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IoT

Understanding Your Energy Bills: Part 2

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT | No Comments

Taxes, Fees, and Peak Demand

For the second installment of our understanding your energy bill blog posts we wanted to focus next on taxes, fees, and peak demand. These three things are often overlooked and avoided because they are seen as non-negotiables, and cannot be changed. While some of that statement is true, you can adjust your activities to ensure you aren’t being charged to the fullest of the electrical company.

Taxes

First to dive into taxes on electricity. Just like any other tax, it changes, and it changes often. The electric companies need to increase capacity, and therefore, we are continuing to see the fees and taxes reflect that in ours. Tax rates vary depending on the utility company, state, and other factors like weather and prices of gas and oil. Depending on the state you live in the taxes could vary, for example, if you live in one of the states that were recently affected by the hurricanes you could be charged a storm charge fee that helps repay the hurricane restoration efforts. A typical fee and tax that are more common on energy bills are fuel charge. This coincides with the price of oil and gas, depending on how those two commodities fluctuate depends on how that will reflect on your bill. Another consideration is that local municipalities often add charges to fund various efficiency or generation programs as well. Taxes and fees vary year-over-year, and with all those little charges put together, it can equal a substantial sum.

Peak Demand

Let’s talk about what peak demand is exactly. Peak demand is the time of day that electricity is most expensive because of the demand. Most people are using electricity at this time so the electric power systems must match generations and load in real time. What this means regarding charges is that if your consumption is too high at any given moment (typically a 15-minute window), you will be charged extra peak demand rates. Usually, you will see that demand increase for the billing cycle not just for that single day, sometimes it can even reflect for the entire year.

Solutions

While there is not a lot, you can do about the taxes that appear on your energy bill you can still mitigate your peak demand charges by lessening the amount of electricity used during those busy periods. Demand response programs are being used more widely to empower customers to take their electric use into their own hands and to help balance the supply and demand. Some power companies also get direct load control which allows them to cycle on and off air conditioners and water heaters during peak demand.

Automation is always an answer in this case. Installing an EMS system to automate all of your critical systems in your facility is an affordable way for you to lower your bills and increase your operational efficiency. Controls on walk-in coolers and freezers can cut defrosts during peak demand periods along with automating air conditioners to run more efficiently during those times as well.

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Summer Solstice is Here!

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Lighting | No Comments

17% of all electricity consumed in the United States is for lighting, which makes it the largest end use of electricity than any other specified category. With Summer Solstice here America can see anywhere from 13.5 hours a day of sunlight all the way up to 22 hours in Alaska. With over 2,069,306,000 lightbulbs in the commercial sector of America, assuming they are all LED’s (which they probably are not) it costs .04 per hour, using the national average of 11.5 cents per kWh, to run. If there are 12+ hours in the day, that means we are spending $1,034,653,000 nationwide just on lighting in the commercial space….and that’s on the low end because 12 hours is the smallest amount of daylight had during this time of year in only some areas. This number is quite jarring considering the amount of energy just the commercial sector is using. Not only is this costing us TONS of money but it isn’t exactly great for the environment. So what the heck am I getting at?! There are tons of ways to reduce your lighting expenses, let’s talk about the obvious, easiest one…scheduling.

Out of all of these light bulbs in businesses throughout America, most buildings probably have mechanical timers, and some have some scheduling already set up. Mechanical timers are good however they do not account for cloudy days and rarely are changed to match the longer days of summer like today. Chances are they are probably coming on when the sun is still out and wasting millions of dollars and energy throughout the United States. Most energy management systems utilize an astronomical clock which utilizes equations using the latitude and longitude of a location to determine if the lights should be on according to the desired schedule. This is a sure fire way to know your lights are on when they are supposed to be on and off when they are supposed to be off.

