Case Studies

Case Study Shows chameleon™ Platform Saves 15%!

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The Results Are In

A new case study has been posted online concerning the energy consumption of a quick service hamburger chain and methods used to decrease their consumption. Restaurants consume two times more energy per square foot than any other building. With the food service industry only growing, now at 620,807 restaurants in the U.S, we can expect the energy consumption to grow along with it.

A franchisee was seeking an enterprise-wide energy management, equipment diagnostics, and food safety platform all in one. Three different locations, located in varying geographical areas, were tested over a 6 week period. The chameleon™ platform consisted of lighting, refrigeration HVAC and food safety equipment.

While the system proved to be successful at reducing energy consumption, it also provided some auxiliary benefits to the client. ‘We often see a shift in staff behavior” says Small Box Energy Director of Deployment, Jim Parker. The shift in staff behavior leads to decreases in energy consumption when it comes to adjusting the A/C down and leaving walk-in doors propped open. These types of behaviors happen a lot less when restrictions are put in place for HVAC, and when alarms are sent when doors are propped open for extended periods of time. This is how our system provides visibility to every owner and operator. You become more aware of the things happening with your critical systems and staff while you are away. When you have the data to back it up, you can manage all of your locations more efficiently. This is why our platform is not just an energy-saving platform but a critical systems platform. Food loss and early equipment diagnostics came into play in this particular study. The franchisee saw as much as 15% monthly savings on energy consumption alone in just one of the locations.

Check out the full case study and more HERE.

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Proven Results – Case Study Shows Significant Equipment Energy Savings

By | Case Studies, Efficiency, Energy Management | No Comments

Real Data. Real Results.

Every day we get asked, ‘How can we be certain we are saving energy and money?”  The truth is we monitor your equipment daily. We take action if we see a warning or get an alarm. More so, we look at the details of the equipment and if a something is running too long, or too short we take action to notify you.  Equipment runtime is provided in quarterly reports and compared across your entire portfolio. See Portfolio Post.

Occasionally, customers ask for a pre-metering phase so they can understand the baseline metrics of each store. This is a bit more expensive, but it does help you understand the amount of energy your critical equipment is using and how much money we will save you.  We never pre-meter your entire portfolio, but we will pre-meter up to three stores.

I wanted to share with you a recent pre-metering case study because it is homogenous to most of the portfolios using Small Box Energy’s chameleon™.  The estimated ROI for this portfolio ranged from 30-49% depending on the location and equipment used – after the managed service fee.

Below are metrics from three stores. This is real data; we just omitted the name.

Overall Energy Savings

All three stores experienced overall energy savings based on the pre and post meter data. Overall savings were achieved by reducing refrigeration defrost cycles and automating HVAC and lighting schedules.

Store 1 Savings

Overall, the largest reduction in energy consumption from this site comes from their refrigeration equipment. By eliminating unnecessary defrost cycles, our chameleon adaptable controller reduces energy, eliminates ice formation and maintains a steady inside temperature.

Store 2 Savings

For this site, the largest improvement was for the HVAC equipment. In most cases, we find employees override the system and forgot to set the temperatures back. With chameleon, the system is locked with limited override capability. This ensures comfort and conserves energy.

Store 3 Savings

This site also saw a large reduction in refrigeration energy use. However; not all equipment improved. For Store 3, we had to move the room sensors. While this increased the comfort, it also increased the run-time for the unit. Room balance and sensor placement will always dictate the run-time for the HVAC unit. Many times we find moving the sensors improves efficiency, where in this situation it did not.

To learn more about how we can help you, call us at 480-253-3999.

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A Needle in A Haystack

By | Case Studies, IoT, More Value, Remote Diagnostics | No Comments

On-site Technician and CSM Quickly Diagnose Freezer Issue Using Remote Control and Data Analysis

My father was a farmer and I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack” when he was working on his equipment after something broke down. Well, that is the beauty about IoT and data, you can control and diagnose issues from anywhere in the world, reducing guessing games, which is exactly what happened earlier this week.

