Low-Tech Solutions Still Offer Data Analytics Successes
Downloading utility data to Excel is the MO for Hillsborough County (Fla.), a strategy that works well for trending and developing plans.
There are myriad reasons why some organizations aren’t yet using data analytics. Perhaps capital budgets won’t allow a major software purchase this fiscal year. Or perhaps more pressing items need to be purchased and the ROI of an analytics package isn’t heeded by C-suite management. Or maybe the facilities themselves, particularly when they’re older, and there are many of them, and spread out geographically, make it less feasible.
Whatever the case, there are still ways to use the data that an organization does collect. For the better part of seven years, Randy Klindworth has been doing just that.
He’s been with Hillsborough County in Florida for the last 17 years, but when the local energy company switched to paperless billing in 2010, Klindworth, the county’s energy manager, leveraged the free data he found.
“Utility data tells a lot of a story,” he says. “You see trends develop in that data.”
Quarterly, Klindworth downloads all the data for the 2,300 utility accounts in the county. “It takes about two days to do,” he says, “but I’m a huge fan of Excel.”
Once the data is downloaded, Klindworth plots it, developing graphs, trend patterns and more. “Several years ago I got a book on Excel and learned about array formulas,” Klindworth says. Array formulas are capable of performing calculations across ranges of data, successfully mining knowledge from the utility data that standard Excel formulas don’t make possible.
His approach has unearthed valuable information from the utility data. “We had a building where the [building control system] went bad and caused a spike over two months where energy consumption was 50 percent higher than normal,” he says. “Without tracking the data, it would have taken longer to find that problem.”
And using something as basic as Excel is fairly easy, Klindworth says. He totals everything by fiscal year. The main variable in his formulas is the utility account number; the second variable allows him to sort by date.
“The software, assuming you tell it what to do, gets it right all the time, every time,” he says.
Loren Snyder, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, is a writer who specializes in facility issues. He was formerly managing editor of Building Operating Management.
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