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Johnson Unveils Tool to Help Small Business with Energy Costs

October 20, 2006

Johnson Unveils Tool to Help Small Business with Energy Costs

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Johnson Unveils Tool to Help Small Business with Energy Costs


Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson Tuesday unveiled the Ohio Small Business Energy Saver, a web-based tool to assist small businesses in saving money on their energy costs. The tool employs smart and efficient energy usage practices designed to help small business owners identify ways to save energy, estimate the cost and return on investment for each measure, rank the measures and build a plan for savings.

The Ohio Small Business Energy Saver is offered as a collaborative project by the Ohio Department of Development, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and Ohio’s major utility companies — AEP-Ohio, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Dayton Power and Light, Dominion East Ohio, Duke Energy, FirstEnergy and Vectren. The tool was customized to meet the needs expressed by small business owners at the 2005 Ohio Small Business Summit and announced as part of Gov. Bob Taft’s State of Ohio Energy Policy and Action Plan in February 2006.

The tool is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses calculate the returns on investment for different energy efficiency measures. With this easy-to-use tool, businesses can identify ways to save 10 to 20 percent of their energy use, depending on how much control they have over their building and equipment and whether they have already taken steps to improve their efficiency. For more information regarding this energy tool please visit

The preceding article is an excerpt from The Hannah Report, Ohio’s daily legislative newsletter providing independent, timely and comprehensive coverage of state government. For more information, please contact Hannah News Service at 614.228.3113.

Dems Respond to DeWine Ad, Start War of Words

October 20, 2006

Dems Respond to DeWine Ad, Start War of Words

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Dems Respond to DeWine Ad, Start War of Words


The negative advertising in the U.S. Senate race is going full force with nearly four months to go to the election.

The Ohio Democratic Party unveiled its response to a recent ad by U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine that attacked his opponent, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, for being “weak on national security.”

The new ad criticizes DeWine for using 9/11 images in his advertisement and tries to paint him as being weak on security.

The party also put out a statement criticizing DeWine for his negative ad, saying negative campaigning is not new to DeWine and highlighting a series of ads he ran against former U.S. Sen. John Glenn when he ran in 1992.

“Mike DeWine should be ashamed of exploiting the hallowed ground of 9/11 for his partisan purposes,” said party Chair Chris Redfern in a statement. “When you look at his own voting record, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, his exploitation of 9/11 and attacks on Sherrod Brown show how out of touch he really is with his own responsibility for homeland security issues.”

The Ohio Republican Party responded by releasing excerpts of media stories about Brown’s voting record on national security.

“The Democrats are trying to paint over a rusty bucket,” Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said in a statement. “Sherrod Brown can gloss over his pathetic record on national security, but the truth will eventually eat its way through. Brown has done more to leave our country vulnerable to terrorism than nearly anyone in the U.S. House. Anyone who looks at his record on national security knows it’s toxic, even his fellow Democrats.”

The preceding article is an excerpt from The Hannah Report, Ohio’s daily legislative newsletter providing independent, timely and comprehensive coverage of state government. For more information, please contact Hannah News Service at 614.228.3113.

Voters Face Up to Five Ballot Issues in November

October 20, 2006

Voters Face Up to Five Ballot Issues in November

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Voters Face Up to Five Ballot Issues in November


By the time voters hit the polls in November, they may have up to five statewide issues to vote on. Two of the five issues hit employment law matters and will be of great interest and concern to manufacturers.

After a year in which it seemed like dozens of potential issues were starting up, five dealing with smoking, gambling, workers’ compensation and minimum wage were the only ones submitted before the deadline on Wednesday.

James Lee, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, said the issues must be certified by Sept. 8, at which time the office will inform county boards of elections which candidates and issues are on the statewide ballot so those boards can set their voting machines. In the meantime, the Ohio Ballot Board is expected to meet soon to finalize the language of the issues as they appear on the ballot.

