It takes a while to learn how to use new technology. This is something Great Bend Public Library Director Harry Willems has learned the hard way. He shared his story with members of his Board of Directors at their monthly meeting Monday afternoon.
A year and a half ago, the Great Bend Public Library replaced its old boiler and chiller HVAC system with a modern geothermal system. That decision brought criticism to the library when it was learned that the new system would be far more costly than anticipated.
At the time, members of the library’s board of directors were assured they would see a jump in efficiency that would translate into a 30 percent savings overall. So far, only an 8-10 percent reduction has been realized, Willems told board members at the June meeting Monday afternoon. But some recent tweaks to the system should bump efficiency up to anticipated levels now, and Willems anticipates a much lower electric bill from the utility company next month.
When the new system was installed, it came with a 12-month service agreement from the installing company.
During that first year, Willems said, there didn’t appear to be any issues. Because of this, he admits he didn’t learn very much about the system. But, when the complimentary service period ended, he began to notice little things that prompted him to turn his attention to learning more about how the system worked.
He began studying its schematics, including how to determine run times of the motors, pumps and other subsystems.
“I was looking at the run times of the pumps and in essence they haven’t shut down in a year and a half,” he said. This concerned him. The library contracts with a company located in Hays for building maintenance. The company was started not long after the library switched out its system, and is owned by Dave Randa, who used to work for the company the library used to contract with before the transition to geothermal.
Together, they discerned that one area, the server room, needed to stay really cold, Willems said.
“That was the only thing calling for coolness,” he said. “That was making the whole system run to stay cool.”
Solution leads to more discoveries
The solution was to put in an auxiliary unit that cools only the server room, allowing the rest of the building to shut down. But, when they started trying to shut it down, one of the air separators bubbled over and emptied enough water out of the circulating system, causing it not to work.
Randa showed Willems and the on-site maintenance team how to add more water, and they learned that the motors were set at the wrong amperage, causing the system to go into reset mode when it turned on in the morning. That meant a person had to be there on mornings when the library was closed to hold down the reset button. Willems volunteered to come in on Sunday mornings, and that’s when he learned there was yet another problem. The system was still cooling when no one was there.
He called Randa again, and after further investigation, he determined that the installation company hadn’t calibrated the system to the scheduled open hours from the very beginning. Randa did the calibration, and now the systems throughout the building are starting when they should, and the problem of manual overriding the reset has been solved too.
One of the nice features about the system is, even though the system is on a schedule, each area is also linked to motion detectors that sense and turn on only when a space is occupied. Also, the maintenance contractor and the installation company can both access the system remotely.
Shortly after Summer Reading started, there were balloons in various places throughout the library. The movement of these balloons tripped motion sensors that caused units to turn on and off at night at random times. The solution, they determined, was to move the balloons farther from the sensors.
One final tweak, Willems said, that has made the system quieter and more enjoyable for everyone, was setting fans to cycle. Previously, they were running full-time.
Now, Willems said, the system is working exactly the way it was intended to work from the start, and he anticipates seeing a much lower electric bill next month.
Willems showed board members the control panels for the system at the end of the meeting, and it was agreed that the next director will need to be brought up to speed on who to contact when service is needed and how to check the operation of the system. Willems is set to retire Dec. 31, and the board will begin a formal search in the next few months.