November 28, 2017 / 0 Comments

History, Present and Future of Smart Thermostats and Energy Management Systems

  • What exactly are smart thermostat systems and building energy management systems (“BEMS”)? 
  • How are they similar and different? 
  • Which type of system is best for your restaurant?  


Dial Thermostat 1995

Remember these? You had to constantly remember to turn up (or down) the temperature when leaving, or prepare to waste money and energy. Annoying!! (And SO pre-Y2K)

1st Gen Smart Thermostat

Then came the first generation “smart” thermostats. They allowed you to set your temperature to a range, and let the A/C take a break once in a while. These babies added the ability to set different setpoints depending on the time of day.  What we call “occupied setpoints” are the temperatures you like when you’re there (usually 74 – 68 degrees).  These new “smart” thermostats introduced “setback setpoints”, which are temperatures that you are OK with when you’re NOT there (typically 85 – 50 degrees).  These new “smart” thermostats saved, immediately, a ton of energy and money.


This is when we see some of the first “energy management systems”. Basically these systems integrated all on-site thermostats (and sometimes lighting) into a single system. These early control systems incorporated an occupied/unoccupied setpoint schedule, recorded outside and duct supply temperatures, and controlled lighting systems with the integrated schedule.  They could also be accessed remotely via a dial-up connection.  Although largely mechanical in appearance and performance, these early energy management systems were the first remote access systems.

Ektos had one (back then we were called “E.S.M.S – or Energy Savings Management Systems”).  Many McDonalds restaurants still have their Centurion system up and running, and we still service these systems. 


Business people joining gears in a cloud, web and cloud computing concept

Oh the internet and the cloud….. *euphoric sigh*.  By now, we know that the “cloud” is a giant data universe with different planets, each planet has its own set of societies.  And they talk to each other, can’t, or choose not to.  Cloud-based systems shoot your data to the cloud where it mingles with adjoined data societies, and the cloud gods find a way to summarize the conversation for us on Earth.

Google Nest Thermostat

Cloud-based smart thermostats take this whole “occupied” / “setback” setpoint thing to a whole new level.  Not only can you set different setpoints, but your phone can now be another trigger to activate different temperatures…. Because who leaves home (or small restaurant business) without their phone??  For restaurant owners, unless you have a small team working for you, this system unfortunately doesn’t quite cut it.  These systems go “too many phones!”  “What do I do?”  “Am I off?”  “Am I on?”  AH!!

What these systems DO do, however, is provide you with some awesome stats on your energy use, and amazing mobile access to your temperatures. They are also economically attractive for your quick temperature fixes.

Smart thermostat systems only address 44 – 60% of the total building energy use.  Energy management systems address 75 – 85% of total building energy use (at this time – as more systems become reliably connectable, this number will encompass all 100% of energy use in a restaurant).

In 2017, energy management systems are both on-site and in the cloud.  Although some are more powerful than others, the vast majority INCLUDE smart thermostats.  Energy management systems also track (like we did in the 90s) outside temperature and weather, duct supply temperature, and KW demand and kWh demand.  Energy management systems have more computing power onsite, and have more ports.  Depending on the system you get, you can hard wire hook up anything you want that uses energy to operate.  You can track your dishwasher cycles, hot water heaters, and go further and connect solar panels and electric vehicles.  An energy management system is vastly different from a smart thermostat system because it goes far above and beyond the thermostat.

EVIA reporting on tablet

A hard-wired energy management system can also compute and execute commands on-site.  If the internet goes down, an EMS can still produce an alarm and alert.  Cloud based smart thermostat systems have to wait to be reconnected to the cloud portal before the user knows anything is wrong.

That brings us to “the internet of things”, frequently referred to by nerds everywhere as “IoT”.  Anything that can party with others in the cloud universe is a member of the IoT club.

Like smart thermostat systems, energy management systems are part of the IoT club and bring a lot more data to the party.  With more data to bring to the party, energy management systems can hang with a lot more people with different interests.  Things from air pressure and balance, humidity, to security systems and ventilation.


machine learningThe future of this industry, like many others, will involve removing human behavior from the equation.  Meaning, you do less, the machine does more.  The algorithms to enact change in building system behavior get more and more sophisticated at an exponential rate.  And more devices, appliances, and building systems are joining the IoT club.  Bigger party.  Bigger potential to integrate.  The movement is spreading like a wildfire through dry brush on a hot, windy day.

rocket scientistIn the past 20 years, I’ve seen the energy management system industry change from Centurion systems to cloud-partying energy management systems like Evia.  The growth of mobile apps and mobile device addictions charged a staggering movement of development – hardware, software and data manipulation.  I feel like we have just started to see the entrance into light speed, where the ship is still gaining momentum, and gravitating toward the unexplored.