One thing we often see in the field installing systems, are lights on during the day. The primary cause we see is human behavior. Before we install, the chameleon™ system lights are set to turn o via mechanical timers. For example, if the manager comes in early one day, the sun isn’t up and overrides the timer by manually turning on the lights the problem lies in the forgetfulness of people. Managers and workers get busy and forget to turn them off when the sun comes up resulting in dollars lost each day due to human behavior. Automated scheduling can save money by allowing your employees to override the regular schedule and revert back to the normal schedule after “X” amount of minutes. This way, if your employees forget to turn the lights off, no big deal they will still turn off themselves.

Whether it’s summer solstice or any other regular day reducing your energy consumption in the tiniest ways can improve the money going toward your bottom line along with saving the environment one light bulb at a time. If you have a mechanical timer in your business what are you waiting for? The tech is here! Get at us and let’s start saving you $$$.

 

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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.

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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.

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Integration

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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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10 Reasons Why Your Food Shouldn’t be the Only Thing That’s Sustainable

By | Community, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Restaurant Tips, Uncategorized | No Comments

Sustainable is an all to familiar buzz word in the restaurant and several other industries as of late. It seems to have become more prominent the more we learn about our environment, our food, and how the two are connected. We deep dive into the industry every time we perform a new install, according to trends for restaurants and EMS systems as of late here are some reasons why your food shouldn’t be the only thing that is sustainable…

1

Because it’s good for our environment: Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States

2

Restaurants use 2x more energy per square foot than any other industry: Producing energy contributes to the breakdown of our environment. Power plants must produce more power to keep up with the demand, which emits more co2 emission into the air. Americans emit about 9 tons of co2 emissions per person per year, this is only accounting for the power sector!

3

LEED the Restaurant industry: Prove to your customers you are going the extra mile to help the environment in every way you possibly can. Get a LEED certification to initiate change and do your part in the restaurant community. Check out the requirements to become a green building here. Not to mention all the awesome PR you’ll get because you love the environment and are doing your part to help!

4

Millennials love the environment: Young adults age 25-34 and families are more apt to be influenced by a range of sustainability and sourcing menu terms. This only increases your business when millennials comprise about ¼ of the U.S. population!

5

unEaten food at retailers, restaurants, and homes costs about $161 billion annually: Uneaten food by patrons does not always get taken home…diners leave 17% of meals uneaten and 55% of that 17%  are not taken home and just thrown out. That’s money that could have been in your pocket and lessen food waste. Options to help reduce food waste include offering smaller portion sizes, identifying what options are being wasted, and a restaurant in London even charges a fee for unfinished food and donates those proceeds to the charity Oxfam.

Restaurant Energy Consumption

6

Refrigeration accounts for 32% of a restaurants total energy consumption: Simple inspections of refrigerator equipment is all it takes to ensure you are as efficient as you can be. Regular cleaning and inspection of refrigeration coils and door seals can save you a headache later. Controllers that mitigate defrosts are also ideal to cut down on defrosts and conserve energy.

7

19% of a restaurants energy goes directly to lighting: Making the switch to LED or installing an EMS that controls and puts all lighting on schedules can significantly cut your costs where you may have thought that there was nothing left to be done. In a specific Small Box Energy case study we decreased lighting consumption by 8%. 

8

As of 2016 10% of the total U.S energy consumption came from renewable energy sources: That means that 90% of the energy consumption came from non-renewable sources. There is a limited amount of fossil fuels and it takes millions of years to produce, it is estimated that the world. not just the U.S., will run out of fossil fuels within 100-200 years.

9

Food waste that goes into landfills generates methane. Methane is 21 times more harmful than CO2: Another reason to offer carryout containers that are environmentally friendly or add that smaller portion section to your menu like you have been thinking.

10

Installing an EMS (energy management system) can reduce your energy consumption by up to 25% and in some cases $8000 annually: An energy management system can help your business cut where it makes sense and a difference. Simple automated controls and sensors installed in all your critical systems (HVAC, refrigeration, lighting..etc) helps you monitor, control, and reduce your kwh consumption. Reducing your energy consumption by 25% will significantly help in efforts to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a win win win!

All of these suggestions are merely that, suggestions. They are just words and will remain that until you take action. That’s the challenge. Take action, lead others, inspire and show your customers and peers your motives are not just driven by just making money, but by how what you do has a lasting impact on the environment.