One issue that won’t be on the ballot is the Tax Expenditure Limitation amendment that had been pushed by Blackwell. Although the signatures had been certified, Lee said the office has received the necessary letter from the amendment’s organizers asking for it to be withdrawn. He said the office won’t submit it as a ballot issue on Sept. 8 with the others.

OMA members should pay special attention to the 1) SB 7 Referendum, and the 2) Minimum Wage Ballot / Employment Privacy issue. Both issues have the potential to distort Ohiolaw-making and will result in greater employer liability and costs. Some level of individual company advocacy will be needed in the coming weeks and months if manufacturers are going to impact these outcomes. The OMA has been leading an effort to challenge efforts to put the SB7 repeal on the ballot. OMA member financial support have greatly aided in this effort. 

The ballot issues that were submitted are as follows:  2006 Ballot Issue Summary

Strickland’s Running Mate Criticizes Blackwell Turnpike Plan

October 20, 2006

Strickland’s Running Mate Criticizes Blackwell Turnpike Plan

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Strickland’s Running Mate Criticizes Blackwell Turnpike Plan


Over the past few days Ted Strickland’s campaign has been targeting gubernatorial opponent Ken Blackwell’s plan to lease the Ohio Turnpike for criticism.

Strickland’s running mate Lee Fisher issued press releases this week highlighting a study and media reports that found tolls on privatized roads have increased.

“Expert analysis of other toll-road privatization schemes confirm what we’ve feared all along — leasing off our Turnpike will increase tolls, plain and simple,” Fisher said. “Selling off one of our state’s most valuable assets that was built by Ohioans and has been run by Ohioans to a foreign company and tying our hands for the next 99 years is incredibly short-sighted. It’s just one more of Mr. Blackwell’s quick-fix, short-sighted political gimmicks.”

Fisher cited stories from the Houston Chronicle, which said privatization studies in Harris County found officials would have to give up control of toll prices if an 83-mile toll system were privatized, and from a Toronto Star story in which officials said a privatized highway had become “a privately run vacuum cleaner for sucking money out of commuters’ pockets.”

Fisher also noted that truckers left the Ohio Turnpike and were traveling on local roads to avoid high tolls.

The preceding article is an excerpt from The Hannah Report, Ohio’s daily legislative newsletter providing independent, timely and comprehensive coverage of state government. For more information, please contact Hannah News Service at 614.228.3113.

PUCO Submits Recommendations on the Federal Energy Policy

August 31, 2006

PUCO Submits Recommendations on the Federal Energy Policy

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » PUCO Submits Recommendations on the Federal Energy Policy


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has submitted a report outlining recommendations to the commission regarding Ohio’s interest in the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005).

In developing the recommendations, PUCO identified a need for Ohioto adapt to the changing energy environment. Further, they identified areas where more opportunities for advanced energy could be provided.

The recommendations address the areas of net metering, smart metering, demand response, cogeneration, and small power production, including the sale of stand-by power, interconnection, and other relevant areas.

The PUCO recommendations include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Develop an advanced energy portfolio for Ohiothat would best integrate alternative energy standards into Ohio’s retail electricity market.
• Eliminate rules that place limits on net metering and streamline the interconnection rules that would allow for simplified applications and fee schedules.
• Require Ohio’s electric distribution utility companies to file a comprehensive list of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technologies and costs and identify types of customers and their related load shapes.
• Utilize the McKinsey model to evaluate the costs and benefits of AMI deployment strategies.
• Revise Ohio’s interconnection rules to include all interconnection services in the electric distribution utility companies tariffs to ensure they are accessible for the interconnection service customer.
• Bill supplemental power and scheduled maintenance according to the tariff rate schedules and provide market options.
• Establish the commission as a liaison to self-generators for interpreting tariff provision and facilitating interconnection processes.
• Analyze the electric distribution utility companies transmission and distribution systems to identify locations where distributed generation could improve operations and provide additional generation benefits. None of the recommendations outlined by PUCO require a law change. All of the recommended changes can be accomplished under the commission’s jurisdiction.

