Tuesday, January 24, 2017

iSocket will text me if power goes out or freezer gets too warm.

Being the only full-time year round employee at Columbia Ice, a small ice company in Alberta I don't get to take too many vacations. The owners are older and have reduced mobility so it is a big ask to get them to handle deliveries while I am off.  It was early in the new year of 2016 when I hopped a flight to visit my brother in Vancouver for 3 days over a weekend.  In January I sit in the office waiting for the phone to ring collecting dust competing with the Maytag repairman to see who moves the least.  Nobody wants ice when it is minus 20 out.  It was the best time of year to have a vacation.  I had done all the deliveries beforehand and the owners only had to deal with the "my ice maker broke" business.

Power out melts ice
I went on my trip, had an interesting time and came into the ice factory the following Monday afternoon.  As part of my routine I check the freezer out and this is what I found.

image of melted ice due to power going out.
Power outage melts ice
 According to our Oscar, the refrigeration tech the condenser unit had a small leak, meaning the 404 coolant.  The leak was so small it must of been there for awhile Oscar told me.  It was dumb luck that it happened when I went on a 3 day vacation.  To us at Columbia Ice it was par for course with our ice factory.  More than once things had been wired wrong or not worked as they should of.  Ice bin wired backwards, new conveyor motor blew when we plugged in, first condenser unit was warped when it arrived.  A slow leak, that happened to reach the point where it tripped the freezer when I went on vacation, just fit with the pattern that we were cursed at Columbia Ice.


Lucky for us we only had 20 pallets of ice in our freezer to melt.  Unlucky for us it was 20 pallets of half melted ice in the middle winter.  My first thought was to put the pallets in the walk ways and either let the ice melt or break the bags open.  Problem with this was what to do with the water from all the ice.  It was apparent pretty quickly my plan was flawed leaving me with the only option to fill up our small back area outside, in minus 20 weather with 20 pallets of half melted ice.  I wasn't going to get rid of the ice till spring.  It would sit there frozen, causing everyone who came buy to ask what is that ice doing out there and for me to to explain what had happened.  A stupid leak while I had gone on vacation had cost us ~7000.00 worth of ice.

ice in hallway

I know how to google so I got on google and started looking for a sensor to monitor our freezer remotely.   I found a few options so I fired out a few emails.  I don't like talking on the phone so I send emails to see who really wants my business.  You would be surprised how many companies all over the world have not figured out how to email and the business they lose.  Luckily a gentleman at isocket responded to my email.

They had a product which not only would send me a text when the freezer went above a certain temperature but also if the power went out in the building.  This was a double bonus for us as in the summer during peak season we will run our ice makers 23 hours a day.  At times we get lightening storms which will shut the power off in the factory, shutting our ice makers off.  When the temperature is hot, ice flying out the door, the 6 pallets of ice ~2000.00 lost by ice makers not running due to an electrical storm can make us short of ice.  It means having to push client orders back another day, paying extra to get ice out of cold storage on short notice if possible or giving a little now and the rest later doubling our delivery costs.

It was a no brainer from a cost perspective.  For a couple hundred dollars isocket, a tool created in Europe by some really smart folk who will respond to email inquiries, will answer questions we had a simple, easy to install tool which saves us 1000's of dollars with a simple text. Best of all the isocket is extremely affordable.

isocket in action
How cool is that?

If you have an industrial freezer and need a remote temperature monitoring sensor I recommend isocket.

In my set up I use an extension cord because putting an outlet on the freezer requires me to pay an electrician and money is tight.  That said it would be trivial for any electrician to do.  Drill a hole in freezer, push sensor through, fill with spray insulation.

Of course with my luck when I went to help my brother move this year the freezer did not trip, no ice melted and thus isocket did not send me text telling me the freezer has stopped working.  Finally some good luck but I keep waiting for isocket to save the day.  I feel better knowing that now I can leave the ice plant and still be connected.  Best of all I didn't need to install a distributed control system or PLC or some complicated crap to make this happen.  isocket, a stupid simple solution to a costly problem.


The Master Iceman
http://columbiaice.ca
@ernieiceman

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