What is Benchmarking
Benchmarking your utility usage is a technique that involves recording data, analyzing data, taking action based on that data, and setting goals. You can benchmark any type of utility usage – electric, water, gas, waste, etc.
The first step in benchmarking is gathering the data. You should probably have at least 12 months of historical usage data on the meter you are benchmarking. You can obtain the data from the utility company, or if you have old bill copies, you can manually record the data from the bills into a spreadsheet. If you are in the State of Texas, you can obtain usage data on your electric meter from Smart Meter Texas. When you record the data, you will need a column for each month. Then enter the usage for each month. If you are benchmarking electricity, be sure to record the kw demand and the kwh.
There are several ways to analyze utility usage data once you have it. You don’t have to have a fancy program to do it. All you need is excel, or google sheets. If you are in the United States, you can also use Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager tool to track data on you facility or home and compare it’s usage to similar buildings. So basically you are going to convert the data you recorded into a line graph to see the usage trend over the past 12 months. The more months you have, the better, so try to get as much historical data as possible. When you look at the line graph, you will see a pattern emerge. Depending on your facility, and location, usage will usually go up in the summer or winter months, due to AC and heater usage. If you are looking at water and you have a lawn or garden, you will see usage go up in the summer when you use water the most.
Taking Action Based on Data
Now that you have your data in a nice visual form of a line graph you can see when your usage is the highest and take action based on that data. Do you want to use less in the summer, winter, or all year long? Figure out what appliances are using the most and work to improve their efficiencies. For example: you can install a water efficient toilet and faucets, or turn you AC off at night. There are many ways to achieve efficiencies. You can check out this great list of ideas on how to save electricity from doyourblogwithme.com.
Now that you have figured out what is using the most energy/water you can start setting goals and tracking your progress. Do you want to reduce you energy consumption by 20% over the next 12 months? WRITE IT DOWN. Do you want to decrease you water consumption by 50% over the next 2 years? WRITE IT DOWN. It is important to set your goals and record them so you are working towards something instead of just blindly trying to use less energy. That way you will be able to SEE your progress and work towards something tangible.
Why is Benchmarking Beneficial
Benchmarking your energy, water or gas usage is beneficial in many ways. First and foremost if you use benchmarking to reduce your consumption, you will save money. You can save thousands of dollars a year by implementing simple conservation methods and installing energy efficient and water efficient devices.
Not only can benchmarking save money, it helps reduce consumption of earth’s valuable natural resources. Reducing our consumption of electricity reduces pollution and emissions of green house gasses which cause global warming and threaten our ecosystems. If everyone implemented benchmarking measures and reduced their consumption, the results would be staggering. Most people don’t benchmark their usage, which is sad. It doesn’t take much time and effort to do so and it will help save money and save the planet. Reduction of water consumption is also important. The water infrastructure in the US is aging and is going to cost billions to repair in the future. Increased water consumption leads to rising water costs. If we curb our water usage and treat it as a valuable resource it will help keep costs low.
How do I Benchmark
As mentioned above, there are several ways you can benchmark. You just need the usage data snd some kind of program to record and graph the data. You can use Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or the Energy Star Portfolio Manager website. Those are the free/ low cost options. If you have multiple facilities and bigger budget, there are many energy management software programs out there that include benchmarking, such as EnergyCAP.
If you are a small business or residential consumer (just have a house) I would suggest using Excel, Google Sheets, or the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Website to track and benchmark your utility usage. Sometimes electric companies themselves offer a usage tracking application for free so you might want to check with your utility company. There are also many energy tracking apps you can install on your smart phone to track usage. Here are 15 Green Apps to Track Energy Usage.
If you are a larger organization with many meters, you might want to consider purchasing more sophisticated energy benchmarking and management software. There are dozens of programs to choose from. Capterra has reviews for several of the best energy management software programs.
How much money can I save from Benchmarking?
You can save a lot of money by tracking reducing your energy costs. For example, the University of New Mexico implemented a benchmarking program that resulted in $52 million in avoided energy costs over a 10 year period. For a residential consumer who spends about $600 per month total in utility costs, a reduction in their home energy and water consumption by 20% would save about $1,500 per year.
Now that you know what benchmarking is and how it can help you save money, what are you waiting for! You can be saving money while saving the planet. Start benchmarking your usage and let us know your progress!