Early Equipment Diagnostics

5 Reasons An EMS is Better Than Equipment Controls Alone

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Energy Management, IoT, Remote Diagnostics, restaurants | No Comments

I have a programmable thermostat…why do I need an EMS (Energy Management System)?

We have talked to hundreds of customers and some get the concept and importance of an energy management system, some don’t. So just to clear the air on how we are different than your regular old programmable thermostat and lighting control we decided to just list it out for you.

More Than Hardware

Energy Management Systems collect and store the information they receive about the critical systems they are connected to and communicate with. Most EMS can provide you with trend graphs so when you get a complaint about your dining area being too cold or hot, you have an idea on where the problem is and how to properly diagnose it.


There is a single point of reference for anything that the EMS is connected to. One place to change your lighting status, HVAC setpoints, and schedules?! But wait, that’s not all! You don’t have to search through multiple dashboards or multiple menus, they all exist on one dashboard communicating to and from the EMS.

Energy Visibility

Not only does the EMS provide visibility into your critical systems but it gives you insight into how much power the equipment connected to the EMS is consuming as well as the equipment it is monitoring. Getting detailed information on how much energy you are consuming day over day and what is consuming that energy can powerfully impact the way you run your business.

Enterprise Visibility

Multiple locations installed with the EMS can put all of your locations in one place. Changing setpoints, lighting state, and schedules across multiple locations has never been easier. Centralized facilities management makes it easy to prioritize facility maintenance budgets as well as evaluate, rank and optimize locations based on collected data.

Diagnostics & Alarms

An EMS is capable of sending alarms and alerts to specific parties when temperatures are not being reached or when overrides occur to a set schedule. Early equipment diagnostics are also another added benefit. Most EMS provide trend graphs to pinpoint an exact problem with a refrigeration unit for example, helping to solve small problems before they become larger, more costly problems.

Long story short, an energy management system is much more than your thermostat on the wall. It provides visibility and analytics all in one easy to find location, which empowers you to run your business with confidence. Aggregating all of your locations data across all of the connected systems onto one dashboard makes your job that much easier.

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Smart Systems Anticipate Future Failures

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

Smart Software Predictions

IoT seems to be a buzz word as of late, and with everything connected…you have to wonder why? Convenience is a huge piece of it, but it also comes down to these smart systems and how they are interconnected to every aspect of our lives. Smart systems produces data; how can you act on this data? Well unless you know and understand how to decipher it, you can’t. Here at Small Box Energy, our client success managers are what sets us apart from our competition in that they are here to turn ordinary data into smart, actionable data for you. In our daily pulls, we collect over 140,000 data points that span across several different brands, in a single day. All this data comes in the form of graphs and numbers. The graphs are not difficult to decipher, however when the whole reason you purchase a specific software is to save time, so you can see where this can cause problems. Our client success team uses trend graphs to decipher and predict future equipment failures. The graphs below are some of the many ways that our system and data can help reduce costly repairs.

Data In Action

In the graph above our client success managers used the data to determine that the set point of the A/C was set too low, this caused the compressor to run almost for the entire day. The constant running compressor can cause wear and tear to occur at a more accelerated rate because the unit is never shutting off and getting a break.

This graph shows the compressor run time after the temperature on the thermostat was raised by 2 degrees. The run-time was cut by 20%, which increases the life of the compressor, and you avoid paying for costly repairs all because the temperature was set too low.

The next example is similar the last. The walk-in freezer at a restaurant was never reaching the set temperature, continuously running. Therefore it was running excessive defrost cycles to compensate. The client success manager used the data from smart system to determine where the problem started and possible causes. 

The coil in the refrigeration unit was never reaching the set temperature which caused the unit to go into defrost more often than it should have, this increases unnecessary energy consumption but most of all it increased wear and tear on the compressor.

Visibility Breeds Predictions

These are things we see day after day, the chances that all of your equipment in your restaurant or convenience store is running at 100% is slim. Smart systems like chameleon give you the visibility into your store operations as you have never seen before. The difference is before; you were never aware that your compressor in your walk-in was on all the time until you had to fix it when you had just repaired it recently unexpectedly. By merely having these graphs we are saving hundreds of restaurant owners and convenience store owners thousands of dollars in predicting future failures in their kitchen equipment.

