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Preventive Maintenance is a Big Money Maker

refrigerationEnergy managers live in the era of advanced functionality. The Internet of Things, sophisticated building management systems and a long list of other high tech wonders offer great savings and a score of other advantages.

At the end of the day, though, two valuable and seemingly rudimentary steps can cut significant cost from what it takes to keep things running smoothly and as economically: Organizations can save money by keeping things clean and staying on top of preventive maintenance efforts.

Those are the two back-to-basics approaches that are harped upon by Brendon Schmidt, the owner and partner in IceMasters, a refrigeration and air conditioning repair firm in Calgary, Canada.

Schmidt used food stores as the illustration of what can be done by simply being proactive. He clearly is a big believer in keeping things clean. “In my experience, cleanliness is next to godliness,” he told Energy Manager Today in an interview. “If you keep things clean they remain efficient and last much longer.”

Schmidt echoed the view expressed by the makers of CoilPod, which essentially is a plastic bag that fits over condenser coil housings to make cleaning easier, sanitary and more effective. The bottom line is that dirt and grime are the enemies that cost organizations money by making fans work harder.

The ramifications of overused fans are felt in several ways: Wasted energy cost money. Replacing prematurely aged equipment costs money. Replacing food inventory lost due to outages caused by failing gear cost money.

Condenser coils are not the only element of a refrigeration unit that needs to be kept clean, Schmidt says. One of the key goals of a store refrigeration unit is to do everything possible to keep the cold and warm air where they are supposed to be – inside and outside the unit, respectively.

Honeycombs are air diffusers that aim to create an “air curtain” to accomplish this goal. “They should be pulled every three to six months, washed and reinstalled,” Schmidt said. “That ensures strong functionality. If the air curtain is not working correctly more of that warm air outside the case infiltrates inside the case to create extra load – and extra load is extra heat.”

Schmidt says that these and similar processes can be done by building personnel – if they take the time. The smarter companies have preventive maintenance service contracts with companies such as IceMasters. This ensures that all due diligence is done. Unlike even diligent untrained personnel, professionals also can spot gear that has just broken or seems on the point of failure. A third related benefit is that a professional will make sure that the sequence of how the equipment works is occurring as it should.

Most big companies have internal or external preventive maintenance initiatives in place. Many small chains and “mom-and-pops” do as well. There are some that don’t, though, simply because spending money to keep something from happening – and something that preserves rather than generates revenue – is counter intuitive.

Maintenance is one side of the coin. The other low hanging fruit is the set of easy things that can be done to cut energy costs. Schmidt says that curtains on open refrigerator cases at night will cut down on the escaping cold air. Keeping weather stripping intact also will avoid unnecessary air leakage. Schmidt added that a useful innovation is the placement of light sensors in display cases.

Modern technology is dazzling. It is so for a reason: There is potential to save a great deal of money. In the shorter term, however, great gains – perhaps greater — can be made by taking better care and making incremental improvements to assets already owned by the organization.

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