In a memo to PUCO Chairman Alan R. Schriber on Dec. 7, 2005, Gov. Bob Taft directed the PUCO to work with stakeholders and the governor’s cabinet to develop and implement measures to promote new sources of energy.

On Dec. 14, 2005, the commission initiated a proceeding to review the commission’s actions regarding provisions of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005). EPAct 2005 amends the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and requires state regulatory agencies, like the PUCO, to consider and make a determination regarding net metering, smart metering, cogeneration, small power production purchase and sale requirements, and interconnection.

The PUCO hosted a series of four technical conferences for interested persons to learn more about the topics of the commission’s review. Technical conferences were held at the PUCO on Feb. 24, 2006 on the topics of net metering and fuel diversity; on March 9, 2006 on the topics of distributed generation and interconnection; on March 23, 2006 on the topic of the sale of stand-by power, and on April 6, 2006 on the topics of smart metering and demand response.

The PUCO received comments from a variety of interested parties, including Ohio’s electric distribution utility companies, consumer groups, energy marketers, industrial energy users and manufacturing associations, environmental councils, alternative energy corporations, farming associations, universities, and state and federal agencies and departments, among others.

In developing the recommendations submitted to the commission, PUCO considered the statements and recommendations presented in the technical conferences and outlined in comments filed in the case docket.  From the Hannah Report

Rising Energy Costs Calls For Decisive Action

August 14, 2006

Rising Energy Costs Calls For Decisive Action

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Rising Energy Costs Calls For Decisive Action


Owners of manufacturing companies and energy managers are facing some of the highest energy prices seen in recent history, and this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

The commodities that drive the manufacturing processes, primarily natural gas and electricity, are affected by what is happening in the world with uncertain supply conditions and constantly increasing demands as the world economies continue to expand. Natural gas prices are volatile and somewhat unpredictable and electrical power generation is affected by this volatility since much of the new generation equipment is fueled by natural gas. Clean burning coal technologies such as coal gasification will help stabilize power prices, but at the higher cost levels.

The bottom line is that energy managers must take decisive action to improve their efficient use of energy. Unfortunately, this action is often frustrated by a lack of resources within the company to understand how the energy is being used in the manufacturing processes and what can be done, at a reasonable cost, to reduce energy waste and to improve efficiencies.

One obvious solution available to manufacturers is to turn to qualified consulting firms for help. These firms will posses an understanding of energy use in the manufacturing sector and its cost and can provide expertise in finding ways to reduce energy use. Equally important, they can also assist the manufacturer in the implementation of cost reductions measures.

Here are a few criteria that energy managers should consider in the selection of a consultant to become their “energy partner” in addressing the demand side of the energy question:

•    The consultant must be proficient in assessing the firm’s use of natural gas, electricity and water (if it is a major utility factor in the manufacturing process) as these commodities relate to the production process.
•    The energy use assessment (usually referred to as an audit or survey) should focus on a “hierarchy of the doable” – first, operational adjustments, second, maintenance improvements, and finally, capital improvement expenditures.
•    The energy assessment, analysis and recommendations for improvements should be presented in a concise, comprehensive report that relates the costs of energy used to the major components of the manufacturing process, identifies the costs of energy “wasters” and presents the estimated net savings (savings minus the cost of implementation) for each reasonable energy cost reduction measure.
•    The consultant must be able to assist the firm in the implementation steps for the recommended cost reduction measures either directly or with ties to a suitable contractor. Little is gained from an energy assessment that simply resides in the “good intention file”.

A few words of explanation are in order regarding the “hierarchy of the doable”. When assessing the demand side of energy use, it is recognized that operational adjustments are usually the least costly to implement and maintenance improvements the second least costly. These two steps will drive out the “energy waters” and improve the energy efficiency of the system as is. Then, when capital investments are considered, the most accurate rate of return for the savings calculation is obtained.

Some consultants will recommend capital equipment purchases without considering the first two steps and the manufacturing process inefficiencies will not have been addressed in the final analysis.