So you’re deciding whether or not to get a smart thermostat system or an energy management system.  First of all, an energy management system includes smart thermostats, so your decision is whether or not you want to cover a portion of your total building energy use, or all of it.

Here are a few different things to think about when choosing an energy management system company.

  • They have history, but have released major improvements every year for at least the past 5 years.
  • They continue to service older systems, either by offering free upgrades, or through customer service, part replacement and maintenance. i.e. Ektos still services systems installed over 20 years ago (1996).
  • They use hardware that is either a 3rd party standard and/or open protocol.  If you ask your EMS sales rep, they should know what this means.
  • They are still people, as in, when you call them, a person answers and can offer immediate assistance.
  • They can confidently say to the IOT universe, “We are ready and willing to party.”

The best energy control option depends on your restaurant’s size, energy demand, and operational needs. Go ahead and ask us whatever questions you may have. We take pride in helping restaurant owners and managers like you find the perfect solution for your unique business.

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Meet the Author

karli-profile-pic-ektosMy name is Karli Barich. My Dad started Ektos in 1996 when I was just getting into high school. I witnessed Ektos blossom from a system that Dad used in the McDonalds restaurants that he managed, to nationwide installations and to new cloud-partying systems like EVIA. Before coming to Ektos in 2008, I was a registered lobbyist, a researcher of clean technologies, a web designer and developer, data scientist, business strategist, and manager of 50+ member teams. I currently run the development of all Ektos reporting services (yay data nerds!) as well as guide Ektos product and business positioning through development and marketing. I am honored to work with some of the brightest and kindest minds in the industry. We are all here to make this world a better place, for our environment and for our customers.

August 17, 2017 / 0 Comments

Total Solar Eclipse Effects on Restaurants: Lights!

I, Karli Barich, Ektos Director of Marketing, will be one of the millions of migrators into the path of totality this weekend.  We hit the road on Saturday, with our ISO-approved solar glasses, extra gas, and even our own portable toilet.  I got to thinking about all our fabulous Ektos customers in the path of totality and thought I’d spread some of my nerd knowledge on the event.

Is your restaurant near the path of totality for the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday?

If so, here are some things you should know:

Your restaurant’s visibility will decrease if your lights are off!

From 9AM Pacific to 3PM Eastern, through 14 states across the U.S., it will feel like a short night in the middle of the day.

Watch this video to get a glimpse of Monday’s eclipse, and how it will impact your lights.  For Ektos customers, this automated lighting scenario applies to all of our serviced energy management systems. **Note here: Your eclipse times will be different from the video depending on your location.

The eclipse will have a gradual effect on daylight over about two and a half (2.5) hours.   Take a look at this map to see the eclipse’s impact on your restaurant’s location.


296The country is expecting a migration of around 7 million people into the path of totality during the eclipse, so prepare for a swarm of customers!  Let your outside lights help you to attract them to your restaurant!

Part of the excitement of a total solar eclipse is the darkness in mid-day.  If your parking lot lights are on during 100% total eclipse, you may get a few complaints.  For Ektos customers, we can help your parking lot stay in darkness and keep your building lights on.  Be sure to contact our customer service (1-800-783-0383) if this is something you want to do.

Which applies to you?

My outside lights are LEDs.     My outside lights are HALOGEN.

My lights are halogen (i.e. old-school).

As you know, halogen lights take much more energy to turn on and keep on than LEDs, so depending on your restaurant’s location you may want to keep outside lights off.   If you have halogen outside lights and your restaurant is outside of the path of totality (85% and lower), we recommend you do nothing and go about your eclipse day as normal.


Halogens on Light Meters

IF YOU ARE AN EKTOS CUSTOMER, you’re covered!  If you have halogen outside lights running on a light meter, and your restaurant is located within the path of totality, it is likely your outside lights will come on automatically.  If your restaurant is outside the path of totality (85% and lower), it may not be dark enough to trip your light meter and your lights will stay off.

Halogens on Timers

If you have halogen outside lights on a timer, you have a decision to make.  Is your restaurant close to the path of totality?  If so, you may want to consider spending the energy to turn your lights on.  If not, you may decide to save that energy (and money) for more burger buns or taco shells or whatever your customers eat from your fabulous kitchen.  IF YOU ARE AN EKTOS CUSTOMER, your lights are on a light meter, so again you’re already covered!  

