Microsoft Excel: Energy Management at Your Fingertips

10/04/2013 | By Rama Ayer and Eric Woodroof

Discover tips and tricks for energy practices and projects

A valuable energy tool may be sitting unused on your computer desktop.

Microsoft Excel is well suited for energy management and advanced analysis; however, it is underutilized within most businesses. Many people are not aware of a whole raft of functions that could provide greater insight and save a ton of time.

Why does this happen? In many organizations, there is no formal training on Excel. Think about how most of us learned Excel – someone showed us the basics and we learned the rest on our own. Imagine what a little training would do for productivity and the ability to perform more advanced analysis, impressing your boss or client.

Excel and Energy
When it comes to energy analysis, where does Excel fit in? Excel is certainly not a replacement for sophisticated programs such as eQUEST, TRACE, or HAP, which have established their places in energy engineering. However, Excel is a “Swiss Army Knife” that can perform many functions in the depth and breadth that is sufficient for day-to-day energy engineering and financial analysis.

In order to effectively use Excel, you need to pick up some tips, tricks, and techniques. A tip saves you time by performing a given action in less time. A trick allows to you achieve a result that is not normally possible with built-in capability. A technique is a skillful way of applying the basic features, usually by combining them in innovative ways.

The 2013 version of Excel has over 450 functions, which can seem overwhelming, but I have prioritized some of the must-know functions and features. Detailed below are three tips that you can implement today.

Tip #1: Add Units to Numbers without Changing Numbers to Text

To display a unit of measure (kWh, Therms, lb., etc) in a cell without changing the number to text, create a custom number format following the steps below:

  1. Select the cells containing the numbers you want to format.
  2. Press  the key board shortcut key “ctrl +1” to bring the “format cells” dialog box.
  3. In the format cells choose the “custom format” option.
  4. In the type field, select a number format for your cells and type the unit of measure enclosed in quotes (e.g. " kWh" ) to the right of the number format.

You can use this formatted cell in any calculations, and once you have created this format, you can use it anywhere in the workbook. (See first screenshot for an example.)

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