Energy Savings: The Proof is in the Data

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, restaurants, Sustainability | No Comments

Energy management systems have often been the subject of eager talks of saving money and the environment but they also have been on the other side of the discussion as well. Will you actually save me money? Do energy management systems even work?

We recently installed a chameleon™ system in a family dining restaurant chain in Colorado and after only one day of having the system installed, we started seeing positive results. We installed new wireless thermostats and refrigeration controllers on their existing walk-in units, which all communicate to our chameleon webserver and up to the cloud and the energy savings speaks for itself in the graphs below. 


Thermostats capable of running schedules and running according to their specific zone replaced the old thermostats on location. These thermostats also give us the capability to restrict local changes or designate a temporary setpoint and return to permanent setpoint. In the graph below you can see the kW consumption before the system was installed on Tuesday would reach peaks of 17 kW. After the system is installed on Tuesday you can see the energy consumption peaks at 8 kW,  that’s more than half!


We also installed the chameleon adaptive controller on their walk-in refrigeration and freezer units. The chameleon adaptive controller has the ability to defrost on need rather than a time demand. Typically this controller will decrease the amount of defrosts a unit goes through by 70% on average. The controller learns the environment and defrosts based on its surroundings. This decreases the amount of energy consumed and increases the quality of the food by being subjected to a lower number of defrosts. In the graph below you can see the amount of energy consumed before the chameleon system was installed was peaking at almost 5 kW. Post chameleon system installation on Tuesday you can see the peak energy consumption is about half of what it was without the system.

What Else?

Results like these are seen all the time throughout the several locations we have the chameleon system installed in. While providing you with energy savings and reducing your carbon footprint is our goal it isn’t the only thing we provide to restaurants and convenience stores. Food safety and operational efficiency are our other focus points for our clients. Talk with an energy expert today to see how we can help increase your operational efficiency and food safety all while saving you tons on your energy consumption.

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10 Reasons Your Critical Systems Data is Valuable

By | Education, Energy Management, restaurants, Sustainability | No Comments

IoT, smart data, big data, all of these terms you hear more often the more common technology and data continues to intertwine itself with every aspect of our lives. With the recent Facebook data debacle, people are starting to realize that their data is valuable…but why? Small Box Energy works primarily within the restaurant and convenience store industry, and we’ve come to find that the more information you capture within your facility, the more it benefits your business and ultimately, you.

So what is the difference between big data and smart data? Big data deals with the 5 V’s: volume, velocity, veracity, variety, and value. Basically, it is a large pool of data that makes it difficult for data to be interpreted conventionally. Smart data, on the other hand, is data the applies to your problem. It’s what we here at Small Box Energy like to call actionable data. Our software sifts through more than 100,000 data points per location per day to pull out, only, the data that is useful to you and your business. It is easily interpreted, easy to take action with and allows you to draw educated conclusions about a problem using the data as backing.

Now let’s talk about why this smart data is so important and valuable to your business and you!

Smart Data Predicts Future Failure

The restaurant industry is notorious for not replacing their equipment when needed, and only replacing it if it is an absolute necessity that’s why early equipment diagnostics is on every facility managers radar. Maintenance behavior like this tends to cause more problems and money than saving it. Collecting data from your HVAC system like desired setpoints, discharge air temperature, and current status of compressors can give you a huge step up when it comes to fixing a problem before it costs you more money than needed, not to mention those upset customers when your A/C goes out. This stays true with your refrigeration equipment as well. Capturing a walk-in units defrost cycles and temperatures, that can help you establish an exact moment of failure, or trends that show when a piece of equipment is about to go out.

Staff behavior

Capturing data from your HVAC, walk-in units, lighting, and even your small reach in’s, you can identify when overrides of schedules are happening, and also when doors are being propped/left open. This is a massive advantage for facility managers in that it gives visibility to the employee behavior happening when no one is there to see it.