Taking decisive action to reduce the energy costs is not a simple undertaking for the firm’s energy manager. It can require the same commitment of resources as do the steps to implement lean manufacturing and similar cost reduction processes, but the results can be every bit as positive. Since improving energy efficiency is a major factor in Ohio’s economic development programs, the ODOD through its Office of Energy Efficiency has special programs that can assist manufacturer’s to implement energy efficiency measures including financial resources.

This decisive action taken by the energy manager with the support of a qualified and committed consultant can lead to achievable and sustainable energy cost reductions that will improve the manufacturer’s profitability and competitive position in the market place.
Article provided by K&H Energy Services, a division of Hull & Associates, Inc.  From OMA Connections Partner, K&H Energy Services, a division of Hull & Associates, Inc.

An Open Letter from U.S. Senator Mike DeWine to Ohio Manufacturers and List of Accomplishments

July 20, 2006

An Open Letter from U.S. Senator Mike DeWine to Ohio Manufacturers and List of Accomplishments

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » An Open Letter from U.S. Senator Mike DeWine to Ohio Manufacturers and List of Accomplishments


Senator DeWine’s views on the critical role that manufacturing plays in Ohio’s economy and highlights of some of the things he has done to support and expand manufacturing jobs in Ohio.

Businesses beat the energy wrap with savings, energy efficiency

July 19, 2006

Businesses beat the energy wrap with savings, energy efficiency

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Businesses beat the energy wrap with savings, energy efficiency


By Perry Oman

With general operating costs rising much faster than the bottom line, some businesses may struggle with managing energy consumption against increased usage during the summer months.

An independent study found that a 20 percent reduction in energy usage by a business can have the same financial impact as a 5 percent increase in sales. Businesses can work to control the expected increase in energy cost and consumption this summer by implementing energy cost-saving solutions.

The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true for businesses’ energy equipment too. Lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling have the biggest impact on businesses’ energy usage, but also are the easiest avenues to manage energy costs.

Stay cool under pressure

By raising the thermostat setting during the summer by just one degree, a business can save up to 5 percent on cooling costs. Keeping the daytime temperature up near the recommended 77°F and turning the thermostat to 84°F or shutting the cooling system off when the building is not occupied will keep costs down.

These temperature management recommendations can be achieved automatically by installing a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature at different times during the day. For example, a programmed thermostat could reduce cooling and heating loads during unoccupied hours to potentially save up to 10 to 15 percent on annual costs.

Keeping an HVAC unit in shape is an easy way to increase efficiency. An air conditioning system typically loses 1 to 2 percent in output efficiency for every year that passes without proper maintenance. A system check up should be performed at least once a year to avoid a steady increase in cooling costs.

In addition, businesses should be aware of structural issues than can drive up energy costs. An efficient HVAC system is of little use if windows and doors have cracks, allowing outside air to enter while conditioned air escapes. A quarter-inch gap around a standard door or window can let in as much air as a softball-size hole. Sealing these cracks and preventative maintenance of seals will help save money as well as increase the employee and client comfort level.

A little change goes a long way

Good lighting is not only essential for creating a proper business atmosphere, but also offers a simple way for businesses to manage energy costs with a minimum investment.

Retrofitting lighting fixtures with T-8 lamps and electronic ballasts can reduce electricity consumption by 30 to 40 percent, depending upon the configuration of the lamps. T-8 lamps and electronic ballasts also offer better color rendering characteristics, eliminate most light “flickering” and generate less heat than T-12 lamps, which can help in reducing overall cooling costs.

Replace indoor lighting fixtures using incandescent lamps with compact fluorescents, which consume 60 to 70 percent less energy and last about 10 times longer than standard incandescent lamps.
Considerable energy savings can be achieved by using high intensity discharge (HID) fixtures for outdoor lighting. High pressure sodium lamps offer significant energy savings, without turning off the lights. As an example, consider that a 32-Watt metal halide lamp can replace an incandescent bulb in the range of 100- to 150-Watts, thus saving more than 50 percent in outdoor lighting costs.

