Utility Bill Tracking: Software vs Spreadsheets

Why Not Spreadsheets?

If you are tracking energy usage and costs for a handful of meters, a spreadsheet may be adequate; however, if you are tracking for a large organization with many facilities, or tracking savings from energy efficiency measures, then commercial energy accounting software may be the best and easiest way to track your utilities.

The table below presents some positive and negative aspects of using spreadsheets:

Positive AspectsNegative Aspects
Spreadsheets are inexpensive. You probably already own Excel, and thus pay nothing for the software.Tracking large numbers of accounts can greatly complicate the spreadsheet, sometimes to the point of absurdity.
You can create exactly the report you want in a spreadsheet.If you have a bug in the spreadsheet, you may never discover it, since very few people would use the spreadsheet, whereas canned software is used by hundreds of users who ferret out all the bugs.
You can understand every calculation in a spreadsheet (at least initially) since you put the calculations there in the first place.If you are calculating energy savings from energy projects, then it is likely you are using methods not acceptable by ASHRAE Guideline 14, the IPMVP, and FEMP Guidelines.
Since most people know how to use spreadsheets already, there is no necessity for training.Other people may have a difficult time understanding how you derived your calculated results.
If you are tracking energy savings for clients, it is best to use standard methodology in standard third-party commercial software in order to present what appears to be (and hopefully is) unbiased and above-board results.

All the major utility bill tracking software packages are good at what they do. However, they are all different and have different capabilities. Although you can track your utility bills effectively in any of the software packages, depending upon what your specific needs are, there is likely a program that is more suited to your needs than the others. Choosing the correct software package the first time can save you hours of work, and help you avoid the frustration of discovering too late that it does not produce what you wanted.