Portfolio Management Locations

Going hand in hand with the staff behavior point, the more data you capture about your location, the better it will help you manage it. You can’t control or manage what you can’t measure. There are so many things happening in a location when you are absent you can’t afford to continue to lose money here and there on lights left on, equipment failure and so on. Capturing data across your portfolio will allow you to save money in all of your locations along with managing facility budgets to sites that may be in more need than others. Comparing the data across your locations will give you more confidence in the decisions you make by having the data to back it up.

Food Safety

HAACP has been around since 1959 and formalized in 1972, so for 46 years we have relied on pen and pencil and the honesty of the employees to accurately take temperatures every 2 hours, or that the beef was cooked to proper temperature before serving, or that the walk-in refrigerator was at an appropriate temperature for the foods being stored within. Now with IoT, it’s easier than ever to obtain all of the above temperatures digitally and save them in the cloud. This allows for alarming when temperatures are not taken for specific foods or when a refrigeration unit goes down. This will enable you to take action before money is lost in the product within the refrigeration unit.

Energy Consumption

Capturing and monitoring energy consumption can save you thousands in a year. Once you capture this information, it gives you the power to isolate, and act. The energy data collected from your critical systems allow you to see where you are spending the most and create an action plan from there. Creating that small piece of visibility can save a restaurant or convenience store up to 30% on energy consumption monthly!

Smart Cities=Smart World

Connecting your facilities to the IoT revolution and capturing data is right for you, but guess what its good for the world too. This data can be used by companies to better our world. We can help pinpoint energy waste, come up with solutions and best practices to help protect the environment and keep the world as it is now for future generations.

Improving Operations

I have listed some ways that each of the above points can help operationally, but if you currently are not capturing your data in your facility, your visibility is at a zero. With HVAC data you can pinpoint equipment failure and irregularities, refrigeration data helps identify temperatures of food along with the quality, and food safety data ensures your customers are getting the best visit every visit. This actionable data allows you to create plans surrounding employee behavior and business objectives yielding savings in time and money.

Correlations with everyday Business and Data

Collecting data points today allows you to predict tomorrow’s actions. You can uncover the perfect temperature to set your facility at and ensure that, even when you are gone, it stays that way. An uptick in business can reflect in a spike in energy consumption and allows you to correlate data with everyday business in your restaurant or convenience store.

Trending Times

Not only is this the perfect time to take control of your data it’s the cheapest. It has never been more affordable for businesses to implement ways to capture their data. Several companies offer a purchase option for the equipment, but even better monthly payment options. The industry realizes the potential in this sector and making it available to everyone is the perfect way to move innovation forward.

Customer Happiness

As stated briefly above you can pinpoint the perfect temperature of your location where your customers seem to be the happiest. We often find that the employees adjust the temperatures based on their comfort level when really, the customers should be driving that. Food quality can also be affected by too many defrosts in your refrigeration units, causing the stored food to have freezer burn.

Your facility is bursting with data that is just waiting to be collected, but if we’ve learned anything from this post it’s that data has to be smart or actionable. In order to take advantage of the data, you have to understand it to know where to apply it. In today’s age it less expensive to find companies that can do this exact thing for you and in the end, make your business more profitable. Small Box Energy is proud to serve over 50 qsr, family dining and convenience store brands nationally and want to help you expand your data horizons.

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Money Saving Hacks for Your Restaurant!

By | Restaurant Tips, restaurants, Sustainability | No Comments

Energy conservation can be achieved in many different ways; some obvious ones are turning your lights off when they are not being used, ensuring your thermostats are locked, and set-points are not being tampered with and making sure your walk-in coolers and freezers remain shut, some ways are not so apparent but still crucial in ensuring all of your equipment is maintained. The restaurant industry is notorious for abusing equipment and maintaining the equipment only when it is dire to do so. The key is preventative maintenance, that will save you money now and in the long run to keep from having to purchase replacement equipment.

