What Your Utility Bill Doesn’t Tell You: The Value of Real-Time Energy Data June 23, 2014 | Samantha Dubrow

How much information do you really get from reading your utility bills every month? Well it really depends on how closely you read them, or if you just write a check for the total balance.

Even if you pay attention to everything written on the bills, they only tell you the date, the bill period, your last payment, your energy cost before value-added tax, your supply number, and the total amount you need to pay. Bills also tell you kilowatt-hours (kWh) used and cost per kWh, and if you have a metering system in place, bills may give you the last readings from the meter.

But how do you know what you are actually paying for and why your bills are different than they were last month? The truth is, with just monthly bills, you can’t.

However, with real-time energy data you can constantly measure fluctuations in energy consumption that influence the total cost of your bills at the end of each month.


Your Monthly Bills Don’t Show You How Your Buildings Operate

 

1. Bills Don’t Tell You Your Baseload

One of the biggest losses without real-time data is not knowing your buildings’ base load, or their energy consumption when they are not being used. One quick way to save a lot of money on energy consumption is to reduce base load. However, with monthly bills you have no way of knowing if your base loads are too high, or if they are consistent or fluctuate throughout the month.

 

2. Bills Don’t Let You Optimize Building Scheduling

To consume the least amount of energy when powering your buildings, you do not want to start and entire building in an hour, but you also don’t want them running throughout the entire night in preparation for the following morning. Using real-time data, you can identify the least expensive way to manage the operation scheduling for your buildings.

building_optimization_medium

 

3. Bills Don’t Tell You When Peak Hours Are

The hours during which buildings across a certain area are consuming the most energy are more expensive and can create huge spikes in your energy spending. For example, in Washington, DC, peak demand hours from 2:00-6:00pm during the week can increase energy spending per kWh by about 3.6%. By utilizing real-time data you can identify methods to reduce energy consumption during those hours and see how much your changes impact your bills.

peak_demand_cost

 

Utility Bills Do Not Notify You About Irregularities

 

4. Without Real-Time Data You Cannot Consider Weather Patterns

Extreme weather conditions can dramatically increase energy spending if you aren’t prepared for them. Even if the weather only fluctuates for a few days during the month, your bills can be significantly impacted. If you’re not sure why there are spikes in your energy bills you can use real-time data to correlate energy spending with weather conditions throughout the course of a month.

 

5. You May Not Know About Irregular Activity Until the End of the Month

 

Every building encounters some issues with their control systems or mechanical equipment at one point or another. If those systems are not continuously monitored throughout the month, your buildings could be working much harder than they need to without triggering any BMS alarm. Instead of waiting until the end of the month to find out that a utility bill is twice as expensive as normal, real-time data can help you identify irregularities as soon as they begin.

 

Real-Time Data Can Help You Act Preemptively

 

Receive Real-Time Alerts 

If one of your buildings is operating irregularly, real-time alerts can be sent to you immediately via phone or email, so you can avoid unnecessary operating expenses. Instead of waiting until the end of the month you will be notified to make changes right away, saving you money and protecting your equipment.

 

Track Project ROI

If you decide to invest in an energy project to save on monthly bills, it can be challenging to see how much that specific project changes the bill from month to month. With real-time data you can look into that specific project to see the exact kWh it is saving you.

Monthly utility bills give you twelve data points per year, while real-time data can give you thousands of data points every day. In aggregate, this real-time data can help you understand exactly what your monthly bills are charging you for, how to make simple changes to reduce your bills, and calculate your return on investment for specific energy projects.

 

Energy Efficiency, Energy Monitoring, Real-time energy management

About The Author

When Samantha isn’t writing for the blog or managing our HR like a champ, she studies Organizational Psychology at George Washington University.