A technician was on-site at one of our restaurant customers. He called our tech support line because the freezer wasn’t reaching temperature and continued to cycle between refrigeration and defrost mode. By looking up the unit on, Jake (our technician) was able to tell him the coil temperature and room temperature which was the first step to diagnosing the problem.

Jake remotely put the unit in refrigeration mode for testing purposes and continued to analyze the compressor data while the technician proceeded to review the operation of the unit on-site. Together they discovered the expansion valve wasn’t working properly and not giving enough refrigerant to the unit. Because of the accurate diagnosis, the technician was able to adjust the superheat to help temporarily keep the temperature down until the unit can be fully repaired. Of course, we will continue to watch the unit remotely and alert management and the technician of urgent temperature issues.

This was the first time this technician had worked with Small Box Energy’s chameleon™ platform. He thought the system was extremely beneficial to diagnosing problems, both remotely and on-site; so much so, he is working with Jake to schedule further training with colleagues because he felt his organization could benefit from the system through control, alarming, remote diagnostics, and energy saving capability.

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balancing a restaurant for comfort

A Balancing Act: Room Comfort

By | Case Studies, Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT | No Comments

It’s probably the most common complaint in any restaurant, “it’s too cold in here!” Of course, almost everyone’s comfort level is different; however, we can agree that there are some acceptable standards for restaurants. We can also agree that the room temperature should be even across the room(s) for everyone’s dining pleasure. But achieving those standards can be very challenging.

Many people don’t understand air conditioners rely on sensors placed in the room and to balance the comfort across the space, the sensors need to be located correctly. For example, if there is a room with a lot of windows and sunlight; a sensor should be located near that area and at the opposite end of the room where these is no sunlight/heat from the windows. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to place a sensor near the door to the outside because heat/cold air rushing in from the outside will affect the space temperature. Therefore, placing the sensors strategically around the room enables an average to be taken and used as the input, so the HVAC unit can determine how long to blow cool air and effectively cool the space evenly.

Typically, this isn’t something business owners worry about – I mean let’s face it we have enough on our minds as it is. When the HVAC units are placed, the contractors place the sensors based on traffic flow and building factors to optimize your efficiency and comfort. But overtime, these sensors could stop working, be moved by other contractors, or the space itself could have been modified or changed.  That is why having remote diagnostics can help you determine when your HVAC unit is running efficiently due to sensors.

Case Study: Remote Diagnostics Uncovered Sensors Placed Incorrectly

Problem:  Managers told the Small Box Energy Client Success Manager (CSM) they felt the space was warmer than the thermostats indicated, and often had trouble keeping the space at a comfortable temperature for customers.

Upon inspection of the equipment through remote diagnostics, the CSM could see the target room temperature was barely being reached and the compressors were running constantly in 2 stages of cooling.

Sensor MisPlacement

Diagnosis: When the technician visited the space; they found the sensors were located incorrectly causing the room temperature being reported to be drastically different than if the sensors were placed properly.

Solution: The SBE technicians relocated the sensors, and the CSM noticed a significant difference in run-time for the compressor and the unit is now consistently reaching the target temperature.

sensor placed correctly

Additionally, the managers have reported back that the room temperature feels comfortable.

The Turquoise line is the Current Temperature

  • The straight Black line is the Target Temperature
  • The Purple line is the Discharge Temperature (this should be 15-20° below the target temperature)
  • The Blue lines are when the unit is in the Cooling Stage

 For more information on how Small Box Energy can help you save energy and money through remote equipment diagnostics, contact us today.

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It’s only 2 degrees, what difference can that make?

By | Case Studies, Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Visibility Stories | No Comments

Case Study: Adjusting the set-points reduced the HVAC run time by 20%

Energy Star states commercial buildings can trim their air conditioning cost by 12-15% just by raising their room temperature 3˚ during the summer. But how do you really know if you are saving money?

