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restaurants

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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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

Observations

  • 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

Considerations:

  • 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

Observations

  • 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

Considerations:

  • 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

Observations

  • 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

Considerations:

  • 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 with..no 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.

Convenience

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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3 Reasons Why Your Standard Thermostat Isn’t Cutting It!

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, Restaurant Tips, restaurants | No Comments

Restaurants are busy places filled with customers, employees, food, and lets not forget the hot kitchen equipment. We have installed several systems all across the United States in all different types of restaurant builds. In our travels we have seen lots of different types of thermostats installed in locations, from a standard basic thermostat, to high tech programmable thermostats, or the thermostat that came with the building when it was built 40 years ago. We have also come across hacks that employees create and use to get around restrictions for thermostat setpoints.  We all have seen those plastic thermostat guards…but there are even ways to get around those; We’ve seen it all! Here are our top 3 reasons why your standard thermostat isn’t cutting it in your restaurant.

1.Your employees will always set the temperatures to what feels good to them, this temperature may not feel good to the customers.

Time and time again we see this, the balance between the staff and the customers. A good starting point is researching what local business keep their thermostats at around you, or you can simply peek at the thermostat next time you go out to eat. Once you get that baseline you can change it based on your customer’s comments. We often see the employees will turn temperatures way down because they are hot. Of course, they are hot, they are up and moving around and if its a lunch rush forget about it they are sweating. The problem with this is your customers aren’t moving around as fast and frequently as they are so they will most likely be freezing in the temps that feel good to the staff. Find a good balance and stick to it.

2. Employees, and anyone else who can see your thermostat can change set points causing extended run times for A/C units.

You may not have had a problem with your typical, run of the mill thermostat but your energy bill and your A/C units are seeing the repercussions. Having an open thermostat can cause several problems like employees and the general public changing the setpoints which can result in equipment failure if they are tampered with too often or set too low. In this instance, if you think you are covered because you have the plastic thermostat guard…think again. We have seen employees sitting with a hairdryer or setting freezing foods on top of the box in order to get it to turn on. We have even seen implements used to stick through the open spaces to change the temperature. In this case, the best option is thermostats that come as part of an EMS system. In addition to being fully customizable, you get data and alarms that show you when temperatures were changed. These nifty thermostats also give you the option to be locked out completely at a local level, so even if the buttons are pressed or menus are tampered with they will not be able to be unlocked at a local level.

3. Schedules can’t be set or can be set and are tampered with

Scheduling is super important in the restaurant industry, there are rushes and there are times when it’s really dead. During the rushes you will want the temperature to be lower than normal to compensate for all of those bodies in one place at the same time, but who would remember to turn this back up after the lunch rush is over? No one, we see it often where the setpoint is left super low and just continues to run. This causes your customers to be uncomfortable and not to mention all of the wasted energy and money. Having a thermostat capable of schedules is best for the restaurant environment simply because you are subtracting the human error out of the equation. You no longer have to rely on someone to change the setpoint after a lunch rush and back down again because most likely, they won’t remember. Not only will these save you a headache, they will save you the money on your HVAC consumption.

There are several solutions out there to alleviate some of the pain that comes along with each one of these, deciding which is best for your business is the tough part. With the chameleon platform, we utilize schedules that fit to your specific business needs and give access to who you deem necessary. We have the capability to lock out thermostats completely or have an adjustment range of 2 degrees up or down so your staff still feels empowered but you don’t pay for it. We also alert and alarm you to changes if you opt to keep the system open. Providing data on override times, temperatures, and alarms is what helps you pinpoint what your customers want while simultaneously providing you with equipment diagnostics on units and their likelihood to fail.

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6 Things to Consider When Choosing an Energy Management System

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, restaurants | No Comments

Restaurants fit into the commercial sector that accounts for 8.9% of the nation’s energy consumption. Energy Star found they consume 2.5 times the amount of every other commercial sector PER SQUARE FOOT! That’s awatt (haha I had to) of energy, and with energy prices only rising, the monthly utility cost for restaurants is exponential. Future Market Insights says that the energy management industry will soar to 21.6 million by 2025, that’s a drastic change from the 6.3 million that it’s valued at now. That’s because restaurants are not the only ones switching to EMS systems, residential, commercial and even entire cities are switching to more energy sustainable solutions. Because of the large market and overwhelming amounts of information, we put together some key things to look for when considering a building automation system or energy management solution.  

      1.  What are you trying to alter?

This is something that most people would say is a no brainer…but when it comes down to it are you just trying to cut energy or are you looking for an all in one building automation system? It’s important to know exactly what you aim to do with your energy efficiency project and how you plan to measure its success.

      2. Visibility

Don’t settle for less in this area. You don’t want to pay for something that tells you exactly what your standard thermostat tells you. Historical data and trend graphs can make all the difference in how you manage your locations. Don’t settle for knowing the current temperature and what the temperature will change to in 3 hours, know the last time the temperature was changed, how much it was changed by and how it is currently affecting that A/C unit. Document your pain points right now when it comes to what you wish you had in an energy management system and this will help identify and disqualify potential candidates.

      3. Support

Having tons of data collected for you is useless if you cannot understand or do not have the time to decipher it. Choose an option that has dedicated people to help when you are in need. Whether it is identifying trends in data or following up to make sure your staff reacted appropriately to an alarm, make sure you get the support you are actually paying for.  

      4. Modular

Look for a platform that gives you visibility into the areas you are concerned with but don’t limit yourself to what you want right now. We all know too well that the needs of any business are ever changing and right now you may just want energy management…but what happens when corporate wants to incorporate food safety standard that needs to be electronic? More training and possibly different software and whole new system to learn.

      5. Identify existing issues with equipment that affects what you are trying to control

You can’t fix energy consumption related to your HVAC if one of your 4 units is down and making the other 3 work harder resulting in more energy consumption and depleting existing equipment life. Making sure your units are in good working order is half the battle and will not seem like such a surprise when an outside company cannot install their energy equipment because the units aren’t even functional.

6. Ease of use

Get something that is user-friendly. The last thing you want is to have to train your whole staff on a new piece of software/hardware that is not easily navigable and not intuitive. Let’s not forget you will have to use this too 😁

All in all, make sure you chose something that will fit your business not the other way around. There are several options out there for a  energy management solution that is coupled with other areas you might want to venture into at a later time. Seamless is the key, easy training, easy transition, easy money!

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