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Knowing What You're Monitoring: 4 Common Energy Terms Decoded

In this ever-evolving landscape of environmental consciousness and sustainable business practices, the terminologies of energy management, energy efficiency, energy optimization, and solutions management have become common—to the point that some tend to use them interchangeably. 


To truly understand the industry, It's crucial to differentiate these terms and unveil their distinct roles. 

Energy management 

Energy management involves the planning and organization of how energy resources are used in a system or a process. It includes monitoring, controlling, and conserving energy to ensure efficient and sustainable use as well as decrease costs.


However, energy management goes beyond merely settling the energy bills. This involves actively overseeing energy resources to render operations both environmentally sustainable and economically advantageous.


This concept revolves around discovering intelligent and sustainable methods to fuel our daily activities while reducing waste and our carbon footprint. In the business arena, energy management has become a systematic strategy for amplifying energy cost savings, minimizing waste, and enhancing overall energy performance. When executed effectively, it empowers businesses to increase savings while using their resources wisely.


Scenario: You are in charge of a restaurant’s energy use. Energy management would involve creating a plan that includes turning off lights and electronic devices when not in use, scheduling heating or cooling systems efficiently, and perhaps investing in energy-saving technologies. It's about overseeing and organizing how energy is used throughout the facility.

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Get the answers to the Frequently Asked Questions about Energy Management.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency refers to the ratio of useful energy output to the total energy input in a system. It’s all about getting the most out of the energy we use. In the context of buildings and equipment, energy efficiency means using less energy to achieve the same result, like keeping a building warm, cool, comfortable, or well-lit.


Scenario: Consider a business facility with traditional incandescent light bulbs. To improve energy efficiency, you might replace these bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs. Now, you get the same amount of light (or even more) for less energy, reducing waste and lowering your electricity bill. 


Other ways to boost energy efficiency include:

  • Following guidelines and recommendations from organizations like ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers). ASHRAE sets standards and guidelines on how to make buildings, heating, cooling, and ventilation systems work in the most energy-efficient way possible. Adhering to ASHRAE settings helps ensure that HVAC systems operate in an energy-efficient manner. This means that the systems are designed to provide the necessary comfort levels with minimal energy consumption, optimizing the ratio of output (comfort) to input (energy).
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Know more about what ASHRAE settings are and what they are used for.

Energy optimization 

Energy optimization is the process of maximizing the efficiency of energy use by finding the best possible combination of resources, technologies, and practices to achieve optimal performance while minimizing waste.


Scenario: In a manufacturing plant, energy optimization could involve evaluating the entire production process. This might include upgrading machinery to more energy-efficient models, adjusting production schedules to align with lower energy cost periods, and implementing smart technology to monitor and control energy use in real-time. The goal is to find the best combination of factors for the most efficient and cost-effective operation and not just focus on one aspect.

Solutions automation

Solutions automation involves using technology and automated systems to perform tasks or processes without direct human intervention. In the context of energy, this could mean automating certain aspects of energy management or optimization.


Scenario: In a diner, an automated system could adjust the thermostat based on daily routines, ensuring that the heating or cooling is active only when needed. The thermostat can also adjust the temperature automatically to ensure optimal temperature inside the facility depending on the weather conditions. This way, customers and staff enjoy a comfortable restaurant without having to manually control the temperature all the time.


Here are more ways to differentiate these terms: 

Energy management vs. energy efficiency

  • Energy management is the broader concept that encompasses planning, organizing, and controlling energy resources. It includes aspects beyond just efficiency—such as conservation and sustainability.
  • Energy efficiency specifically focuses on getting the most useful output from the energy input. It's a measure of how well a system or process converts energy into the desired result.

Energy efficiency vs. energy optimization

  • Energy efficiency is about improving the ratio of useful output to total input.
  • Energy optimization is about finding the best combination of factors (like technology and practices) to achieve optimal performance. Energy optimization strategies result in energy efficiency.

Energy optimization vs. solutions automation

  • Energy optimization is a manual or systematic process of improving the overall performance of energy use, involving strategic decisions and adjustments.
  • Solutions automation involves using technology to automate tasks, which can include aspects of energy optimization. Automation can streamline processes identified through optimization efforts.

Here’s a very simple but general illustration:

  • Energy management: Managing your allowance 
  • Energy efficiency: Making sure you get the most toys or snacks with your money 
  • Energy optimization: Figuring out the best ways to spend your allowance for maximum value and satisfaction
  • Solutions automation: Sometimes using a robot to help you buy things automatically

Here’s another illustration that is more industry-specific:

  • Energy management: Overseeing the overall energy consumption of your restaurant and planning how to conserve energy, cut down on costs, and even contribute to sustainability
  • Energy efficiency: Upgrading to LED bulbs or using more energy-efficient technologies like ENERGY-STAR certified products.
  • Energy optimization: Conducting a comprehensive review of processes and technologies to find the best combination that will result in energy efficiency. 
  • Solutions automation: Employing solutions like GlacierGrid’s smart thermostats which automatically adjust the HVAC systems for optimal comfort and safety. GlacierGrid’s smart sensors for refrigeration systems also automatically monitor temperature and humidity every ten minutes to ensure food is safe.


  • Energy management is the overall planning and organization of energy use.
  • Energy efficiency is maximizing output from a given input.
  • Energy optimization involves finding the best combination for optimal performance and energy efficiency.
  • Solutions automation is using technology to automate aspects of energy-related tasks.

Knowing is the first step to understanding

Armed with the knowledge of these four important terms, one truth becomes evident—knowledge is the linchpin to transformative change. 


With a commitment to sustainability, GlacierGrid not only pioneers innovation but empowers businesses to make conscious decisions by ensuring that businesses not only navigate—but thrive—in an era that demands clarity and understanding.


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