Keep it simple

There are general tactics any business can implement to boost energy efficiency. Installing occupancy sensors in frequently unoccupied rooms, such as bathrooms, break rooms and conference rooms, will ensure that the lights are off when the room is not in use.
Simple things such as choosing a setting that will switch a PC and monitor to a power saving mode when not in use can typically save up to 60 percent of the operating costs of the whole system.

Business owners now have the opportunity to actively manage their energy needs. A variety of factors impact the amount of energy used and the efficiency opportunities available to each business. These factors include the type of business, size of the facility, location, number of sites and electricity demand levels.

Each business owner or facility manager should evaluate their company’s energy usage to determine the best solutions to lower overall operating costs, even during this time of increased energy consumption.

Doing so can result in big savings to the bottom line.

Perry Oman is Manager, Midwest Sales, with Direct Energy, one of North America’s largest competitive retail energy providers with more than 5 million customer relationships, including over 225,000 residential and commercial customers in Ohio. For more information on Direct Energy, visit www.directenergy.comor contact us at 1-866-336-6483.

From OMA Connections Partner, Direct Energy Business Services:07/19/06

Centrifugal Chillers: Cool Efficiency

July 19, 2006

Centrifugal Chillers: Cool Efficiency

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Centrifugal Chillers: Cool Efficiency


If your building is cooled by a centrifugal chiller, it is important to be aware of the fact that this type of chiller generally consumes more electricity than any other energy consuming device in a commercial building. This makes maximizing the efficiency of your chiller and chiller water system a top priority in order to affect energy savings. To achieve this goal, your entire chilled water system should be reviewed on a regular basis including all components of the system – the chiller, tower, pumping system, and controls system.

Break-through Technology: What to look for in the new class of chillers

The compressor technology that is the heart of the chiller has undergone many changes over the decades. One of the most recent technological breakthroughs has been the introduction of oil-free magnetic bearings in a compact or standard footprint. Compressors using these types of bearings are usually a fraction of the size of regular units and their oil-free design reduces failures up to 70%. Their oil-free design also allows the chiller to operate efficiently at very low load conditions. Another advantage of this type of compressor is their direct drive. Operational failure is significantly reduced because they have only one rotating part.

Compressors with a variable frequency drive built-in also maximize part load efficiency and energy savings and offer energy performance that is superior to the traditional constant speed chiller. Variable frequency drive systems match the load level exactly and use the least energy. This feature (especially when it is built in) is critical as most chillers rarely operate under full-load conditions. For this reason it is important to consider the efficiency of a chiller when it is not at maximum load.

Compressors and chillers are becoming smaller and the latest compressor/chiller designs can fit the most challenging location and can be accessed with minimal disruption. Design improvements have also ensured quiet operation. The best magnetic bearing units are less than 70db and allow you to have a conversation at normal speaking levels while standing close to chillers running at full capacity.

Chillers with a soft start also help reduce equipment wear and tear and lower inrush current. Look for a unit that has low 2 amp electrical current requirements at startup. As well, vibration is a critical issue especially in rooftop units that are often found on top of prestigious and highvalue units – the penthouse or pinnacle office spaces where noise and vibration would be considered unacceptable.

When annual energy costs may equal a third of the original cost of your centrifugal chiller, you want to ensure that your unit is operating at peak efficiency. Regularly scheduled maintenance (see “Chiller Start-up Tips” for information) is a must.

Common Chiller Terms

The evaporator is a heat exchanger that removes building heat from the chiller water and lowers the water temperature as it goes. The heat is used to boil the refrigerant changing it from liquid to a gas.
The compressor raises the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant by converting kinetic energy into pressure.
The condenser is also a heat exchanger – it removes heat from the refrigerant causing it to condense from gas to a liquid. This heat causes the water temperature to rise and it is then carried to the cooling tower where the heat is released into the air outside of the building.
Chiller Start-Up Tips
The goals of any preventative maintenance program are universal: to improve reliability, improve equipment life, and of course, maintain peak efficiency. Proper preventative maintenance of a centrifugal chiller is no different. A schedule of regular, routine checkups and minor repairs reduces the frequency of unscheduled (and potentially expensive) service calls. Of course, you should also follow your manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance suggestions.

