Compared with the many other energy efficiency strategies, energy monitoring can seem unsubstantial, but it is no less important than all of the other steps taken to reduce the energy use of a building.
Knowing how energy is currently being used helps you use it more wisely. Even the most basic energy monitoring can lead to significant energy savings.
What is it?
Energy monitoring and tracking refers to a broad set of actions that measure the energy use of a building on an ongoing basis in order to evaluate how well the building is performing. In its simplest form this can involve tracking monthly energy bills to see how energy use changes month to month and year to year. Energy data can then be used to develop trends over time, to compare one building to another, or to assess energy use changes against relevant factors such as occupancy, HVAC settings, and energy efficiency improvements.
Energy monitoring and tracking sets the stage for ongoing energy efficiency improvements and offers many benefits:
- By regularly monitoring building energy use, building operators can more easily identify equipment malfunctions and behaviour changes that, when fixed, offer very low cost or even no-cost energy savings.
- Ongoing building energy tracking also informs decisions about energy retrofits and upgrades. Understanding where energy is used, how much, and when it is needed, makes it much easier to identify cost-effective measures to improve building performance.
- Finally, ongoing energy monitoring and tracking shows the positive effects of any measures taken and ensures upgrades are performing as expected. Demonstrating the success of energy efficiency measures helps to make the business case for more action and enables tracking of progress relative to energy efficiency targets.
Basic energy monitoring and tracking is highly recommended for all buildings. More sophisticated tracking and trend analysis can be very valuable for larger buildings that have significant energy consumption and more complex energy systems. In some cases, specific equipment or components of building energy systems can be monitored individually to identify malfunctioning equipment that may be consuming excess energy or changes to equipment or operation that can result in energy savings.
Tracking monthly energy bills along with other information such as weather or occupancy in a spreadsheet is a basic but very customizable approach that is relatively accessible and can show interesting energy trends. Beyond spreadsheets, there are a variety of tools, systems, and software that can perform different types of building energy monitoring, tracking, and analysis.
ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is a free online energy tracking system supported for use in Canada by Natural Resources Canada. In addition to building benchmarking buildings against the Energy STAR scoring system (available for some municipal building types), the system also helps monitor, rate and analyze building energy use. For more related information, technical resources, and training resources visit the NRCan Building energy benchmarking resources page and the Canada Green Building Council®’s Energy Benchmarking, Reporting & Disclosure in Canada: A Guide to a Common Framework whitepaper.
How can we help?
The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC) also offers a free online Energy Benchmarking tool that uses annual energy data to generate a report that compares a building’s energy use intensity compared to the average and best-in-class buildings of a similar type. Completing a benchmarking report for each building on a yearly basis is a quick and easy way to track the ongoing energy performance of each building relative to itself and to the best-in-class examples.
The MCCAC also offers Energy Efficiency Toolboxes to municipalities. These toolboxes contain equipment that can be used for measuring proper interior lighting levels, as well as for measuring energy consumption from some existing light fixtures, allowing opportunities for cost-effective upgrades to be discovered. Municipalities are encouraged to borrow an Energy Efficiency Toolbox and get a first-hand look at where their buildings may be energy inefficient.