Halogens on Manual Control

If your location is within the path of totality and you control your lights manually, you can probably hire this cat to help you.

Temperatures Dropping too? Read More!

My lights are LEDs (i.e. efficient & awesome).

LEDs on Light Meters

IF YOU ARE AN EKTOS CUSTOMER, you’re covered!  If your lights are on a light meter, pay attention over the next couple days to see when your lights come on and turn off according to the daylight.  If you need to adjust your lumen setpoint, now is the time to do it.  With proper lumen setpoints, your lights should come on automatically during the time of eclipse.

LEDs on Timers

If your lights are on a timer, make sure you adjust that timer so that your lights come ON one hour before and turn OFF one hour after your scheduled eclipse time on August 21st.   Here’s a list of major cities in the path of totality and their scheduled eclipse time. IF YOU ARE AN EKTOS CUSTOMER, your lights are on a light meter, so again you’re already covered!

LEDs on Manual Control

If you control your lights manually, have fun flipping those switches!  Don’t forget to set a reminder to flip it.  Again, IF YOU ARE AN EKTOS CUSTOMER, you’re already covered with your light meter.

When 100% Totality hits Major Cities

10:17 am     Corvallis, Albany and Lebanon, Oregon
11:34 am     Idaho Falls, Idaho
11:44 am    Casper, Wyoming
1:00  pm    Grand Island, Lincoln Nebraska
1:08 pm     St Joseph, Missouri
1:09 pm    Kansas City, Missouri
1:14 pm    Columbia, Jefferson City, Missouri
1:18 pm    St Louis, Missouri
1:28 pm    Bowling Green, Kentucky
1:28 pm  Nashville, Tennessee
2:39 pm    Greenville, South Carolina
2:43 pm   Columbia, South Carolina



Use that cooler outside air!

Studies show that the outside temperature in the path of totality may drop by 12 to 18 degrees for a couple minutes during 100% coverage.  Since outside temperatures will most likely not drop below 70 degrees, that means your HVAC units will probably still be running A/C like a normal day.

IF YOU ARE AN EKTOS CUSTOMER, your energy management system will automatically take into account the outside temperature and the room temperature and decide whether or not your restaurant can be cooled by just using outside air and use far less energy than running regular A/C.  You need to do… nothing!

Will you have energy?


The energy grids may be able to handle this extra influx of people, and they may not.  If you have a generator to help you out in the case of a black-out, it may be a good idea to give it an extra look before eclipse day.

Make sure you’re ready for the madness!

Total solar eclipses are rare.  The last one in Washington was in 1979.  I wasn’t born yet, but one woman’s recount of the event is getting me super pumped (see this blog’s resources below).  The last path of totality that banded across the U.S. (like the one coming up on August 21) happened on June 8, 1918.

I picture this experience to be somewhat like the RV parade in Independence Day. Traffic is already starting to pile up as of yesterday.

Be sure to like or follow us for more eclipse information, and for more current events and industry news affecting energy management and restaurants.

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Wishing you an exciting eclipse day!

Karli & the Ektos Team




May 10, 2017 / 0 Comments

What should your HVAC supply differential be?

Differential Temperature is the drop in supply temperature after cooling is engaged, or the rise in supply temperature after heating is engaged.

Use this information to solve performance issues. If an HVAC is only producing a 2-degree differential temperature when calling for cooling, this may be an indication that the compressor is low on Freon.


An HVAC running 2 compressors should cause a drop in supply temperature of at least 10 degrees lower than the room temperature.


An HVAC that uses gas heating should causes a rise in supply temperature of at least 20 degrees higher than the room temperature.

May 5, 2017 / 0 Comments

1 Way to Avoid a Temperature Emergency


It’s Spring time!  As we adjust to the warmer weather, so do your HVACs.  If you haven’t been paying attention to your EMS alarms for your cooling stages over the mild season, you will start to feel the burn when the weather starts really heating up.

One way to avoid a temperature emergency is to pay attention to your alarms.  

alarm bellcleanedAlarms from your EMS point out issues that may not be noticed in day to day operations, especially when the outside temperature is similar to your inside temperature.  For instance, a “stage 2 cool fail” alarm can indicate an HVAC that should be running two stages of cooling but only one stage is actually running.  You may not notice much of a difference of temperature in the building, but you’re wasting energy and wasting time by not addressing the problem.

cool stages onRunning your air compressor to get cooler air (AC) takes much more energy than just running the fan.  For every minute your first cooling stage is compensating for your lack of second stage, you’re wasting energy and losing money.

wrenchIconYou may not notice its lack of performance now when it’s a nice 75 degrees outside, but when the outside temperature hits 90 degrees and the poor first stage has no help, you’ll have a temperature emergency.  You can avoid that day answering to sweating staff and uncomfortably hot customers!  Pay attention to your EMS alarms and address maintenance issues now.