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3 Spring Preventative Maintenance Tips You Gotta See

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Remote Diagnostics, restaurants, Small Box Energy Features | No Comments

As we spring into a new season we see numerous issues regarding HVAC units in particular. Most of the common problems we see in locations are related to the lack of preventative maintenance resulting in long-term wear and tear on units and not to mention the energy that these units are consuming because of that. Our client success managers took their expertise and decided to show their process and how they diagnose problems with HVAC units remotely using the chameleon™ platform and application. Here are 3 ways our client success team here at Small Box Energy diagnose and help remedy problems with HVAC units.

General HVAC Tips

  • Set kitchen target temperature in the mid-70s. Most units will not achieve lower temperatures during heavy volume periods and running at temperatures lower than 72 cause unnecessary strain on units while utilizing more energy than is truly required.
  • When modifying target temperatures, instead of changing by 5+ degrees in one move, update by 1-2 degrees each week to minimize staff recognition. Making smaller adjustments on a regular basis allows them to adapt vs. noticing an immediate change which will cause them to bypass the system back to original temperatures that were not optimal.
  • Clear drain lines from HVAC units can help performance by allowing airflow through the coils to cool more efficiently and causing less strain on the other components of the unit.
  • Proper functioning drain pans help the HVAC system performance as allowing the condensation to flow through the drain and not build up causing other issues.
  • Conduct preventative maintenance on a consistent basis with all of your HVAC units.

Example 1 – Unit running all the time but running well


  • Two stages running at all times
  • No unoccupied time/temperature set (if not 24-hour location make sure schedules are set properly)
  • Temperature not hitting target temperature
  • Strong splits between discharge and actual temperature being achieved – System running well


  • Two-stage cooling means the air conditioner has a compressor with two levels of operation: high for hot summer days and low for milder days. A two-stage unit runs for longer periods and produces more even temperatures.
  • As system is running at full strength at all times, unit should not be expected to last as long as if it were running fewer stages and energy usage will be high
  • Unit may be undersized for the space and should be discussed further
  • Raise the target temperature to one allowing the temperature to be achieved, thus reducing strain on the unit.
  • Consider “unoccupied” temperatures during low volume periods if 24-hour operation
  • Confirm that both stages are configured correctly at the unit itself, as well as in the thermostat corresponding to the unit

Example 2 – Unit running all the time and not functioning properly


  • Two stages running at all times
  • No unoccupied time/temperature set (if not 24-hour location make sure schedules are set properly)
  • Temperature not hitting target temperature
  • Discharge temperature tracks the outside temperature and raises as the day heats up
  • Discharge temperature is above the set point


  • Two-stage cooling means the air conditioner has a compressor with two levels of operation: high for hot summer days and low for milder days. A two-stage unit runs for longer periods and produces more even temperatures.
  • With discharge temperature not in the 50 to low 60 – degree range during 2 stages of cooling this unit needs to be serviced by an HVAC professional.
  • As system is running at full strength at all times, unit should not be expected to last as long as if it were running fewer stages and energy usage will be high
  • Confirm that both stages are configured correctly at the unit itself, as well as in the thermostat corresponding to the unit

Example 3 – Unit Running Well


  • 1 and 2 stages running throughout the day as needed
  • No unoccupied time/temperature set (if not 24-hour location make sure schedules are set properly)
  • Temperature is achieving the target temperature consistently throughout the day
  • Strong splits between discharge and actual temperature being achieved – System running well


  • As this system is running well, if other units in the same location are not, this system could be helping compensate the entire space for other units.
  • Consider “unoccupied” temperatures during low volume periods if 24-hour operation

These tips can help prevent long-term wear and tear on your equipment. Preventative maintenance is essential to energy savings and elongating the life of your equipment. This is true not only for HVAC units but for refrigeration equipment as well and every piece of equipment in your restaurant, c-store and even your home. Take a look at our platform page to see more screenshots of the chameleon app in action!

