Consumption Patterns

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What is a consumption pattern?

In our context, a consumption pattern shows a set of energy units index values that have a specified evolution and repeatability. These numerical values describes consumption over a specific amount of time. Most obvious cases are for timespans of a day, week, season. A pattern's variability depends on specific circumstances but the trend should still be the same.

Energy consumption, as our activity, has predictability. A regular daily schedule is common for most people. Even in the case of work that is less predictable, there is still a likely chain of events that does occur in a similar way. Predictable activity leads to a predictable energy requirement.

Consumption patterns' importance

For small businesses, occupancy and activity ramp up and down during a day, and this is followed by electrical energy or gas requirements that also follow the same trend. High occupancy homes as well as high density residential dwellings are also in the same situation. In this case, there is an inverse energy need requirement to most business activity as people work on typical day schedules and leave home a defined part of the day.

An uneven energy requirement, which is typical of any consumer, may have either increased cost consequences or vulnerability issues in case of low electrical or gas energy availability, as happens during a crisis, man-made or natural disaster. Knowing what amount of energy you may need to operate normally may have major benefits in crisis situations and it is advisable to have this data available.

There is an additional benefit to determining consumption patterns. In the absence of data available at a specific moment in time, estimation about the impact of an energy saving solution can be more easily considered.

Base load (base consumption) and peak load (peak consumption)

Without using specific devices to measure instant load, we can still determine two important scenarios, estimating the base load and peak load through base and peak consumption over a specified amount of time. Measurement devices for electrical energy are cheaply available and can help in making base and peak load determinations.

The energy load at a specific moment in time can be indirectly determined by having frequent meter readouts. For instance, reading the meter index with most devices turned on at a specific time and then after 30 minutes or an hour can give a rough estimation of the peak consumption in that timeframe. This situation should not be considered typical but as a clear indication of an extreme case that can occur.

Base load is best determined when most activity is idled and, as happens with most consumers, late at night. Having two meter readings taken at 1 hour or more apart can give a good estimation of the base load that may happen on the premise, although it will not show an instant value, but still an average of energy load during that time.

Date and time Electricity index (kw/h) Gas index (m3) Base consumption (night) Peak consumption (day)
2022, the 27th of April 9:10 4028.6 320.683 3.6 kw/h, 0.4 m3
2022, the 27th of April 20:00 4032.2 321.057
2022, the 28th of April 8:57 4033.5 321.121 3.1 kw/h, 0.1 m3 5.9 kw/h, 0.5 m3
2022, the 28th of April 21:00 4039.4 321.602
2022, the 29th of April ----:----

Note: The base consumption is computed as the difference between a night meter readout and the following morning one, and the peak consumption as the difference between a morning and a night reading on the same day. The base load is considered to be at night, because the consumption is lower in this time period, although the length of time between measurements is roughly the same.

Location and year-round variability

It is important to determine the peak load or the peak energy requirement at different predictable times of the year. In the winter, in the Northern Hemisphere, consumption is the highest due to heating loads. A similar peak may be reached in the summer, due to space cooling requirements. For different activities this may have less of an impact than productive activities as these have the highest energy impact.

Just as important is to be aware that even similar buildings, with similar activities may have very different energy requirements due to particular environment situation such as being in a shaded or a sunny area, cooler or warmer climates, or due to preferences. Best assessments are made by observing consumption patterns of the same location. However, other similar cases can offer insight into potential areas of improvement.

Cost considerations

Knowing the base and peak load can help in determining how to better handle the average load and understand how far is it from the base and peak one. The average load is reflected in the monthly energy cost. Approaches to limit base and peak load will depend on how close the average load is to either extreme.

Depending on the utility contract and billing, there may be certain incentives to keep consumption at a certain level during the day, total consumption below a certain value each month or other constraints. All these circumstances mean that understanding consumption patterns is highly important.

If the aim is to become more energy independent as well as for reliability reasons, it is important to know both base load and peak loads in a specific period of the year, as renewable and conventional energy availability may fluctuate.