February 27, 2017 / 0 Comments

Value Added: The hidden benefits of energy management


We all know that implementing an energy management plan will reduce energy costs. Besides the impact of more cash on hand, opportunities for sustainability marketing and operational fluidity, how else can your restaurant benefit by investing in energy reduction? Did you know you could actually increase the value of your business in one year by simply installing an energy management system?

As a facility manager, any steps you take to reduce building operational costs look good.  Unless you’ve spent some time in the finance world, you may not be aware of just how much. A 10-percent reduction in money spent on any operating cost such as energy, maintenance or labor could increase your restaurant’s financial worth by 20 percent.

Sound too good to be true?

Read More

February 23, 2017 / 0 Comments

Are you Setting the Right Setpoints?

CantGetto68Setpoint deviations are the main cause for lack in energy savings. A cool setpoint of 68 in the kitchen will keep the temperature low and your employees happy, but that will also make the HVAC run at a higher demand and use more energy. Adjust the cool setpoint up to 74 and see how much energy you save.

4degreesSepMake sure your heating and cooling setpoints are not set too close to each other. If you have a heat setpoint of 68 and a cool setpoint of 70, that is a very small margin that the HVAC needs to maintain setpoint. Keep your cool and heat setpoints spread by at least 4 degrees.

February 21, 2017 / 0 Comments

Do you know your Peak Demand Hours?


An EMS will automatically detect your peak demand hours during the day, and also from season to season.

An EMS automatically will impose demand limiting algorithms during those peak times can save you a lot of money.

You can use this data to potentially negotiate better rates with your utility company.

February 16, 2017 / 0 Comments

Announcing EVIA 3.0 Release

We’re proud to announce the release of EVIA 3.0, the newest restaurant energy management solution from Ektos!

EVIA applies the most efficient controls technology available today designed to control lighting, temperature and refrigeration in a restaurant to reduce overall energy consumption.

The system tracks and responds to electrical demand on an industry-standard platform that will expand and grow.multiple-devices

New Release Features:

  • Faster Hardware: Schneider Electric AS-P
  • Multiple Onsite Interface support
  • Upgraded Framework: Schneider Electric SmartStruxure 1.8

EVIA 3.0 Continues to Provide:

  • Demand Monitoring and Response
  • Multi-level Scheduling
  • Automated Lighting and Temperature Controls
  • Open for Integration and Monitoring of any Equipment
    • Smart Kitchen
    • Fire / Safety
    • Air Quality

EVIA 3.0 marks a continued improvement over previous energy management offerings.

Contact EKTOS to Learn More Today!

February 10, 2017 / 0 Comments

Are you heating or cooling more?

mapofUSheatcoolIf you’re in a southern state vs a northern state, you will have a much higher demand for cooling and the cooling performance will decrease a lot quicker over time than if you were in a northern state. The opposite goes for heating.

restaurantfloorplanheatcoolAn HVAC servicing the kitchen will have a much higher demand for cooling vs an HVAC servicing a dining area because you have more heat sources.

February 8, 2017 / 0 Comments

Before You Buy Your EMS

Reducing energy consumption at your restaurant requires more than the perfect solutions provider or energy management system. Being prepared to make the investment in your equipment, and knowing where the smartest investment is, will help you get the most out of the solutions available to you from EMS providers. Remember, equipment condition plays a large part in the success of your energy reduction!rtu

Energy management systems are designed to run your equipment more efficiently, but HVAC systems, lighting controls, and refrigeration equipment in poor condition will continue to waste energy. Take the time to understand how your equipment works, and make sure it is well maintained before investing in energy management solutions. You might be surprised how you can reduce your energy consumption by up to 10% before installing an EMS solution. Here are some important pieces to check:

  • HVAC
    • Filters
    • Belts
    • Duct Connections
    • Discharge Registers Condition and Location
    • Air Damper Setting
  • Walk-In Refrigeration
    • Door Seals
    • Ice Build-up

icon-05-investmentMost importantly, the savings achieved from well-maintained equipment don’t take away from the savings you get from energy management systems! EMS solutions are much more effective at reducing energy consumption when the controlled equipment is in good condition.

Well-maintained equipment, combined with the energy management power of EVIA, can shave up to 25% off your next electric bill.  For larger restaurants, this could add up to over $10,000 per year in savings per location!