Understanding Your Energy Bills: Part 3

By | c-stores, Efficiency, Energy Management, Restaurant Tips | No Comments

In our previous two blog posts, we talked about some factors that play a major role in your utility bills and how you can make adjustments to offset those costs. In this post, the final of the three, we will discuss how billing cycles, activating equipment and how human impact plays a role on your energy consumption.

Billing Cycles and Equipment

Billing cycles have more of an impact on how your energy bill turns out than one might think. The number of days associated with each billing period may change from year-to-year. That means the amount you pay varies from month-to-month due to the number of days you are billed for. Activating or turning on multiple pieces of equipment at the same time may cause energy spikes. These can negatively affect the peak usage rates that we talked about in our previous posts. A small thing like an energy spike can cause a huge ripple effect that starts with energy consumption and ends up affecting, staffing, menu items, or hours of operations. Staggering the amount of equipment you have turned on at once can alleviate this problem, automating this process would be optimal. Smart kitchen equipment enables owners to take charge of their equipment and even remotely control it.

Human Impact

One of the two biggest culprits we see impacting daily energy consumption and, ultimately, your energy bill are people.. Not only your employees but the number customers or total number of people coming in and out on  a given day impact consumption in several different ways. Your revenue volume directly correlates with energy consumption for that location. The more people you have in an area, the hotter it gets and your air conditioners are working more and you end up using more equipment more often because you’re having to provide food to more people. Another behavior we witness often is the walk-in coolers and freezers being propped open for extended amounts of times for deliveries. This is not only causing your energy usage to spike but decreasing the life expectancy of your compressors for walk-in units.

The most common area for operational efficiency improvements surrounding human impact includes limiting or reducing the number of HVAC overrides. When employees or customers feel uncomfortable (hot or cold), their immediate reaction is to power over to the thermostat and start pressing the buttons, like it will magically change to their desired comfort temperature in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, they probably aren’t doing a small 1-2˚change. Instead, they most likely changing the thermostat by about 5 degrees. Did you know a 1˚ change in your thermostat can have up to a 3% change electrical consumption?

Are You Saving?

We now know that looking bill to bill isn’t enough to see if your energy consumption is down. You must consider how measurement, demand, energy rates, taxes and fees, billing cycles, activating equipment and how human impact play a major role in your energy bill and energy consumption. If you have an EMS and are looking for validation that it is, in fact, saving you money. The best solution for determining the effectiveness of your EMS is to work with your provider and assure they use industry accepted standards such as those endorsed by ASHRAE and AEE, two organizations dedicated to building sustainability and energy management. A good method will include sub-metering, careful monitoring, and rigid documentation practices. It doesn’t have to take long either; in fact, the more extended the test period, the more variables introduced. Some fundamental questions to consider before determining what energy management solution to install in your building are as follows: determine what areas of your building you believe are problem areas for you, decide and communicate with your team who should be involved in the process, know what savings you would like to achieve and what are realistic savings. At Small Box Energy we are committed to making the world more sustainable while helping you achieve operational efficiency.


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Understanding your Energy Bills

By | c-stores, Energy Management, restaurants | No Comments

Measurement and Energy Rates

What is in hiding in your energy bill? For residents it may be easy to spot when your rate increases and when you had new taxes added on, but this is a whole different story when talking about energy consumption and restaurants, the sector that uses 2 times the amount of energy as any other sector, seeing these slight differences bill after bill is difficult and sometimes impossible. With taxes coming into play, changes in peak demand charges, and the rise in electricity costs alone determining what savings can look like from your energy management system (EMS) may be tough. We put together some best practices to help you identify your savings from your energy management system because not all the time is looking at your electric bill before and after an accurate depiction of what your EMS is saving you. Being the first in a series of blog posts concerning this topic first we will talk about measurement and energy rates.

The first thing to take into consideration is that your EMS is not connected to everything in your facility that is consuming energy. They monitor and control specific areas and systems in your building and trying to decipher if the EMS is lowering your energy bill you first have to define what it is you are measuring. Your EMS provider should provide you reporting on a regular basis that outlines what your consumption was, for the systems it was connected to, for that month making the case very plain and clear. However, in the case that they don’t, you must first have a good plan for what it is you are looking to accomplish. To affect the outcome, you must first know what to alter to make a significant difference. To compare kwh consumption month to month on specific systems your EMS must have a meter. The meter measures the specific kWh consumption for whatever system it is communicating with. This will give you numbers to compare before the system was installed to after the system was installed. If your kilowatt consumption is less after the system was installed, then you saved that $$$.

Energy cannot be stored, so it is produced at the exact moment of demand; therefore factors that influence supply and demand weigh heavily here. Other factors that come into play are fuel prices, gas and oil, and wind and weather as they determine how much energy is generated by wind turbines and hydroelectric stations. That being said the price fluctuates as much as gas prices in the summer. Another factor that plays heavy in the industrial sector is demand rates. Rates will also change if you are at your peak demand for electricity usage, and those rates vary over the course of the year. Not being able to rely on a set rate year round makes the deciphering of your energy bill that much more difficult.

Now that we have covered the first two basics in deciphering your energy bill we will be covering four more topics related to your energy bill and your EMS. Two topics every other week and once we are done, you’ll be a pro at decoding your energy bill and understanding how your EMS affects the bill. For more information on how EMS systems work check out chameleon™.

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Convenience Stores Step Up Tech Game

By | c-stores, IoT | No Comments

The Age of Convenience

There is one thing I consistently find so interesting, the one thing almost every single person has on them at all times….their phone a $800 (sometimes more now) dollar piece of our lives. Which, by the way, is not just a phone anymore but a smart device that can make calls, surf the web, be your personal assistant, translate a foreign language for you, and the apps….there are multiple apps for anything you can think of. This is a device of convenience…we don’t even have to leave our house or pick up the phone to get any kind of food delivered to our house. In this age of convenience, where anything and everything is right at your fingertips retailers have since been capitalizing on that and now come the convenience stores.

Convenience Store News conducted a study focusing on technology and how it plays a role in convenience stores. They discovered that over 50% of those who participated in the study plan to add new equipment and replace old technology this year. The change is thought to be attributed to the realization that technology can bring together and help grow other aspects of a convenience store owners business. Much like a building automation systems already do for retail and restaurant locations. With the trend of food service growing in convenience stores now the food safety aspect will come into play as well.

Another notable finding from the study was the increase in new products being introduced to the customer via social media, 46 percent to be exact. The companies already using social media have their own mobile app and are using it to keep their customer base educated and engaged. According to Statista, 81% of Americans have a social media profile, over 1.96 billion people are on social media worldwide and that number is expected to grow to 2.5 billion in 2018. With that eye-popping number, it’s a given that social media marketing is a must.

Casey’s General Stores’ mobile app just surpassed 1 million downloads since it launched in January 2016. The app offers the essentials: hours of operation, location but with some awesome feathers like ordering pizza and made-to-order sub sandwiches. The success of this app just reinforces the findings from Convenience Store News, technology integration is essential for your business to thrive in this technology-driven world. It’s not just about having an app or system that integrates with your store, but an app that is useful to your customers, a system that is useful to you….an app that keeps your customers opening it daily and a system that keeps showing its worth to you and your staff daily.

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