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3 Reasons Why an EMS is a NEED to Have

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, restaurants | No Comments

Let’s start this article off one actually NEEDS anything…you don’t need to have a car…you don’t need to have a tv…..but we have these things to make our lives easier and much more enjoyable. The same goes for an energy management system (EMS) for your business, whether it’s in a convenience store, retail store, casino or a restaurant.

Around since the 1990’s, energy management systems have been creeping their way into our everyday lives. Whether it’s in your home with your programmable thermostat or in your office building with automatically scheduled lighting, EMS systems are part of the new IoT revolution. A new study conducted by Forbes found that businesses are fixated on IoT and how it can slingshot their business into the future with ease, over 90% of businesses surveyed in fact. Why?

The Environment:

It’s just the right thing to do for our environment and for your business. Restaurants consume twice as much energy per square foot than any other industry. The energy that Americans consume is 90% nonrenewable and this vast energy consumption is contributing not just to the depletion of resources but is contributing to the deterioration of our environment. Having an Energy Management System in place helps to cut back energy consumption, not only do you have the piece of mind that you are doing your part to save the planet but it allows for functionality.


Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. The world is shifting to an IoT state of mind. Access to your house lights, garage, and A/C all from your phone. If your house has it….why wouldn’t you implement it into your business? Most EMS gives you the flexibility to not only monitor remotely but they also enable control. Gone are the days of driving up to your restaurant on a beautiful, sunny day, birds chirping and parking lot lights on. Give yourself a break and your staff for that matter, give them the convenience that will make facility maintenance using early equipment diagnostics, lighting schedules, and temperature alarms right in their back pocket.

The Bottom Line

An energy management system or building automation system can help with your bottom line in several different ways. Providing energy savings by way of reducing your energy consumption is the first, most obvious way. Your energy consumption can be monitored and scheduling can be set on your critical systems to reduce the amount of consumption and limit the times to non peak times, maximizing our energy savings. Other ways that are not as apparent are in early equipment diagnostics and food safety. Food safety is a bit of a tricky one, it’s sort of like insurance. You don’t really value it until you need it. Having a food safety incident where your food temperatures come into question with the public, you can’t afford to have some sort digitized way of keeping track of your food temperatures and the times they were last checked. Early equipment diagnostics is something the industry has shifted focus to recently, managing an entire portfolio and prioritizing maintenance can be a daunting task. With an energy management system in the mix you have a way to analyze that data and prioritize your maintenance dollars to go where they are needed most. Most energy management systems provide reports on the equipment functionality and number of problems encountered. This data coupled with your effective management team makes your facilities maintenance unstoppable.

IoT is the most important emerging technology today. To effectively compete in this data driven, digital economy you have to at least have a grasp or plans on how your business will incorporate IoT to make your business successful. These smart systems predict future equipment failures, and  help you manage and address them accordingly.

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Equipment Performance – A Portfolio Perspective

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

Quarterly reports review your entire portfolio highlighting run-times, energy usage, and alarms.

Whether you own 2 stores or 200, being efficient is the key to reducing operating costs. Small Box Energy understands that need, which is why we provide quarterly ‘Fit’ reports specifically for your equipment.

You’ll be able to see and compare:

  • HVAC compressor runtimes
  • Walk-in compressor runtimes
  • Alarms over the period
  • HVAC target temperature overrides
  • Energy Usage

A sample report looks like the picture below.

portfolio - partial -2

Data Enables Strategic Decision Making

One of the advantages of IoT is the ability to access data. In fact, we serve up over 140,000 data points each day for each of our sites that we monitor. But what do you do with it? How do you analyze it? What is the real advantage of having all this data? The advantage isn’t the data, the advantage is having the tools to combine and display the data you need into a useful format that is easy to read and understand. As the picture depicts above, we segregate and display the data by equipment so you can easily read and compare. Colors indicate performance evaluations. You can quickly scan the data, pick out the equipment in danger and compare the data across your entire portfolio. Customers have been able to make strategic decisions for efficiency, such as these:

  • Modify temperature settings to maximize energy efficiency
  • Choose to repair or replace equipment based on performance and other portfolio equipment needs
  • Evaluate a 3rd party vendor
  • Eliminate or modify existing preventative maintenance program based on equipment needs
  • Reevaluate the design and equipment needs for new locations

IoT and data provide the means, Small Box Energy makes it useful and actionable. Call us today or request a presentation.

