While nearly all benchmarking tools perform basic functions such as comparing energy use between buildings, some tools offer additional features that distinguish them from others. These "best practice" features include:
- adjusting for weather conditions,
- comparing similar buildings, and
- transferring billing information directly into Energy Star's Portfolio Manager.
Climate dramatically affects the energy consumption of most buildings. An office building located in an area with extreme hot and cold weather will use significantly more energy in a year than an office building located in an area with temperate climate. Similarly, the energy use of a building varies from year to year with changes in annual weather conditions. The best benchmarking tools use statistical methods that account for the effects of weather so that yearly differences in energy consumption can be logically attributed to something other than weather.
Almost all benchmarking tools let you compare the energy use of different buildings within your organization (for example, all the stores operated by a grocery chain). At this writing, only Energy Star's Portfolio Manager lets you compare the energy performance of your building with similar buildings across the country. Portfolio Manager can be used for most building types including offices, schools, hospitals, hotels/motels, supermarkets, residence halls/dorms, and warehouses.
Information obtained from utility bills is invaluable for benchmarking a building's energy use. Some benchmarking tools let you directly transfer billing information to Energy Star's Portfolio Manager.