Why Turbo Tax for Energy Management Isn’t Happening



People we work with often ask us why this energy management stuff really has to be so hard. Can’t it just be automated, kind of like Turbo Tax? We totally understand. A user-friendly app that ties up energy management in a neat little bow would be ideal, but can it be done? We say no. Why?

Let’s break it down.


Real estate owners and managers need a tool that is built to scale. Automatically managing energy in a single family home might be a realistic software venture, although it’s still usually just Mom or Dad yelling at the kids to turn off the lights, imploring them to take shorter showers, and turning down the thermostat at night.  However, energy management across an entire real estate portfolio is a different ball game. While there are plenty of tools out there that can handle the large volume of data and provide valuable insights (hello, EnergyScoreCards) they can’t actually do the dirty work.


Energy management for a real estate portfolio, like all nuanced fields, has a threshold at which an expert is necessary. Throw in an HSA and a mortgage to your tax return and you’ll be screaming for an accountant. In energy management, there are so many moving parts that a software-only solution is not only unrealistic, it’s undesirable. Technology can and should play an important role, but ultimately a person, an expert, needs to be calling the shots.


Buildings are complex, living, breathing ecosystems. (That dampness in the air could be because the ventilation system isn’t working, but it could also be that the air conditioners are oversized.  Fluctuating hot water temperature could be caused by a boiler problem, a mixing valve problem, or crossover flow between hot and cold water.)  Not to mention that buildings house people, and people are very tricky, unpredictable variables.  (That skyrocketing water bill might be a leaky toilet, but could also be a crazy tenant who leaves the water running for white noise.  The gas spike could be a problem with the boiler, but it could also be a tenant who has started using their oven as a supplemental heater.) We’ve seen it all.

With all these nuances, there is no energy management software for real estate portfolios that can do it all on its own. Technology will continue to drive this field forward, but expert humans are going to play an important role for a long time to come. Besides, you wouldn’t scrap the accountant and use Turbo Tax for your business, would you?