Here are some tips from our chiller experts:

1.    When starting a chiller in the spring, record the temperature readings, fluid levels, pressure readings and flow rates. This type of record will allow year-over-year comparisons and create a benchmark for excellence and efficiency and allow you to flag inefficiencies immediately and identify opportunities to improve.
2.    Motors and compressors should be inspected to ensure that there are no unusual vibrations and that all components are running at peak efficiency.
3.    Check for leaks throughout the cooling system including refrigerant leaks which can sometimes allow air to enter the system, displacing refrigerant and increasing energy use.
4.    Inspect the chiller’s control centre regularly. In many cases checks on safety cutouts and operating checkpoints happen automatically but at the beginning of the start-up season (the beginning of the cooling season) check for irregularities.
5.    Ensure proper calibration of the control panel, transducers and thermisters and that they are set at appropriate levels. Also ensure that the leaving chilled water temperature is set to the proper temperature – don’t forget that a 0.56 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) increase in the leaving chilled water temperature can result in a 2 percent decrease
in energy consumption.
6.    Condenser tubes should be inspected for scale and algae and cleaned as necessary. Scale especially can cause an increase in thermal resistance and an increase in energy consumption.
7.    When in doubt call an expert like Direct Energy Business Services. Our technicians have thousands of hours of experience in servicing, installing and retrofitting chillers and would be pleased to help you keep your chiller working at peak efficiency.

Article from The Current publication of Direct Energy Business Services.   From Direct Energy Business Services:

Straight Talk From Technicians: Maximizing Your Heating And Cooling System’s Energy Efficiency

July 19, 2006

Straight Talk From Technicians: Maximizing Your Heating And Cooling System’s Energy Efficiency

Homepage » Communities » Energy Management » Archive » 2006 » Straight Talk From Technicians: Maximizing Your Heating And Cooling System’s Energy Efficiency


We at The Current recently spent some time with two of Direct Energy Business Services’ certified technicians, Elvira Lavas and Bruno Sibbio. Both Elvira and Bruno are well grounded in all aspects of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and were willing to share with us some of their day-to-day experiences helping customers.

Elvira and Bruno are part of Direct Energy Business Services’ team of trained and certified technicians whose expertise spans all models and makes of commercial building HVAC equipment. Service technicians must meet rigorous service standards as well as health and safety requirements. They also receive regular training to ensure that they are well versed in the latest technology and are equipped with the diagnostic tools required to service and maintain heating and cooling systems.

In addition Elvira and Bruno are enrolled in the HVAC apprentice program (see “The Apprenticeship Program” for details) which encourages on-the-job learning coupled with continuing education.

Elvira and Bruno share their thoughts:

Q: Why did the two of you choose this field? The demanding education and training component would require more than a bit of dedication.

Elvira: You have to love it! It really is an applied science. We see such a variety of technologies – the training required has to be extensive. I’ve personally met a number of former engineers now working as HVAC technicians, even they find this work challenging. You really have to love this job to do it – and I do.

Bruno: My education at George Brown College was very specific to HVAC with a heavy emphasis on theory. Now at Direct Energy Business Services I’m applying my education practically. But I agree with Elvira, you have to have real dedication because all of your spare time is spent in a classroom.

Elvira: I also enjoy the challenges of problem solving. When I’m on site and faced with a problem, I am able to use my education and training to make recommendations and move to the next step – and that’s what I really enjoy – the on-the-spot problem solving!

Q: What do you think is the biggest concern for your business customers?

Bruno: Definitely comfort. Safety is a given, of course. Customers want their buildings cool when needed and warm when needed. We help them with that. Reliability is important and can really impact a business. Workers might have to be sent home if their workplace is too hot on a summer day. You can’t plan for breakdowns but by having us come in regularly, the risk of major problems is lessened.