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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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Remote Diagnostics Solves Real Issues

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, Food Safety, IoT, Visibility Stories | No Comments

Ice Buildup on the Coil Explained and Solved Using IoT

Recently, our tech support received a phone call from a customer.  Their walk-in cooler seemed to be running ok, but he was concerned about all the ice on the coils. Our tech support pulled up the data from the refrigeration module.

A quick analysis of the graph instantly showed the problem. See the actual graph below. It reads right to left, and is for a period of 7 days. The blue line is the coil temperature and the green line is the room temperature.  The room temperature of the cooler was ranging from 40-50˚ consistently. This means the door was being left open from employees.  The employees were instantly trained to correct their behavior and stop leaving the door open.


If you look at the left side of the graph from 0-1, you see 3 spikes to 40 degrees in the blue coil temperature; this means the unit was in the proper defrost mode. You will also see the coil temperature is well below the room temperature and consistently staying between 33-35 degrees.

This corrective action saves money because the cooler isn’t working as hard to lower the temperature of surrounding spaces or freezing up resulting in visits by technicians. We would also expect a longer life of the cooler and compressor because it is not running all the time. Additionally, we might expect the food quality to improve and reduce the chance for a loss of produce, as the cooler is now maintaining a consistent temperature.

Why Does Ice Form?

Ice can form on the evaporative coil due to added humidity from surrounding environments. The developing moisture on the coil causes the ice buildup. In this case the door was being left open, so the ice was forming as the evaporative coil was trying to maintain temperature.

Remote diagnostics solves real issues

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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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Why Should Restaurants and Convenience Stores be Interested in IoT?

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Energy Management, Food Safety, IoT, Uncategorized | No Comments

IoT cloud_3IoT touches every person, every day and we barely even think about it – cell phones, laptops, security devices, HVAC controls, and lights. They are all connected:

Today*: 6.4B “things” connected via IoT technologies
Tomorrow: 5.5 million things will be connected
2020: 20.8 Billion things connected

Eventually, virtually everything electrical will be connected – appliances, blinds, locks, garage doors, water heaters, landscaping lights, even irrigation systems.

But the important question is why?  Why has technology permeated so many aspects of our lives?  Well, there are lots of reasons.  First, we might say it’s cool.  Who doesn’t feel just a little bit of power when you can turn your lights on and off from across the country?  Right?   However, the more practical applications of these “things” provide us convenience, save us money or provide some added safety for us.  They make our lives easier, they help us get more for less all while improving the world we live in. The same is true for businesses and especially restaurants.

It is very common to be using IoT for your POS, social media and even operations like inventory or ordering. Nearly every asset in the business has been impacted by the internet and/or IoT to save money or increase efficiency. For Front of the House, IoT applications typically focus on increasing revenue and loyalty; where as the Back of the House applications typically focus on increasing productivity through schedules, inventory, and bookkeeping.

Small Box Energy leverages IoT to provide a solution focused on providing operational efficiency to improve profitability for both restaurants and convenience stores:

  • Improves Food Safety by automatically documenting temperatures for refrigeration equipment and food probes on the cloud, giving users historical and real-time access.
  • Reduces Food Loss by providing real-time alarms to employees when refrigeration equipment is out of the defined temperature range, notifying employees to take immediate action.
  • Reduces Maintenance Costs by providing data to distinguish between equipment failure and operational inefficiencies; as well as data to determine truly urgent repairs over routine maintenance needs. Facility managers are becoming empowered through remote access and diagnostics.
  • Extends Equipment Life and Improves Inefficiencies by providing the data necessary to determine doors being left open, repetitive and unnecessary HVAC overrides, or general excess operation of compressors.
  • Reduces Energy Consumption through automation, scheduling and decreasing unnecessary defrost cycles in equipment to help control what is often perceived as uncontrollable costs.

So why is IoT important for restaurateurs? It will touch every aspect of your operation and it will help you save time, mitigate risk and increase profitability. Learn more about how Small Box Energy can help your operations by emailing



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