Our Client Success Managers review each site and all the equipment at the site. During a recent analysis, Joe noticed the kitchen compressor was running extremely long. Therefore, he suggested raising the temperature 2˚ to see if they could cut energy costs while keeping the kitchen at a comfortable temperature for staff.

This simple analysis cut the compressor usage by 20%, cutting compressor run time by almost 3 hours a day. While that does not seem like a lot, take a look at the graphs. Besides energy, this will reduce wear on the compressor and help elongate the life of the unit.

Original Graph – Target temperature of 73 degrees in the kitchen – Compressor run time of 13.1 hours (787 minutes) over a 24 hour period

compressor run time with thermostat at 73

After Adjustment – Target temperature raised to 75 degrees in the same kitchen – Compressor run time of 10.5 hours (630 minutes) over a 24 hour period. Savings of 20%.

compressor run time with thermostat at 75

Small Box Energy provides the visibility restaurants need to reduce workload on equipment and save money.

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The Power of Visibility

By | Case Studies, Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, Visibility Stories | No Comments
Two workers inspecting ventilation system

Two workers inspecting ventilation system

What does Small Box Energy mean when we say chameleon™ gives our customers visibility? Is it another marketing buzz word to get me to install yet another technology, full of promises that I never see? Unfortunately, while technology is cool and innovative, we understand that sometimes it is hard to see the value over the ‘cool’ factor. Our Deployment Team and Client Success Managers see the value of chameleon on a daily basis.  

Our Director of Deployment shared this HVAC example with me last week, reiterating the value of visibility for our customers.

Why wasn’t the Service Area cooling?

Once the Small Box Energy solution is installed; there is a two week period used to ‘tune’ the system. During this time, we make the necessary adjustment to maximize efficiency for the each store including temperature settings, lighting schedules, and alarm notifications.

Remote Diagnostics: When the thermostat was calling for cooling, and indeed running, the discharge temperature was not decreasing for the ‘service area’ of the restaurant.  The discharge temperature should be 15-20˚ below the target temperature.

On-site Inspection: Upon physical inspection, there was no air coming out of the registers in this area. When inspecting the rooftop unit, we found the unit was running correctly and receiving the correct commands from the thermostat. Upon inspection of the ductwork, we found the ducts were connected to another HVAC unit. This was causing an imbalance in the system and a heavier load on the dining room HVAC unit. Therefore, the owner is getting this corrected.

Why is this important?

  1. Two HVAC units feeding into one set of registers makes it almost impossible to keep a constant temperature for that space. It’s even possibly causing one of the units to go into heating mode while the other unit is in cooling mode to balance out the space temperature.
  2. For the space that is supposed to be cooled. Nothing happens. Temperature does not change. The employees have a tendency to keep turning down the set points for the “Service Area” thinking this will solve the temperature issue; but in reality, it adds to the issues already prevalent to the HVAC zone with two HVAC units fighting each other to obtain a temperature balance.
  3. As you can see, this would cause high run times for these units just to keep balance, thus wasting energy.


Without the visibility of the newly installed chameleon system, this issue would have continued to go unnoticed for an extended period of time if not indefinitely resulting in wasted energy consumption, as well as wear and tear on the HVAC units, reducing the life expectancy of the units’ components. Now that this issue is fixed, we will be able to see how the equipment is running 24/7, ensuring efficiency and extended life.

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How can 10% effect your electric bill?

By | Case Studies, Energy Management | No Comments

One of the key advantages to the Small Box Energy solution is the data. Our system provides real-time and historical analysis for 140,000 data points for equipment and total energy per location, per day. Our value goes way beyond the numbers with real-time alarms, operational inefficiency, and early equipment diagnostics.

This morning we received a pleasant surprise from one our customers, he’s had the system installed for just over a month. He did a complete analysis of his energy consumption since installation and he emailed us this morning showing a kWh savings of about 10% over last year, with an associated NET savings of $294 off his electric bill. There are so many factors that go into your energy usage and bills, so we typically don’t recommend or use a straight year-over-year kWh analysis, but we are always excited to cost savings like this one!

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