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are huge culprits when it comes to energy consumption in a restaurant accounting for 28% of energy use, it’s important to understand how to save in this particular area. Proper preventative maintenance and upkeep are essential in saving here. Simple things like ensuring the unit is free of debris ensuring air flow is at a maximum, addressing problems right away, and changing air filters regularly can reduce energy consumption dramatically. Can changing air filters really save me that much? Yes! Installing our chameleon™ platform primarily in the restaurant sector we have conducted many case studies involving energy consumption and how it relates to each area of the restaurant. In one specific instance, we encountered a unit that wasn’t ever achieving the set-point. Below you can see the trend graph where the unit was running for about 97 percent of a 12 hour day. This was due to a clogged, dirty air filter.

Below, you can see where the filter was replaced and the unit ran significantly less, an approximated 47 percent less to be exact.

Now, take into consideration that electricity averages .12 per kWh. This ONE unit would be costing you around $31.50 per day if it ran 9 hours a day, multiplied across the year that equates to $11,497 for just one unit. Typically restaurants have anywhere from 2-6 units on average. If you cut that number in half by just cleaning those filters that’s $5,748 saved only by replacing a $5 filter every 30 days.


As far as refrigeration goes, we have seen it all here. The most important thing is to ensure the coils are clean, a walk-in with dirty coils uses up to 23% more energy than a walk-in that has clean coils. To clean the coils, you first want to turn off the equipment, locate the condenser coils and use a stiff paint brush to brush the coils off and use a vacuum to clean the dust from the coils.

Another common problem we spot on the field installing systems is broken door seals in walk-in units. In this case, when you close the door to the unit, there isn’t any proper suction and you are losing cold air out of those broken seals. Below is a chart we grabbed from a location where you can see where the door is being propped open at different times of the day. This isn’t due to broken or old door seals, but you get the idea in how much energy you are using and money you are losing.

Maintenance is Key

The most important takeaway is to elongate and get the most efficient performance out of your equipment you must maintain it. This will prevent costly replacements later and will increase the money you save in efficiency. Making a schedule and sticking to it or even hiring a company to conduct your preventative maintenance can make all the difference.

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Why an EMS Alone Isn’t The Answer to Energy Savings

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While energy management systems are great and can substantially reduce your facility’s energy consumption there are many other factors that come into play when it comes to what affects your energy consumption and energy savings. Installing a system, ending it there and having no other course of action you can’t expect that your energy consumption troubles will just go away. Knowing what you are measuring to having an energy plan and everything in between, this article will give you an idea on how to set yourself up for success when it comes to EMS.

Getting Your Team On Board

This doesn’t just mean the front end team but your top management team as well. Commitment should look like more than a signature but accountability. Developing a solid plan for upper management and the rest of the team can help ensure the success of the energy management system. You should ensure your entire teams knows the why behind the decision to get the energy management system and let them know they play a huge part in it being successful. Oftentimes when installing an ems into a location we see setpoints constantly being overridden, refrigeration doors left open. It’s sort of like a hotel room, the first thing you do when you check in is crank that A/C super low because who cares, all you know is you don’t have to pay for it. Empowering your employees and staff with the reasons will help them hold themselves accountable and be more cognizant next time they want to turn the A/C down a few degrees and, overall, contribute to your energy savings.


Establishing a structure that surrounds defining roles and responsibilities can mean all the difference when it comes to your energy management system succeeding or failing. During the implementation process, you will want to define who will be interacting with the system on a day to day basis and ensure their knowledge is up to par when it comes to interaction with the software. Training is a big part of an EMS and establishing a training schedule ahead of time for your employees will save you time and money further along into the process. To avoid any miscommunication between staff each staff member should be completely clear on who handles what aspect of the energy management system. You may only want some employees to have access and higher up employees to have a more broad access. This will help establish clear boundaries when it comes to who should act on what alerts and what sort of escalation is needed.