Elvira: Of course breakdowns are expensive and can affect a company’s ability to get their work done. Unplanned visits for breakdowns are never welcome – mind you, all of our customers are happy to see us drive up on days like that.

Bruno: Customers like to be involved in what’s happening. Some think it’s really simple – turn on the heat and it gets warm – turn on the air conditioning and it gets cool. If you take the time to talk to them, to be friendly and honest and make it easy to understand (because these systems can be complex – that’s why we’re constantly having our skills upgraded through continuing education), then they really appreciate it.

Q: What would your advice be to your customers to help avoid breakdowns?

Elvira: Schedule preventive maintenance.

Bruno: Definitely! Regular maintenance is one of the best things a customer can do. Customers should be seeing us four times a year, and then they can plan for unexpected costs and be involved in what’s happening. It’s like your car. When you maintain it regularly it costs a little over a long time while a big breakdown is a huge financial hit when you least want it.

Q: Bruno, you mention that a preventive maintenance plan can help a customer plan for unexpected costs – can you be a little more specific?

Bruno: There are a lot of benefits to regular maintenance, it continues to save you money – it can lower your energy use by ensuring your equipment is working at peak efficiency. In my experience, just changing your filters regularly can make a difference. Regular maintenance also helps your equipment last longer.

Elvira: If you have to replace an entire rooftop unit it can be expensive – if the unit runs well, the longer the time before it needs to be replaced. We encourage customers to think this way. Rooftops are a good example because they are exposed to the elements and a variety of weather conditions – anything can happen.

Q: What would be your maintenance advice?

Bruno: I know I’m repeating myself but even for small things such as fan belts and condenser coils, regular maintenance is important. If we’re in doing a routine inspection and we notice something that down the road could cause serious problems, we’re going to fix it! The investment now may mean that a big repair or replacement of your equipment may be avoided, saving money. We alert a customer ahead of time so that it’s not a huge surprise. Equipment has an expected lifespan and parts tend to fail within an expected timeframe – so customers should work closely with their technician and think of them as more of an advisor.

Elvira: Your equipment can last longer too. Plus, it’s like a domino effect. A fan belt breaking down can cause another system to stop working. These systems are so closely intertwined that the repercussions of not having regular maintenance are huge. I’ve seen companies have to shut down and send their employees home – the unforeseen can be costly. It’s obvious when you look at the cause and effects of not having a preventive maintenance program.


Replace filters on a regular basis. Filters help clean the air entering your ventilation system and help keep your system running efficiently.

Clean evaporator and condenser coils regularly. Dirt on the coils can cause problems with the heat-transfer efficiency and reduces the ability of the system to cool efficiently.

Inspect heat exchangers, gas trains, refrigerant cycles and economizers. Problems such as cracks or perforations can allow carbon monoxide or other noxious gases to enter the building. Refrigerant leaks negatively affect cooling capacity and can be potentially harmful to the environment.

Inspect the area around air intake for gaps. Gaps and fine cracks can result in a loss of heating or cooling and gaskets, latches, screws and patching should be checked regularly. Also, water pooling around air handlers (especially those on a roof) can allow mold to grow and increases the likelihood that spores could be pulled into the ventilation system.

Fix leaks in cabinets and supply ducts. Leaks allow cool air to spill into the atmosphere, wasting valuable energy.

Clean and adjust dampers. Moveable surfaces should be cleaned and lubricated.

Inspect fan, bearings and belts. Failure of these parts can result in unit shut down.

Clean air ducts to ensure better air quality. Clean air ducts improve comfort by increasing the rate air is delivered and improve air quality by reducing the infiltration of dust, humidity and odors.

Conduct on-going assurance audits. Audits ensure ongoing adherence to government legislated requirements as well as assist in uncovering potential system problems.

Always have systems inspected before the heating and cooling season. Prior to start-up ensure your equipment is ready to face the demands of summer and winter.

Article from The Current publication of Direct Energy Business Services.