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Customers entering warm stores increase revenue and aren't the underlying cause of winter utility cost increases

How Businesses Can Save Serious Money by Catching Winter Utility Cost Increases

There are a lot of things to love about winter, but winter utility cost increases isn’t one of them.

Christmas-time shopping gives businesses a major financial boost. End-of-year financial planning sees new and exciting solutions enter the door. Even better, frigid chunks of snow and icy winds send customers searching for the warmth of perfectly-heated storefronts. But with all of those wonderful pros comes a big con: your utility bills go through the roof.

Businesses that use natural gas can expect a +30 percent increase in monthly costs. For those with electric heating, that number is between 10 and 15 percent. Already, the average commercial building is wasting 35 percent of the energy it uses. That number is even higher for industrial buildings, which are often filled with various pieces of energy-consuming equipment.

So, how do you adjust? For most businesses, cost-cutting is an “always” concern. You want to run a tight ship. You certainly don’t want to overpay; it’s bad business. Increased costs on utility bills can add up fast, and winter months can turn small energy increases into monstrous meter costs.

Here’s everything you need to know about surviving this winter’s energy wars and minimizing winter utility cost increases.

Containing Energy Costs During the Frigid Winter Months

Most online guides dedicated to utility cost-cutting bring up small solutions like investing in smart equipment, flashing cash on energy-saving appliances, and “closing the doors more often.” But, we want to be a little more realistic. Yes, those types of changes can reduce your energy bill. But they require significant upfront capital, and they’re rarely a balm for your mid-horizon energy costs.

Today, we won’t be discussing any of the following:

  • Turning down the heat during winter (which can negatively impact customers and employees) to save on costs
  • Unplugging “vampire” electronics or switching to energy-efficient appliances
  • Sealing doorways to prevent heat escape (most businesses have too many in-and-out people for this to work properly)
  • Spending tons of money on “smart” systems, which may (or may not) actually save you money in the long run
  • Changing filters (though you should do this!) to maximize heating efficiencies

That’s right. We don’t care about any of this. You can go read one of the many energy.gov guides to see simple tips like these if that’s what you’re looking for.

So, where is the grand solution to winter utility cost increases promised in the title? How can you save “serious money” on utility bills this winter? Well, it may not be what you expected. Your cost-savings opportunity doesn’t actually have anything to do with you or your business. But it has a lot to do with your utility company.

The Errors Outside Are Frightful

Brace yourself: you’re probably overspending on your energy bill every winter. That overspending is likely due to simple errors. In our experience, nearly one in ten utility bills has a cost-impacting mistake. 

To be fair, it’s not malicious on the part of the utility company. Human error, mechanical problems, and data issues can quickly cause most mistakes. Companies that catch and fix mistakes still keep good relations with their utility providers. They don’t want you to overpay either; it could cause you to go to their competitors.

Utility bill errors are a long-running issue for businesses. Back in 1986, Robert Bittner II — Director of Engineering at Giant Food Inc. — formed an entire team simply to catch gas and electric bill mistakes. That’s right. An entire team of full-time employees was dedicated solely to checking for energy bill errors. 

And that team paid for itself. 

According to an interview in the Washington Post, this Giant Food Inc. team sent “between 500 and 600 letters a year concerning mistakes in bills.” We’re not talking about small mistakes either. Giant saved $125,000 per year on gas and electricity alone simply by catching billing errors.

Today, these errors are equally as widespread. Despite attempts to use smart meters and other savvy technologies, energy billing errors still cause issues for businesses across the globe. Whether you’re in Britain — where up to 15 percent of households see energy billing errors — or in Seattle, where a recent lawsuit saw an energy provider pay out millions for failing to correct energy bill errors, energy bill errors are a problem for your business.

So… what types of errors should you be looking for this winter?

The 3 Most Common Energy Bill Errors That Cost Businesses During the Winter Months

Finance team seeing how a utility audit can resolve winter utility cost increases

Quickly, let’s look at the three energy billing errors we see most often that can lead to winter utility cost increases. In our experience, +90 percent of utility billing errors fall into these three categories. Trust us; we have lots of experience.

1. Data Madness

According to IBM, poor data quality costs companies over $3 trillion per year. With the rise of smart devices and digital transformation comes a very real problem, your utility company’s data errors can cost you — big time. A few small smart meter data errors may cause you a significant amount of money. We could spend hours pouring over the insane number of new stories that involve data-related energy billing errors. But you only have so much time. So, let’s move on to the next section.

2. Little, Tiny Human Errors

We’re all human; we all make mistakes. Eighty percent of medical bills contain errors. In fact, 4 percent of every piece of data entered by a human is a mistake. That’s 400 mistakes for every 10,000 lines of data. There are lots of pieces of data involved in a single energy bill. So, you can probably see where this is going, right?

A solid chunk of ALL utility bills has errors. And these errors are almost certainly costing your business money each year. Ninety-four percent of spreadsheets contain errors, and over 3 percent of invoices (that’s your bill!) contain errors.

3. Programmatic Mistakes (e.g., mistaken tax codes, wrong debit accounts, etc.)

There are plenty of other energy bill mistakes that can cost your business some serious money this year. A mistake in the tax code, a wrong debit account number, and a few accidental clicks in a dropdown menu can send your bill spiraling. We won’t dive too deep into the never-ending stream of mistakes in this bucket. But it’s safe to say that you have probably had a few cause you to overpay over the years.

Util Auditors Is Putting on the Red Suit

Are you tired of breaking the bank every winter on energy bills? Are you ready to fix the leaky holes and ride your strong and sturdy ship into the oceans of profitability? We can help. At Util Auditors, we help companies save significant money on utilities. From energy and gas to trash and sewage, Util Auditors’s team of utility bill experts pour through historical audits, uncover sprawling data-related errors, and pinpoint human mistakes.

Also, we always check every bill twice for winter utility cost increases.

Ready to cut your utility costs? Tired of being told to “shut the doors more often” to save on winter utility cost increases? Then we’ve got your back. Contact us to learn how our utility audits can save you serious dough this winter.

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