Monitor performance using smart meters and management systems

To increase energy efficiency and lower running costs it is important to measure how your building ‘performs’ in operation.

This helps to design improvements, whether installing simple monitoring equipment or doing a complete retrofit.

It is expected that building performance data will eventually become part of minimum standards required by law.


  1. Understand building performance
  2. Get ahead of rising standards and costs
  3. Use kWh/m2 to measure
  4. Work out what to monitor
  5. Gather data using smart meters and management systems
  6. Adjust building controls
  7. Get finance and support

Understand building performance

‘Operational’ or ‘in-use’ energy performance measures how building efficiency based on its operating needs.

For businesses that own, manage or occupy buildings operational energy performance affects levels of:

  • energy use
  • running costs
  • occupant satisfaction
  • carbon emissions

Understanding in-use operations can help to:

  • optimise existing systems and services
  • drive behavioural changes
  • identify needed retrofits or new equipment

Get ahead of rising standards and costs

To meet current energy performance standards, owners of rented buildings must prove they are designed to operate efficiently.

As this does not account for the actual use of the building, the government is considering additional ‘performance based’ requirements. This will start with private buildings more than 1000 m2 in England and Wales.

It is not clear when this will apply to smaller private buildings. However, you should still closely monitor energy use.

Monitoring energy use helps you:

  • avoid surprises when you receive monthly energy bills
  • identify what improvements have the most potential for savings

Use kWh/m2 to measure

The government has proposed that kWh/m2 become the standard for measuring energy performance.

Using kWh/m2 data is easier for measuring energy performance, both to access and calculate, than other methods.

To get this number, you need annual energy consumption in kWh divided by the floor space of your premises.

The use of natural gas and other fuels can be converted to kWh.

Work out what to monitor

As different users control how energy is consumed on site, there are different ways to work out the scope of performance monitoring.

Central services only

Only ‘central’ services such as building heat and ventilation are monitored if you are a building owner or manager that does not occupy the premises.

The government calls this a ‘base rating’ since it doesn’t account for tenant operations.

Entire building including activities

The entire premises can be monitored if a building is occupied by the owner or a single tenant.

This ‘whole building rating’ includes central services and all building activities that use energy.

Single units within a building

Monitoring single units within a building applies to single tenants as part of a multi-tenant building. It includes all energy consumed in a tenant’s space.

Under the current government proposal this monitoring would be voluntary as tenants don’t have control over central building services.

Gather data using energy bills, smart meters and management systems

Based on the scope of monitoring needed, start by measuring energy usage in the areas you control.

Do this by:

  • adding up energy usage from your monthly bills
  • installing ‘smart’ meters and sub-meters
  • hiring a professional to install a whole monitoring system

Depending on your business size it can be helpful to assign your energy management programme to a particular job role or working group.

This helps make energy savings a business priority and ensures measuring energy use continues despite staff turnover.

Add up past energy bills

The easiest way to get a baseline is to add up your energy bills for a minimum of 12 months.

Make sure the review period includes:

  • data from winter and summer
  • all relevant energy sources including electricity, gas, propane and LPG

This is a helpful first step toward measuring performance and making a plan for improvements.

Install smart meters

Smart meters are being rolled out to small businesses across Great Britain.

They provide you with accurate data about your energy usage and send automatic readings to your supplier. This means you’ll no longer receive estimated bills and will have more control over your energy spend.

Smart meters are generally installed at no extra cost.

Contact your energy supplier, who can arrange to install a smart meter at a time and date that suits you.

If you rent your business premises, talk to your landlord about having one installed.

Find out more on the Smart Meters website.

Sub-meter different areas, activities or equipment

Sub-meters measure the energy usage of a particular business area, activity or type of equipment.

Use sub-meters to identify business areas that are costly and where you can save.

Simple models that monitor electricity cost as little as £20. These are good for measuring individual appliances or outlets. Basic commercial gas meters start around £200.

To get more accurate data, several companies offer customised services that:

  1. Analyse your energy usage
  2. Install multiple sub-meters
  3. Link the meters to monitoring software
  4. Help you set targets for savings

Hire a professional to install a monitoring system

There are increasingly complex building energy management systems that can monitor and control all types of performance.

Building energy management systems are often installed in new builds or ‘deep’ retrofits that significantly upgrade energy efficiency.

You might find it helpful if you have funds to hire a consultant to look at your building’s potential and make a retrofit plan.

Check our finance and support page for programmes that help SMEs study their buildings and improve efficiency.

Adjust building controls

Once you begin monitoring your building, it makes sense to adjust controls and do regular maintenance as needed.

Find out more about:

Get finance and support

It can be helpful to hire a consultant to improve building performance if your business needs help and has financial resources .

Check our retrofit funding page to find out what financing is available from banks, government schemes and local councils.

Check our case studies page for examples of other SMEs that have successfully cut their costs and carbon emissions.