Cooling at Peter Condakes Co. is being precisely monitored these days by a new controls system that also includes gateways that stream the data to a server.

Sometimes the major motivator in making the switch to new technologies can be the incentive dollars dangled by utility companies and other sources promoting energy efficiencies. In May of 2005, Peter Condakes Co.’s fruit division in Chelsea, Mass., installed a new refrigeration control system that was 70 percent paid for by local utility National Grid.

Being a third-generation business, it was a difficult decision to switch to a new way of operating coolers by installing the new controls. But it was even more difficult to pass up the potential energy savings which were projected to be more than 80,000 kWh, or $10,000 annually.

In addition to new controls, contractor National Resource Management also installed gateways that streamed the data to a server that enabled Condakes personnel and their service contractor to remotely monitor, receive alarms, and diagnose performance in real time through a standard browser interface. The real-time monitoring uncovered several equipment issues, like a welded contactor and far too many electric defrosts on seven compressors in the coolers that were set at 33°F.

Within nine months of the installation, the energy savings were on track to exceed 200,000 kWh. Condakes decided to install the same technology in its vegetable and tomato distribution plants.


Ed Davol, the company’s food safety director, analyzed the benefits, reviewed the changes with the people most resistant to change, and played a key role in implementing the project so it would also provide safety reporting as well as improve daily operational tasks.

The tomato plant included several ripening rooms which, prior to installing remote access, required constant local monitoring and adjusting of temperatures. Remote access enabled those responsible to make temperature changes and view temperature trends from anywhere, saving time and resulting in the elimination of paying an employee four hours of overtime on Saturday or Sunday to visit the plant and make temperature adjustments. After the first year of operation, the fruit warehouse saw energy savings of 29 percent of the entire electric usage, or about $30,000.

“They close at 8 a.m. Saturday and don’t come back in until 4 a.m. Monday,” said Davol. “If we had anything that went down in that time frame, we wouldn’t know until we got in at 4 a.m. and we would have to get a National Mechanical technician in here sometime around 7 a.m. But now he’s text messaged the minute there is a problem … he can come in, fix it, and we never knew he was here. All that shows up is a bill some 20 days later and we work from there. To me, that type of peace of mind is worth its weight in gold.

“The fact that I can sit at my desk and I can find out what’s going on at three plants instead of having to run around and look at somewhere in the vicinity of 30 different meters and thermostats - it’s a world of savings in time and effort.

“Our customers require that we are safety certified by a third party. When I showed them our system, they were thoroughly amazed at the level of monitoring, and our safety audit passed with flying colors.”


National Mechanical is the service contractor for the main plant where they ripen tomatoes. Scott Harkins, lead technician and supervisor, receives Condakes’ refrigeration alarms as text messages on his cell phone. He logs onto the Web server to view performance of the unit reporting the alarm and determines whether or not to send a technician. In some cases he can make adjustments to the controller remotely and start a defrost (if needed).

In addition to the text messages, the alarms also arrive as e-mails that include a snapshot of the operating trend for the past four hours. When the alarm clears, a second message is sent showing the trend.

“Here is an example of how I used the system last night,” said Harkins. “About 9 p.m. Monday night I received a high-temp alarm at State Garden, Bay 70 unit 21 and 22. Both units cool the same space. The temperatures on both units climbed at the same rate.

“When I checked the charts on my computer from home, I noticed that they were running perfectly about one hour before I received the alarms. I found out they were cleaning coils and did not bypass the control system. By looking at the charts, I could tell there was nothing wrong with the system and did not dispatch a service tech to the job.

“About 10 minutes later, the units were set to bypass. Two hours after that the units were released and ran fine. While I was at my computer and had all my accounts opened up on the Web page, I took a look at my other buildings and noticed that one of my other accounts had a system not performing properly. I sent the plant manager an e-mail and told him we would be in the next morning to take a look at the underperforming system.

“Using this system has saved us countless hours, and we are able to focus on real problems. And we rarely have a nuisance call with customers.”

The RSM system (Remote Site Manager) was developed and installed by National Resource Management Inc., Canton, Mass. The company can be contacted at 800-377-5439;

Publication date:03/12/2007