Benchmarking FAQs

Below find the answers to many Frequently Asked Questions about Benchmarking with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

 

Q - Is there a user's Guide to help me set up a building in Portfolio Manager?

A - Yes! Download the SMUD Guide - "How to Benchmark" here.

 

Q What is benchmarking? 

A – The United States Department of Energy provides this definition: Benchmarking is the practice of comparing the measured performance of a device, process, facility, or organization to itself, its peers, or established norms, with the goal of informing and motivating performance improvement. When applied to building energy use, benchmarking serves as a mechanism to measure energy performance of a single building over time, relative to other similar buildings, or to modeled simulations of a reference building built to a specific standard (such as an energy code).


Q – Why benchmark?

A – The US DOE provides this guidance: Benchmarking is useful for property owners and facility operators, managers, and designers. It facilitates energy accounting, comparing a facility's energy use to similar facilities to assess opportunities for improvement, and quantifying/verifying energy savings.

Building energy performance benchmarking is a foundational element of an organization's energy management strategy because you can't manage what you don't measure. Across many commercial building markets, the practice has become standard operating procedure as energy costs and associated environmental and sustainability issues have raised awareness around the importance of energy management. 

  

Q - Why doesn’t my building have an EUI value?

A - To find out why your facility does not have an EUI (Energy Use Intensity) value, click on the “N/A” in the box titled Weather-Normalized Source EUI (kBtu/ft2). A pop-up box containing reasons for the “N/A” will open up. 

 

Q - Why doesn’t my building have an ENERGY STAR Score?

A - To find out why your facility does not have an ENERGY STAR score, click on the “Why Not Score” in the box titled Weather-Normalized Source EUI (kBtu/ft2). A pop-up box containing reasons for the missing score will open up. Additional reasons why you might not see an ENERGY STAR score can be found in this ENERGY STAR FAQ.

 

Q - Is there a way to check my Property Profile for errors before creating a Benchmarking Report?

A - There is a way to verify that your site record has no obvious errors or oversights. Go to the Summary tab of your property profile, and look for the “Check for Possible Data Errors” section. Clicking on “Check for Possible Data Errors” allows you to set the time frame for your data quality check. Using the two dropdown menus, select the last day of the year for the twelve months of interest. For example, you might want to review all of 2016, to verify that your information is accurate before submitting a 2016 Benchmark. Then click “Run Checker”. 

The results of the Data Quality Checker often show missing water meters and waste meters, but these are not required, normally. It is okay to ignore those warnings. Alerts about Temporary or Default Values must be addressed before submitting an official Benchmarking Report. Other helpful alerts, such as missing meter data for the time frame selected, will appear here. Expand an alert by clicking on the small triangles at left, to review the issue. The symbol key at right provides relative severity. It is recommended that you fix all red exclamation-level issues.

 

Q - How can I adjust default and temporary values?

A - If you were unsure of some information when you set up your property profile, you may have opted to use default values, or flagged some entries as temporary. You will want to finalize these entries before submitting an official benchmarking report. To make these adjustments, go to the Details tab in your property profile.
Expand each of your Use Types by clicking each of the grey triangle to the left of the use Names, one by one. Review each Use entry for default or temporary values. If you find any temporary or default values, adjust these entries using the “Correct Mistakes” option in the “I want to…” dropdown menu. Correct Mistakes opens a history Log where you can update your entries, and uncheck the default and temporary checkboxes. Scroll down and click “Save Corrections” to save your changes. 

Repeat this process to make any needed corrections in each use.

Another way to identify default or temporary values in your property profile is to run the Data Quality Checker, as discussed above. You might wish to avoid making a visual inspection on every use if you have a complex building.

 

Q - How do I handle net energy meters and on-site generation in Portfolio Manager?

A - All energy used by a building must be entered in Portfolio Manager, including on-site generation. If your on-site generation (e.g., solar, wind, etc.) is grid-connected, then it will have a “net energy meter” and be billed for the net amount (energy consumed less energy generated).

For example: If the building uses 1000 kWh and generates 400 kWh, the net amount billed will be 600 kWh. The meter data entered in Portfolio Manager via Web Services will reflect only this net amount. The SMUD net meter does not record the output of the on-site system.