Energy Plan

Establishing what your desired results are from the EMS is key to determining if the systems ROI will meet your needs. If you don’t know what you are measuring how do you know it works? Often we hear clients say they would just look at their energy bill….hmm if your EMS isn’t connected to every single item in the restaurant how could you tell if it is providing energy savings? Taking into account volume, year over year business and temperatures are crucial to understanding the ROI of your EMS. Your company may want to incorporate other aspects of energy use into the plan, like water consumption. Be sure to review your plan and key staff annually to be sure it remains relevant. Creating an energy plan will help your entire staff jump on board with the implementation of the system and incorporate energy conservation into your values.

Taking pride in new initiatives and giving ownership empowers staff to do the right thing when necessary. Turning off a light here and there, keeping the A/C at 74 degrees, and keeping that refrigeration door closed not only helps your business save money but you are saving the environment. Good things can only come from these actions so why procrastinate?

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The State of our Sustainability

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If you are like most Americans, you probably don’t know what the sustainable development goal 7 (SDG7) is. In 2016 the 17 sustainable development goals of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development by world leaders at the historic UN Summit. It helps ensures the world tackles challenges like poverty, inequalities and assess climate change. The seventh one is Affordable and Clean Energy.

The International Energy Agency just published that the world is not on track to meet the goal of ensuring all of these are satisfied by the year 2030. Right now we are falling short in all areas of the the SDG7, but some significant progress is being made in some areas.

There are 4 different target which includes:

  • Universal Access to Electricity
  • Clean Fuels and Technologies for Cooking
  • Significant Increase in the Share of Renewables in the Global Energy Mix
  • Doubling the Rate of Improvement of Energy Efficiency

Universal Access to Electricity

Significant progress in the access of electricity in more destitute countries recently. With roughly 1 billion people living without electricity the number of people gaining access to electricity has been on the incline since 2010. Even though this progress is vast it isn’t enough to meet the goal, if the trend continues there will be 674 million people without electricity come the year 2030. An interesting find is that off-grid solar solutions are emerging as a significant driver of rural electricity access. This growth has happened due to leadership commitment backed by public financing. 

Clean Fuels and Technologies for Cooking

Clean cooking still has lots of room for improvement. When it comes to household air pollution as a result of efficient stoves is responsible for about 4 million deaths per year, women and children most at risk in that scenario. If current trends continue 2.3 billion people will continue to use traditional cooking solutions in 2030, not only impacting the people cooking but the environment as well. Rapid distribution of clean cooking fuels and technology has not received the acknowledgment from policymakers, so to break the trend policies will have to be put in place to further the advancement.


In 2015 17.5% of world energy consumption came from renewable sources. 9.6% of that 17% came from new forms of renewable energy like bioenergy, hydropower, solar and wind. Based on current trend and policies in place, the renewable energy is expected to reach 21% by 2030 which is still short of the SDG7 target. The rapidly falling costs and new policies have allowed for solar and wind to compete is conventional power sources. China accounted for nearly 30% of growth in the renewable energy consumption in 2015 while the United States remains on the top 20 energy consuming countries and renewable energy consumption is growing at a slow rate. Wide adoption of alternative energy sources and phasing out fossil fuels will help shift the current trend.

Energy Efficiency

Trying to decrease our energy use globally has been successful as of 2015, with a 2.8% decrease, the fastest decline since 2010. This progress is still progress but falls short of the 2.6 yearly decline needed to meet the target of doubling the global rate by 2030. For the periods of 2010-2015, the annual decrease was only 2.2%. With continuing trends, we are expected to exceed 2.4% by 2030. If energy efficiency policies continue to be adopted throughout countries, building codes include energy performance standards for new and remodel builds some improvements to the trend can be made.

These types of research studies make it possible for the world to grow and change. With all the data that is collected, we are able to identify and play up our strengths while still realizing we have opportunities and a long way to go in order to keep this planet alive for the generations to come. Are you doing your part?

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