Steve Dietz checks out the equipment, which had a small refrigerant leak, on his first stop of the day at Cedarbrook Psychological Services.

MUSKEGON, MI — As it did for many hvacr contractors, the heat wave that recently rolled across the nation created a good news/bad news scenario for Don and Jennifer Bowen, owners of Bowen Refrigeration, Heating & Cooling, winners ofThe News’ “Do You Want to Grow Your Business?” contest.

The Bowens have been in the middle of installing new business accounting and dispatch software — a process that requires a lot of training, data importing, and real-time experience.

Then the heat wave hit and a/c service customers kept service techs working seven days to keep up with the demand — not a bad thing, until you factor in the learning curve for the new systems.

The News got a taste of the pace in a mid-August visit, while checking on Bowen’s progress and make a few service calls with one of its service techs, Steve Dietz.

Dietz has a background in commercial-industrial service that has meshed well with the company’s growing commercial service agreement program. He has also enjoyed the recent hot spell, working an average of 15 hrs of overtime each week. (Some Bowen service techs have logged 40 hrs of OT a week, including Sundays.)

Commercial Service

The first stop was at Cedar-brook Psychological Services. Psychologist Robert Lamson had trouble keeping the building cool. He noticed that ice had formed on the indoor fancoil, blocking the airflow to the handler.

Dietz tested for adequate pressure in the system and noted that it was low on charge. There were no visible signs of leakage inside; the condensing unit, however, had a small leak coming from a refrigerant line.

“There wasn’t much of a refrigerant loss but it was just enough, over an extended period of time, to cause a problem,” said Dietz. He tightened the fitting, added some refrigerant, and rechecked the system. Everything appeared to be back to normal.

Lamson, a regular customer, had nothing but good things to say about the service he has received. “Bowen is quick to respond when there is a problem,” he said. “Sometimes they come within an hour. I don’t mind paying a little more for their quality work. Cheapest is not always the best.”

The second stop was Bekaert Corp., manufacturer of wire springs. Its rooftop unit was not operating correctly and the offices in the front of the building were not cooling down.

On the roof, Dietz removed the unit’s filter access panel; the two filters were badly clogged and did not appear to have been changed for over a year. When he removed the filters, Dietz said, “That ought to do it.” The gauge, which read 55 lb of pressure, quickly climbed to 62. “The coils had probably iced up because of the poor airflow,” Dietz said.

So it was off to nearby Johnstone Supply to pick up a couple of new filters. Dietz said because of the many sizes of filters on the market, it would be impractical to stock them all on his truck.

Back at Bekaert, the maintenance supervisor asked Dietz to take a look at the computer room, which was too warm. The room had been added to accommodate the company’s computers, but was not zoned with an individual thermostat. Whatever the thermostat was set at in the adjoining small office was the temperature for both rooms.

The supervisor did not want to zone the computer room, so Dietz suggested installing a mini-split system. The customer agreed, and Dietz said he would inform Don Bowen to set up a sales call.

Residential Service

The next stop in the morning was a residential service call. The homeowner, a good Bowen customer, thought that the a/c unit was causing water leakage in his basement. But after a thorough inspection, it appeared that the water was leaking out of an old bladder tank used for the home’s sprinkler system, but that had been disconnected years ago.

Dietz recommended that the homeowner call a plumber to check the tank and repair a leaking line in the back of a toilet.

Dietz also said he would arrange for a furnace inspection, since the customer was worried that the 35-year-old unit would not make it through another winter.

Although the customer needed some obvious plumbing repairs, Dietz remained polite at all times. “This is a good customer who we’ve done a lot of work for — and his children are good customers, too.”

NEXT MONTH: Ruth King makes her final visit to Bowen’s and assesses the progress of its marketing programs.

Publication date: 09/03/2001