Companies often overlook the excessive expenses that corporate utility bills can create. Surveys suggest that in as many as four out of five cases those bills may include overcharges or other errors.

Thomas Bray, president of PROaudit, a utility-bill audit firm, in Lincoln, Mass., points out that several rate structures are usually available to corporate users. Don't rely on the utility company to assign you the most cost-effective rate. "For fast-growing companies especially, it pays to compare various options once a year," says Bray.

When you get your next electric bill, double-check the meter number, meter reading, and meter "constant" (a cost multiplier, recorded on your meter, that helps establish monthly usage). In addition, check to see if you're being penalized for using inefficient machinery that requires a surge of power at start-up."Because of obscure utility regulations," explains Bray, "you could be billed for more than you use"--charged for kilovolt amps (KVA) needed to fire up equipment, rather than for kilowatts (KW) actually consumed.