see the whole story.
Next time we will take utility usage to the next level with smart metering.
Story #1: The two months which show much larger electricity use were actually much more than 30 days’ usage. The second one “month” was almost 75 days because the utility company missed two readings in a row and estimated the usage!
Story #2: I made this one up! For the building described, gas usage should be almost zero. The only appropriate gas usage might be domestic hot water. It could be, however, that….
Somebody left a hot water faucet open in a locked janitor closet
The kitchen commercial dishwasher was being used all summer by an employee who invited people over for a party
The boiler was on and providing heat to rooftop heating / cooling units every night … while the rooftop units were OFF … but warming the cabinet and radiating heat to the night sky. (This actually occurred on one of our projects)