GRAND RAPIDS — That dirt loading up the filters on the back of the air conditioning unit that stands outside your office window represents much more than an unsightly mess.
It also restricts airflow over the refrigeration coils, reducing operating efficiency by as much as 20 percent, which in turn makes the unit work harder and drives up the company’s monthly utility bill.
A regular maintenance plan that would take care of such issues, whether for a large office complex or a small building, is just one step to take toward reducing utility costs in an era of rising energy prices.
So said Randy Seaman, owner and president of Seaman’s Air Conditioning and Refrigeration in Grand Rapids
While most building managers and facility supervisors have maintenance plans in place, Seaman says he’s seen many instances where they are not always followed as closely as necessary.
“A lot of it doesn’t get done or a lot of it doesn’t get done as often as it should,” Seaman said. “A lot of them think, ‘Hey, it’s working. Don’t touch it!’”
The net result, he said, is a higher incidence of equipment breakdowns and repairs, as well as reduced operating efficiency, which drive up the cost to heat or cool a building.
A good maintenance plan that’s followed closely can produce dividends down the road and is the single biggest step a building owner can take toward reducing utility costs, he said.
“It’s a phenomenal amount of money and it’s a phenomenal amount of energy,” Seaman said. “They just have to be willing to spend a little up front to save.”
About 80 percent of the business at Seaman’s 40-year-old company comes from commercial clients. The rest comes from the industrial sector.
Beyond properly maintaining heating and cooling systems to assure optimal operating efficiency, Seaman said building managers can try an array of things designed to reduce energy use and save money.
Automated computer-controlled systems can adjust the heating or cooling in specific areas of the building depending on the time of day, providing more cool air, for instance, to the portion that faces the sun during the later afternoon and reducing it in other areas.
“It’ll put the heating or cooling where you want it, and not where you don’t want it,” Seaman said.
Computerized monitoring systems can also provide early warnings when a heating or a cooling system begins to develop a problem, he said.
The need for adequately maintaining cooling and heating systems goes beyond saving money on monthly gas and electric bills.
A building manager can provide a better work environment for tenants by making sure the systems work properly.
Seaman told the Business Journal he can recall instances where customers have lost tenants or employees because of problems with air quality or maintaining the proper temperature in the workplace. The same issues can also lead to lower employee productivity.
“When it’s so hard to find and keep good employees, you can’t afford to have them too hot or too cool,” he said.