Utility Tracking 101: Three Easy Steps to Get Started

by ‐ Tags: building science, property management, tracking and benchmarking

If you recently installed a new boiler in your home and want to figure out how much energy and money you're saving, or if you want to see if that cool new thermostat is helping lower your heating bill, tracking utility data is the first step. After all, you can't manage what you can't measure. Unfortunately, tracking utility data is not as straightforward as it seems and can be a frustrating experience. Let us guide you through your first utility tracking experience and give you the tips needed to avoid common tracking pitfalls. 

1) Understand Your Utility Bills 

In order to track utility usage you need to understand your bills. What are you being charged for? Where are the important numbers to track on the bill? The bad news is that each utility company uses a different format for their bills so there's no catch-all explanation for every one. The good news is that most companies have a section on their website called "understand your bill" that explains the numbers on your bill. Utility company websites are often set up like mazes so the fastest way to find this is usually to google "understanding your bill" and the name of your utility company. The example below is from a Florida utility and does a good job explaining the information. 

 

Now that you feel comfortable with the bills, what's next?

Look for three things on the bill: usage, cost, and read dates. For usage, try to find kWh for electric bills, CCF or Therms for natural gas bills, and gallons for oil and water. There is a chance your water bill will report cubic feet or hundred cubic feet. Those numbers can be easily converted into gallons so the important thing is to note the units so you can convert it later (Google can help here as well). For cost, find where the company reports the costs associated with that month's usage and ignore the "net costs" which can include charges from previous months. There are sometimes two sets of dates on a bill, read dates and bill dates. You want to record the read dates because those reflect the usage period. 

2) Register Online Accounts

With a firm understanding of your paper bills, we recommend you then set up online accounts on the utility company's website. Many people avoid this because they think it will require online payment, but usually you can have an online account without paying your bill online. That said, if you want to move to paperless billing, all the better for the environment!

An online account will help track data in two important ways: first it will free you from keeping stacks of bills in a folder somewhere; and second, utility companies usually give you access to a year or two of usage and cost history when you sign up. It's like you've been tracking for two years already! Great job. 

3) Organize and Learn from the Data

The easiest way to organize your utility data and learn from it is by using an automatic tracking tool like WegoWise. The tool will automatically go out and retrieve your utility bills as they become available, benchmark your usage against similar buildings, and show you year-over-year trends.

On the other hand, if you're old school or if your utility company doesn't over online account management, you'll have to resort to a spreadsheet. We suggest setting up your spreadsheet with simple headings like the electric account pictured below. Once you have the spreadsheet set up, tracking your data should be a simple matter of entering the most recent information from a paper bill or grabbing the data from the utility company's website. 

Microsoft Excel

If you follow these three easy steps you'll be filling spreadsheets with energy and water data in no time. Or, to really simplify your tracking, use an online tracking tool like WegoWise to track your building's or portfolio's energy usage.  Get a free trial today.

 

How can WegoWise save you time, energy and money? We'll show you.