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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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Smart Cities a Thing of The Future?

By | Efficiency, IoT, Uncategorized | No Comments

Flying cars, diners with tv waiters and hovering trash cans…. a scene from the 1989 Back to The Future Part II movie that depicts a severely futuristic 2015. Although we do have semi-autonomous cars and not flying ones, tablets to place your order at restaurants the city of Chicago has a new approach to smart cities and we have some insight at how they plan to get there.

The Smarter City

Chicago has recently been expanding their efforts in becoming a smarter city according to a recent Cnet article that was published. What does that mean? Chicago residents can open a browser on their phone and see the location of every snow plow in the area. City officials can use a computer analysis to predict where rats will be in the city using information like locations of overflowing garbage and planned sewer pipe repairs, helping them combat their immense rat problem, along with replacing 270,000 street lamps with LED’s starting in September 2017.

The new project in progress is a new digital mapping system that will help determine what pipes are where under the city and just what each of those pipes is for. Currently, if any repairs are to be done in the city, crews must contact the office of underground coordination to identify what pipes are nearby and if they encounter an unknown, a specialist has to be brought in to determine if the pipe can be removed. This causes the city time delays and money.

The Solution

A phone app and computer program that creates a digital blueprint of Chicago’s underground pipe maze consisting of water, sewer, electric, gas and broadband lines…not including other services from 30 other companies and utilities. Chicago partners withhttp://www.uilabs.org/ UI labs to create a 3d map of Chicago’s pipeline infrastructure. The map is created by an image analysis startup company called reconstruct, using software from Cityzenith. After a construction crew unearths pipes, replaces old ones with new ones, he then could pull out his phone and take a 360degree video of where the construction took place. This data is given to Reconstruct where they use an analysis technique on the video called point clouds. They analyze the points in the video which helps to create a 3d image of the pipes that were just recorded. Right now it takes 2 weeks to create a 3d image of the construction site video to map the underground of pipes, their hopes are to create a google maps of Chicago’s underground to make several processes more efficient and easier.

They will no longer need paper blueprints of the pipe maps, and can easily update where pipes have been replaced with the new technology. “My whole thing is to allow us not just to use data to be better at what we do, although that’s what it is, but also to continue to give people a chance to interact and interface with their government,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated.

 

Started From The Bottom Now We're Here

This type of innovated thinking all started with snow plows and a simple tracking mechanism and has grown into bettering the city for not just the government planning but the residents who live there. Chicago seems to have embraced technology to its fullest and made moves to become more efficient. This is not only applicable on a city-wide scale but in our everyday lives, our work, our schools, and our home. It’s not about technology taking over but utilizing one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal to be a better, more efficient, sustainable culture.

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IoT Today & Tomorrow- Tracy Markie Speaks @ RFMA 2017

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Tradeshows, Uncategorized | No Comments

Tracy Markie, Small Box Energy’s CEO, spoke at the RFMA conference on IoT Today & Tomorrow- Practical Use for Facility Managers. He expressed the differences in IoT today, how 6.4 billion

David Andow President of Small Box Energy

David Andow President of Small Box Energy

‘things’ will be connected; and IoT of tomorrow and how research suggests that 20.8 billion ‘things’ will be connected. IoT affects everything from the front of the house (POS, Customers, Marketing, Social, etc.), to operations (employees, Accounting, Suppliers, & Inventory), and to the back of house (Food Safety, Equipment Monitoring, Energy Efficiency etc.). The impact that a cloud based platform that connected every aspect of your business to conserve energy and gain visibility is priceless.

The session also included educational content about using EMS (Energy Management System) Data collected with IoT platforms can provide insight into HVAC issues at your restaurant.  Poor performing HVAC systems are energy wasters.  Servicing or replacing old HVAC units also lead to fewer complaints from customers.

RFMA Closing Party

RFMA Closing Party

We enjoy having the chance to attend these trade-shows as it gives us the chance to meet new people and build strong, new relationships; but it also allows us to meet up with old friends and have a great time!

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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.

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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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