In the quest to curb rising energy costs, some businesses will buy a good sales pitch and try a product that promises to affect the bottom line.
So when Tampa marketing executive Mickey Owens approaches local business owners with a product that he says will make their heating and cooling equipment more efficient, their ears perk up and their curiosity is piqued.
The CEO of a Tampa marketing investment company, the avuncular Owens offers convincing information about IceCOLD, a unique catalyst applied to the synthetic oils in heating and cooling equipment.
Owens said the product, developed by a Texas inventor named David Pickett 13 years ago, has reduced air-conditioning and refrigeration costs by 25 percent in some cases.
"When energy becomes 30 percent of your home and business expenses, then we've got to do something," said Owens, 67. "Air conditioning and heat account for the majority of one's electric bill. IceCOLD makes everything run more efficiently, like the first day you bought it."
According to the company website, when IceCOLD is injected into any type of refrigeration or air-conditioning unit, it helps to blend the compressor oils by changing the molecular structure. That improves the heat transfer so the system runs more efficiently and stays cooler for longer periods of time.
IceCOLD contends that companies can save $2 million to $3 million a year on utility costs, depending on the scale of the system. It even offers a 10 percent performance guarantee.
"Generally, investing in energy conservation is a tough sell, because the investment is initially expensive and the payback is way down the road," Owens said. "But IceCOLD is a one-time installation that will last the life of the project, and the payback is often less than a year."
The company works with GE Capital to help finance IceCOLD installations, in some cases 100 percent.
Richard Conte, a longtime instructor of engineering at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and an expert mechanical engineer, has never tested IceCOLD. But he says it appears the product is working on sound engineering principles when it comes to removing the sticky oil layer from the inside the refrigerant tubing. But he would like to test the long-term effects.
"Air conditioners run all the time, so a little increased efficiency would be tremendous, but I can't comment about IceCOLD's efficiency down the road, in about 10 years' time, Conte said. "I'm not saying it's a sham company, but will IceCOLD work after a while and will there be any negative side effects, like R-12, which eventually destroyed the ozone layer?"
But Owens said over the 13 years, testing indicates there are no adverse side effects. The company says it's eco-friendly because of the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by electricity consumption. Independent testers have given IceCOLD merit for being the most efficient energy solution in the marketplace.
The accolades have captured the attention of some notable companies, including 7-Eleven and the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which have tested IceCOLD and found the results positive.
Jeff Powell, former general manager of the Wyndham Grand Desert Inn Las Vegas decided to install IceCold in all 270 units of the first tower when the hotel opened a few years ago.
"With the push for energy conservation nowadays, the timing is perfect for this," said Powell, who now heads a property management company in Denver. "We saw the return on investment immediately. It was pretty outstanding. They said they could prove the savings on power and maintenance, and they did it."
The health care industry is showing interest because hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bob Hudson, former president of the Alabama Alliance of Healthcare Organizations, tested IceCold in a pilot hospital in Mobile, Ala., where hot LED lights were creating uncomfortable conditions for surgeons in operating rooms.
"I see a good future for IceCOLD in the health care industry," Hudson said. "It was instrumental in dramatically reducing our energy consumption because our air conditioning didn't have to function at full blast continuously and we saved on maintenance costs."
Along with marketing to the United States, IceCOLD is heading to Latin America and the Dominican Republic. Owens is working with Ramon Alburquerque Ramirez, a former senate president of the Dominican Republic and a former economic and planning minister. Ramirez said 35 percent of the population lives without electricity, unconnected to the country's utility grid, which is woefully outdated.
Ramirez, with the help of Owens, intends to market IceCOLD for cooling and refrigeration to hotels, theaters, malls, banks, office buildings and wealthy residents, who consume the vast majority of electricity in the DR.
Kathryn Moschella can be reached at [email protected]