Energy monitoring is a technique adopted by businesses to control and manage energy consumption in an effort to get cheap business electricity and gas bills. It is a way of identifying opportunities to reduce usage, avoid waste and get a better understanding of how much energy you’re using – and where.
Adopting this technique makes it significantly easier to devise ways to reduce energy consumption – and as a result, your bills.
The following information will help you effectively monitor your energy consumption, which is the first step in reducing your usage and saving on your bills:
Read your energy bills
You may need to read your energy bill thoroughly to understand every detail of usage.
- Electricity consumption is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), so 1 kWh is equal to one unit of electricity.
- Gas consumption is measured in Gigajoules (GJ) but is often displayed in kWh.
You can see copies of example energy bills from a number of suppliers on our Smallprint Pointer Tool.
Gas and electricity bills
Your gas and electricity bills will display the number of units you’ve used in your current billing period. It’s this usage – combined with standing charges and other costs imposed by your supplier or the government – that will determine the cost of your bill.
If you’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce your energy consumption, you can look over previous bills to see if the number of units you’ve used has decreased. This is one of the simplest ways to see if the measures you’ve been taking are having the desired impact. Click here for information on average business energy bill costs.
It's also important to bear in mind that you'll need to submit regular meter readings if you want to ensure the usage figures on your bill are accurate.
Reading your meter
Monitoring your energy use by taking regular meter readings will help you measure the effect of any energy efficiency measures you’ve introduced – as well as the impact of new appliances, turning on the heating or anything else that could increase your usage. The advantage of doing so means you don’t have to wait for your bills to come through to gain this insight.
Once you start monitoring your energy use, you'll be able to see how much your business spends on energy.
While checking your bills, taking regular meter readings and comparing consumption to previous months, remember:
- Take the seasons and weather conditions into account. It is natural that more energy will be used during autumn and winter.
- If you're measuring energy used for production purposes, consider your output. The best way to do this is to record energy used by each of your appliances. In offices, you could record the amount of energy used by floor spaces or staff numbers.
- Compare your recordings against each other and see where you can make changes. For example, you could identify equipment in your work place that may not be used during the weekends and make sure it's switched off on Friday evenings.
The basic meter provided by your energy supplier may not be able to give you a detailed reading of every area your consumption. There are many types of advanced metering systems available, which can give you a more accurate picture of energy use within your business. These include:
- Half hourly meters record how much energy is used every 30 minutes - useful for analysing energy-use patterns. However, you’ll only be able to have one of these installed if you have a demand for electricity exceeding 70 kWh in any half hour period.
- Sub meters allow you to monitor specific areas or processes.
- A plug-in meter can be used between a power socket and the plug of the appliance to monitor the energy that’s being used - these are cheap and handy for measuring small loads.
- Clamp on meters, fastened around a conductor, offer a non-invasive way of monitoring hot water flow - these are often used to identify large consumers of energy in large factories.
- Smart meters that can help business and domestic consumers cut their bills are gradually being introduced. These meters give live readings and comparisons with instant results of how much energy is being used. The readings obtained are also automatically sent to the supplier, ensuring that bills are always accurate.
- Smart meters use GPRS technology to keep your supplier abreast of your usage in real time. In turn, you can check your gas and electricity consumption using the internet.
- Benefits of smart meters
- Accurate bills – the smart meter will send information to your energy supplier detailing how much energy you have used, ruling out the chances of inaccurate bills.
- Choose to change from a prepayment to a credit meter, and vice versa, without needing to have your meter changed. If you have a smart meter in prepayment mode, it should become easier to top up your meter. Energy suppliers are expected to offer more convenient ways to top up, for example online, over the phone or with a mobile phone app. However cash payments will always be accepted.
- Some energy suppliers will offer additional services to help you understand what you’re using, such as online information, more detailed bills, or apps for your mobile phone.
- The meter could help you save money – by knowing what you’re using, and having an idea of which appliances use the most energy, you may be able to reduce your usage and save money.
- Faster resolution of problems – where there are technical problems and faults with the supply of energy, smart meters should make it easier and quicker to identify and fix the problem. This means less inconvenience and may mean less time without your energy supply.
An energy monitor helps you keep track of how much energy you're using – and shows the potential for saving by taking some simple steps, such as switching off lights or equipment when not in use. It also enables you to compare your energy use over different time periods. For example, if you know your consumption should drop to its lowest level at the end of your working day, your monitor will clearly indicate if any equipment or machinery is still left running.
You won’t need to carry out any electrical wiring to install the energy monitor. You can install it yourself following a few basic steps mentioned on the installation guide – care must be taken as they are used in and around the electricity supply at your business premises.
Be sure to fix the monitor at a visible place where you will be able to view the readings easily.
Benefits of energy monitors
- You can set daily targets for the amount of energy you wish to use.
- Allows you to see the effect of turning lights or appliances on or off.
- Helps you to compare your business energy usage from one day to the next.
- Designed to help you keep track of your electricity usage, discover how using different appliances affect your energy bills and help you to cut your electricity consumption.
Most energy monitors enable you to view your real-time electricity usage in units of energy used (kWh), cost or carbon emissions. Some have additional features, such as allowing you to set daily electricity usage targets or alarms to alert you when you have used a set amount of electricity. While these features may sound similar to a smart meter, there are some noticeable differences:
- An energy monitor is a stand-alone device to be placed at your work place. It uses less sophisticated technology compared to smart meters.
- These units are basically used to identify which appliances use most energy to operate. It gives a visual representation of patterns and costs throughout the day – how much your energy usage translates into kWh, actual costs and the level of CO2 emitted by your energy usage.
- The data you receive helps to cut down the use of appliances that use the most energy.
- The most significant difference from a smart meter is that energy monitors do not send information to the energy supplier automatically.
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