This year, make sure you get a head start on maintaining your facility's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. As summer inches closer, now is the perfect time to see if your HVAC system is ready to withstand the demand to fill a space with cool air.
With most units running at 100 percent during the summer months, the wear on your system increases as run-times get longer, which can affect your systems efficiency over time. Don't wait until the height of summer heat to decide whether your current system needs to be serviced. Reliable cooling is a necessity and properly servicing and inspecting your system decreases the chances of system breakdowns and the inevitable utility bill cost spikes.
Most HVAC systems supply facilities with temperature and humidity control, providing occupant comfort. Different times of the year create imbalanced demands on the different capabilities of HVAC systems. But, issues seem to arise during the hotter times of the year when cooling needs are high. Why? Well, let's look at what each process requires.
The heating portion of most HVAC systems usually involves a type of electric heating coil or gas pilot light being lit with a fan blowing air over the heating-mechanism and into the space. For pure ventilation, some fresh outside air in the space is necessary to relieve stuffiness. To achieve this, your system opens and pulls fresh air in and expels internal air.
To cool your equipment, it goes through a mechanical, chemical phase-state process, which uses heat-exchange to cool a space even a few degrees. The more complicated the process to meet a certain demand, the more run-time and energy your system needs. This can increase the run-time of your equipment, meaning increases in gas, electricity and/ or water bills (depending on what your system primarily uses to operate).
Preparing HVAC systems to run reliably though the whole summer season involves several different maintenance items. Here are some tips to get ahead of any potential issues:
HVAC Equipment and System Tune-Up
Schedule a service visit or tune-up sometime in late spring (March–May). Communicate that you would like to know of any immediate issues that would directly impact cooling-demand. Some things that can impact cooling demand are worn belts, dirty filters and coils, low refrigerant, bad contactors, non-communicative controls, and anything that negatively impacts the equipment process.
Economizers are mechanical additions to HVAC equipment that help reduce run-time of equipment and increase outside air within facilities. If your facility has economizers installed, ensure that they are properly operating. If you deal with high-spikes in utility costs during hot-months, consider installing them on eligible equipment for better energy efficiency.
Occupant Space and Demand Assessment
If your facility has a building automation system (BAS) with a front-end or history, look back to the previous summer and see if you can identify any patterns. Look for patterns in areas of the facility that are used most. Then, consider space reallocation during summer months based on some considerations such as rooms with outside-facing windows that tend to require more cooling due to less insulation, older equipment that has naturally depreciated, spaces that have longer in-office hours, etc.
If your equipment or systems have been unused for a long period of time, consider the following steps to take before you flip the switch back on to full demand:
- Frist, visually check your unused HVAC equipment for any natural disrepair or damage including weather corrosion, possible vandalism or even animals using the equipment as temporary shelter.
- HVAC Equipment and System Tune-Up: Schedule a full annual service visit or tune-up sometime in late spring (March–May) with your HVAC team or contractor and request a full conditions report.
A scheduled maintenance with a qualified professional is a fail-safe way to truly verify that your HVAC system is running at peak performance. For more information, give us a call.
Lauren Graham is an Account Consultant serving the Southern California Region with a focus on facility maintenance. She was part of the first graduating class of Build the Next (BTN), a nine-month intensive education program seeking to take individuals with no previous sales experience and build them into well-rounded industry professionals. Lauren was inspired to create short, educational videos, leading to the creation of, Let's Talk Buildings which launched in May 2021.