Portfolio Manager requires that net energy meters be entered as two separate meters:

  • One meter for On-Site Generation: This is the amount generated by the on-site system. SMUD does not have this data; you will need to collect it from the monitoring system or inverter readings and enter the data manually. In the above example, the amount entered for this meter should be 400 kWh.
  • One meter for Grid Purchase: This is the amount of electricity consumed by the building in addition to the on-site generation. This is the amount purchased from SMUD and can be found on your monthly billing statement. Web Services can be used for this meter so that the usage is automatically uploaded on a monthly basis.
  • For more information on On-Site Renewable Energy, read this EPA Green Metering document, and review the ENERGY STAR FAQs on Green Power.

 

Q - When should I create separate Property Uses to define my building in Portfolio Manager?

A - In general, EPA recommends you enter as few Property Uses as possible. For example, say you have an office with a restaurant, a health club, and a dry cleaner. EPA recommends that you enter one Property Use (Office), and include the Gross Floor Area (GFA) of the restaurant, health club, and dry cleaner within the Office Property Use. You would also include the Property Use Details (Number of Workers, Computers, etc.) from the restaurant, health club and dry cleaner within the Office Property Use.

There are four exceptions to this rule, where you should create an additional Property Use:

  • If it is a Property Use that can get an ENERGY STAR Score. (Note: Retail can only get a score if it is greater than 5,000 sq. ft.)
  • If it accounts for more than 25% of the property's GFA
  • If it is a vacant/unoccupied Office or Medical Office (and the vacancy is greater than 10% of the property's GFA)
  • If the Weekly Hours differ by more than 10% for the same Property Type AND that Property Type can get a score (ex: you have two Office tenants, and their hours differ by more than 10%)

See the ENERGY STAR FAQ on when to create separate use types for further details.

 

Q - How can I share my building with someone else?

A - In order to share a property with another Portfolio Manager user, you must first be Contact Connected with that person. Once you are connected, Sharing buildings is a straightforward process. Directions for Sharing properties can be found here, and several other helpful FAQs related to Sharing appear here. If you need to Transfer ownership of a property to someone else, read about transferring properties here.

 

Q - I just realized that my meter was created using the wrong units. What do I do?

A - If your meter doesn't have any data in it yet, adjust the units selection using these directions. If your meter does contain energy usage data, it might not be advisable to change the units on the meter. Case 1 - You added the meter data yourself, entering the data as it appears on your bill, in kWh. Later you realize that you created your meter using kBtus as the unit. In this case, it is ok to change your units to kWh, since your entries are already in kWh, as seen on your bill. Case 2 - Data has been coming over automatically via Web Services from your utility provider for a period of time. You realize that your units are incorrect on your meter. This is a case where you can't just fix your meter units, because your prior entries were converted to a different metric when they were uploaded. You have two choices. (Solution 1) Remove your utility provider's access to this meter (set permissions to None). Delete the meter. Create a new meter, selecting the correct units. Share the new meter with your utility provider, and get a new upload of historic data, plus monthly readings going forward (if applicable). (Solution 2) Download all the data in your meter into Excel. Using a conversion factor, change your data into the correct units. Delete each meter entry from this meter in Portfolio Manager. Be sure to click Save Bills after deleting data. Upload your converted data back into Portfolio Manager via spreadsheet upload.

 

Q - Part of my building is Vacant. How do I enter that space onPortfolio Manager?

A - Some types of vacant space, if 10% or more of the building's Gross Floor Area (over 12 months), must be input as a separate Property Use. Directions for adding a Vacant Use can be found here. Only Offices, Medical Offices, Banks, Courthouses, and Financial Centers are required to enter vacant Property Uses. Read answers to FAQs on Vacancy, Occupancy, and related topics here.

  

Q - Is earning the ENERGY STAR valuable?

A - Yes! Read up on the value of ENERGY STAR certification.

 

Q - Should buildings that qualify apply for the ENERGY STAR?

A - Yes! Check out the EPA's top ten reasons to earn the ENERGY STAR.

 

Access the full list of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager FAQs here

 

Do you still have a question about benchmarking? We'd be happy to help. Please write to our benchmarking expert at info@sellingenergy.com

To contact SMUD, reach out via Benchmark@SMUD.org or (916) 732-7399.

Updates

  • ENERGY STAR Certification - COVID-19 Update

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  • Need help finding a Licensed Professional?

    To apply for ENERGY STAR status, EPA requires that you retain the services of a Licensed Professional (LP) to approve and verify your application for certification. This LP may be either a Registered Architect or a Professional Engineer. If you have a building... read more

  • ENERGY STAR score for Multi-family Housing - Now Available

    The ENERGY STAR Score for Multifamily Housing applies to buildings that contain 20 or more residential living units. The objective of the ENERGY STAR score is to provide a fair assessment of the energy performance of a property relative to... read more

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