Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Utility Stats: Knowledge is (saving) Power

Last month I went to a presentation by an energy utility consultant, of sorts, and they were describing a very basic, free service they offer to help corporate and governmental clients track their utility usage.  They take copies of the client’s utility bills from the last 12 months and then plot the usage data on a single graph. They said that, often, this simple task can help highlight major inefficiencies and sources of waste that the client might not be aware of.

Sometimes it’s as basic as expecting certain utilities to go up in the summer and down in the winter, and looking for exceptions to these common trends. Other times, it’s just a matter of looking for big unexpected spikes that aren’t linked to changes in productivity, etc. Listening to the presentation, I realized that I could do the same thing for my own utilities at home.

So, I started a spreadsheet to track our utilities. Every month when I get a new bill, I enter that month’s data into the spreadsheet before I pay the bill. I’ve always assumed that I would notice a huge change in monthly usage just by paying the bill each month, but to be honest, my memory isn’t that good, and even the more subtle changes can offer insight.

Here are my graphs for water, electricity and gas, from the three months that we’ve lived in Urbana so far:

It’s a little early to draw any conclusions, but I’m excited to keep track and see if any surprises pop up. I’ll keep you all posted of future developments. 

It’s worth noting that I couldn’t have done this before we moved to Urbana, because we’ve lived in apartment buildings where the utility bills were divided equally between everyone in the building, instead of being linked to our individual usage. But for anyone who does get stats on their individual usage, this simple step doesn’t take more than a minute each month and can be helpful to make sure your usage is what you think it is.

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