By Krista Richmond/UGA Today
If Mike Seagraves is doing his job well, no one even knows he’s there.
Seagraves works behind the scenes making sure HVAC units across UGA’s campus are functioning properly and efficiently. He tries to catch problems in the units before they even begin and looks for ways to make them as cost-effective as possible.
“You’re able to see a return on work,” he said. “It’s amazing some of the savings we’re able to achieve. It’s great when you see what did in a building and that equaled out to a certain amount of savings.”
Seagraves’ path began at Athens Technical College, where he studied air conditioning technology. Just as he was about to graduate, Seagraves heard about a position with UGA's Facilities Management Division from family members who already worked at the university. He’s worked with UGA’s HVAC systems since 1999.
“I like to tinker and figure out how things work,” he said. “I like to work on mechanical stuff. There is so much you can do with HVACs because it’s electrical, plumbing and controls. It’s one field that encompasses a lot of others.”
Seagraves worked in Shop 48—the shop responsible for HVAC units in buildings—until June 2022. He started as a trades helper, then became an HVAC mechanic. From there, Seagraves began working with the controls systems and became a technician, then assistant foreman for six years. Now, he serves as a commissioning technician in FMD’s utility and energy management department.
“We get to do things on a grander scale,” he said. “If we can catch things here, they won’t have problems there. If we can head off problems, then we can help more than just ourselves.”
In fact, since joining the department, Seagraves has helped identify and correct more than $1 million in energy saving measures. He enjoys working on older buildings to give them modern efficiency—the Jackson Street Building being a good example.
As part of his responsibilities, Seagraves reviews designs for projects. He also conducts airflow readings, as well as several tests and balances.
Seagraves worked with the Science Learning Center to design better unoccupied schedules to run more efficiently while fewer people are in the building. He pointed out that those schedules can have significant savings.
No day is ever quite the same for Seagraves. He and his co-workers get pulled into various projects and balance that with their own ongoing work.
What Seagraves enjoys most is putting the pieces of the puzzle together. If a building has HVAC issues, he can go to its plans and find what kind of system it has and where they’re located. Then, he can run tests to see how they’re operating. Once he has all the information he needs, he comes up with a plan and implements the changes.
“As you see them implemented, you see your building get better,” he said.
One of the most important aspects of his job is energy savings.
“There are a lot of opportunities out there for savings. All we need to do is look and find them,” he said. “If we can rein that in and save some money here, then we can have more funding for us and other projects.”
Seagraves particularly enjoys working with his teammates and other FMD coworkers. They frequently work together to solve problems and develop a camaraderie. Seagraves also helps train interns to grow the next generation of technicians.
“As we move forward, I think we’re making it better for people in our buildings,” he said. “We’re making a big difference with energy savings, but we’re also making a difference with occupant comfort.”