Frequently Asked Questions

General Utility Accounting Questions

Both Energy Accounting and Utility Accounting represent a systematic way of recording, analyzing, and reporting energy and other utility costs and usage on a regular basis.  Originally, software for this purpose tended to track only energy services (which can be converted to "British Thermal Units") such as electricity, natural gas, propane, oil, etc.   As a result, it was called Energy Accounting software.  As software has evolved and "non-energy" utility services such as water, sewer, and garbage were added, the software and the process became known by the broader term "Utility Accounting".

The Utility Manager software is a full-featured utility accounting package that has been developed since 1984 - more than 25 years now - and includes both energy and "non-energy" services types.

Simple spreadsheets are fine for just recording the information on your utility bills, but when many dozens, hundreds, or thousands of utility bills need to be tracked, spreadsheets quickly become the wrong tool for the job.  A database application such as Utility Manager provides the needed horsepower to process and analyze larger numbers of bills.  The program has been specifically designed over the last 25 years to streamline the data entry process and ensure the accuracy of the utility account numbers, dates, and billing details entered. 

Moreover, UM's flexible reporting and graphing options, ability to create reporting groups and subgroups, billing period proration, and avoided cost reporting are difficult at best to replicate within spreadsheets ... especially in a manner that's easily understandable to other people within your organization.  Utility Management Services specializes in converting "home grown" tracking spreadsheets into Utility Manager which allows you to  preserve the investment of time and effort you've made in your spreadsheets.

Utility Manager can often pay for itself through more careful monitoring of your utility usage and cost.  A powerful billing audit feature can analyze your utility bills against the history of each account through a series of nearly two dozen checks designed to flag abnormal usage and costs, overlapping service periods, duplicate bills, etc.  Many Utility Manager users have caught and recovered many thousands of dollars in utility billing errors by using Utility Manager's billing audit feature.

The Utility Manager Software

The Utility Manager is a full featured software program for tracking and managing the utility bills your organization receives from utility companies.  It's designed for any organization (e.g., public agencies, property management companies, retail stores) that receives significant numbers of utility bills each month.  It can address the needs of both facility managers/energy managers as well as accounting personnel.  Utility services that can be tracked include electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, trash, recycling, and many others. 

Using Utility Manager can greatly improve your organization's ability to track and analyze utility bill usage and cost, improve the efficiency of processing utility bills for payment, help locate potential billing errors, and target your utility conservation efforts.

The Utility Manager is available in two different versions:  Utility Manager Pro and Utility Manager Server. 

Utility Manager Pro is a full featured utility accounting program.  The program uses Microsoft Access tables as its underlying data warehouse, but owning Microsoft Access is not required to operate Utility Manager Pro.  UM Pro includes a 5-user software license and one year of technical support.  It may be used for tracking up to 1,000 site locations and up to 2,000 utility accounts.  If you have more sites and accounts than this, consider using the Utility Manager Server version.

Utility Manager Server offers more advanced features and uses Microsoft SQL Server as its underlying data warehouse.  MS SQL Server is required to operate UM Server but is not included as part of the software package.  UM Server includes a 25-user software license and one year of technical support.  It may be used for tracking many thousands of sites and utility accounts.

For more information, please see Compare Utility Manager Pro to Utility Manager Server

Utility Manager is comprehensive in its ability to track utilities and includes up to 19 different types of utility services which may be tracked.  Energy services that may be tracked include:

  • Electric
  • Natural Gas
  • Oil
  • Diesel
  • Coal
  • Wood
  • Propane
  • Steam
  • Chilled Water

Other utility services which may be tracked include:

  • Water
  • Irrigation
  • Sewer
  • Refuse
  • Storm water
  • Plus 5 additional categories of recycling

Need to track other services such hazardous waste, bio-fuels, reclaimed water, or telephones?  We can easily make modifications to track these and other services as well!

All data entered into Utility Manager resides safely behind your organization's firewall on your servers.  Moreover, you both own and control access to the database and the information contained in the database. 

The Utility Manager software can range in price from a low of $7,495 for the basic Utility Manager Pro package to $19,995 or more for Utility Manager Server.  Both versions of the Utility Manager software offer several advanced software modules for an additional cost.  A special discount of $2,500 on the prices listed above is available to ALL customers if our database construction "hot start" service is included with your software order.

For a review of pricing, discounts, and other "at a glance" information on Utility Manager Pro and Utility Manager Server, please see Compare Utility Manager Pro to Utility Manager Server.

 

Yes!  Ease of use is considered one of Utility Manager's great strengths.  Utility Manager has highly intuitive "point & click" menus that most people quickly master.  It's easy to navigate between different areas of the program and complete the task at hand, whether that's setting up your database, adding utility bills, auditing your utility bills, completing reports, and so on.

The program is both powerful and flexible in allowing you to import your utility bills and the screens for manual data entry have been streamlined to minimize the time it takes to record new bills.

The reports menus offer users an easy selection of many different report types designed for different needs, including both graphical and tabular reports.  Users can design their own custom reports as well.   A "Monthly Reports" screen allows you to save your favorite reports for easy access the next time you need them

Utility Manager ships with a very extensive printed Users Guide which is also available online through the Help menu. 

Finally, live technical support is always available during normal business hours should you need it.

Utility Manager has highly intuitive "point & click" menus that most people quickly master. 

The main tasks are divided into the following menu areas:

  • Setup: for setting up the site locations, utility vendors, utility accounts, and meters you wish to track.
  • Monthly: for inputting your utility bills as well as updating local weather data and changes in square footage in your buildings.
  • Reports: for easy selection of many different report types designed for different needs.
  • Financial: for setting up utility budgets and analyzing how actual expenses compare to the budget.
  • Avoided Cost: for calculating the weather-corrected savings from your efficiency efforts (optional module).
  • Energy Star: for interacting with and downloading rating information from the EPA's Energy Star program (optional module).
  • Emissions: for calculating your organization's "carbon footprint" and changes in that "footprint".
  • Options: for customizing a variety of program options to tailor the program to your needs.

The Utility Manager is a software application that resides on your local computer or network and behind your firewall. The database itself is most typically put on a local file server in a location that all Utility Manager users have access to.

Our Company

Utility Management Services was established in 1982 - more than 30 years ago - to provide energy efficiency assistance to cities, counties, school districts, and businesses of all types.  In the early 1980's, UMS was hired by the State of California to do the first review of competing energy accounting software packages.  Needless to say, energy and utility accounting software has evolved tremendously since then!  Also since that time, UMS has unmatched experience in building and maintaining utility accounting databases, and in supporting hundreds of customers in using utility accounting software tools to better track and analyze their utility bills as well as target and measure the success of their energy efficiency improvements.

Utility Management Services offers 4 primary services in support of the Utility Manager software.  Click on the links below to obtain more information about each of these services:

Utility Management Services offers both on-site training as well as online training in using the Utility Manager software.

On-site training includes one or two full days of training in managing and maintaining your Utility Manager database and running the many types of reports and graphs Utility Manager offers.

Online training typically includes 2 sessions of 2 hours each:  The first session focuses on key aspects of data entry and maintenance of the database structure and billing information ("Getting Data into Utility Manager").  The second session focuses on key aspects of Utility Manager's reports and graphs and analysis capabilities ("Getting Data out of Utility Manager").

Data Entry and Importing

Utility Manager has been designed over the last 25 years to ensure manual data entry is as streamlined as possible.  Here are some of Utility Manager's built-in methods for easing manual data entry of utility bills:

  • customizable data entry screens
  • extensive list of billing line items commonly found on utility bills
  • complete ability to add or modify the line item list
  • service period dates carry forward each month
  • automatic checking of bill totals
  • instant review capabilities
  • optional fields on data entry screen

Absolutely.  Utility Manager allows you to set up your data entry templates so that your screen can "mimic" the exact cost and usage details shown on the bill itself and display them in the same order they appear on the bill.   The template carries forward every month to facilitate fast data entry.  If the cost and usage items then change on a later bill... no problem!  Utility Manager allows you to easily change the template.  You can add new line items, delete line items, or change the order or terminology of the line items.  For more information, see "Customize your entry screens".

Yes.  Utility Manager is both powerful and flexible in its ability to import electronic billings obtained from your utility vendors.  The program ships with 6 import standard import formats for electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, and garbage.  UMS also offers completely integrated "custom import formats" that allow Utility Manager to carefully interpret electronic billing information contained in vendor billing spreadsheets and import it into the Utility Manager database.  The "billing determinants" such as account and meter numbers, service period dates, line item definitions, usage values, costs values, and so on are all brought into Utility Manager electronically, quickly, and accurately.

Absolutely. Not only does the Utility Manager software automatically check your data entry while it's being entered, the program offers extensive utility bill auditing capabilities.  For more information, see "Establish Audit Rules".

Reporting

Utility Manager offers a large variety of different types of reports and graphs for different purposes. 

  • Setup reports provide a quick reference of included facilities, utility vendors, accounts, and meters. 
  • Invoice review reports allow for viewing a complete billing history on any account, detecting gaps in your billing history, finding missing bills, and running an extensive billing audit to locate usage and cost anomalies. 
  • Analysis reports offer ranking and historical reports and graphs that compare a facility both to itself and to other facilities over any selected time period. 
  • Forecast and budget reports allow you to develop and edit a forecast of utility costs in a future year, create a budget, and then to compare actual costs to what was budgeted. 
  • Emissions Reports convert your past and current energy use to carbon dioxide emissions for greenhouse gas reporting.

Yes!  Many comparison reports and graphs are available that rank facilities based on the common parameters of energy use per square foot, energy cost per square foot, energy use per square foot per heating degree day, etc.  Facilities can also be compared and ranked based on a defined "production unit" such as "students", "hours of use", "widgets produced", etc., that you may also choose to track. 

Yes!  Utility Manager offers a full-featured, integrated Advanced Cost Avoidance module to allow great power and versatility in the calculation of weather-adjusted energy savings and cost avoidance.  To account for the effect of weather conditions on utility consumption, Utility Manager looks at the impact of two weather-related factors in addition to changes in square footage and rates: cooling degree days (CDD) and heating degree days (HDD).  Both monthly and daily weather data are easily downloaded into UM and updated monthly.  Utility Manager then uses sophisticated linear regression analysis to examine the relationship between weather and energy usage at each location.  This analysis ensures that the effects of weather are accurately taken into account when comparing the current level of energy use to an earlier (or "baseline") period.

While most users of Utility Manager find their reporting needs very effectively addressed by Utility Manager's pre-defined reports, the program also offers users the ability to create and save custom reports.  Saved custom reports can be used again and again and like all reports in Utility Manager, run on various levels and time periods.  Also like most other reports, custom reports can be exported for use in Excel or saved to a PDF file.

Absolutely.  A great deal of effort has gone into making it easy to get data out of Utility Manager beyond simply printing a report.  There are three primary ways data can be exported to other applications:

Exporting Utility Manager reports:  Once a report has been generated in Utility Manager using the various selection criteria offered, the report itself can be exported out in a number of ways:

  • Excel
  • CSV (comma-delimited) text file
  • Fixed-length text file
  • Adobe Acrobat PDF

Exporting Utility Manager billing data:   Utility Manager also lets users export the raw billing data in the system as well.  The program offers several pre-defined formats, allows user-defin