A commercial HVAC system is one of the most essential and most expensive assets a building has. It’s a powerhouse that chugs along, silently keeping your building comfortable and its air clean. If not properly maintained, your system loses its efficiency, which makes your system work harder, in turn increasing fuel consumption and decreasing its overall lifespan, and can have a direct impact on the health and well being of its occupants by increasing airborne allergens and illnesses.
Lost efficiency is the best case scenario for neglected HVAC systems. Breakdowns can be a huge expense, especially if they occur during off hours for your repair company and they need to be called in during the middle of the night. Of course, breakdowns during office hours may not be much cheaper. The loss of heat or AC may cause you to have to shut down while repairs are being performed which is a huge loss of productivity.
As a building owner or manager, your goal is to get the maximum life out of your HVAC system so it doesn’t need to be replaced sooner than it should. Commercial HVAC systems are built to last and most will endure for 15 years or more, although some parts of your system will last longer than others. Boilers, for example, could last for 30 years, whereas gas water heaters have an average lifespan of 12 years. How can you make your HVAC system last 15 years or more?
The old saying goes, if you ask a real estate agent what the three most important features of a house are, they’ll reply, “Location, location, location.” Ask any HVAC technician what the three most important things you can do to keep your HVAC system running smoothly, they’ll loudly reply, “Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!” If you have regular, scheduled maintenance done, it could increase the lifespan of your system to 15 years or more.
Winter and summer are the busy seasons for your HVAC system when your system works almost nonstop. Maintenance is typically performed before these seasons are in full swing to ensure your system is prepared for the big workload. Maintenance involves cleaning the system, lubricating parts, changing filters, and replacing worn parts. Regular maintenance also gets a pair of expert eyes in there that may notice a small, inexpensive broken part that can be replaced before it becomes a major problem. They simply run best after they’ve been serviced.
Filters need to be changed more often than you have routine maintenance done, however. It’s like wearing a dust mask while you’re sanding a table. The more often you breathe in, the more wood particles are left on the mask. Eventually, to get enough breathable air coming through the mask, you have to breathe in harder with more work from your body. You have to swap out the mask before it gets too clogged to easily breathe. If you’re not changing your filters every 1 to 3 months, you’re causing your system to work harder than it should have to and lessening its ability to clean the air and make it safe for its occupants. Changing them will save you 10-15% in energy savings.
Other Things to Consider
While regular maintenance and filter changes are the most important part of making your system last, there are a few other things to look at that can make a difference in the life of your system.
Size of the unit. If your system is too small for the size of your building, it will struggle to keep it warm or cool, working much harder than it should. Its size also includes the ductwork, which should’ve been installed in such a way that it evenly distributes hot or cold air. A unit that is too small for the amount of space it needs to service or has inadequately installed ductwork will have to work harder and its life will be shortened.
A DDC control system. If your system doesn’t have one, installing a DDC control system will allow greater control over when the system runs. By programming the unit to run only when the building is occupied, you could not only save money in operational costs, but you’ll save some wear and tear on your system.
The Age of the System. Older systems have to work harder and its components may be on their last legs. If you have an older system, it may be time to consider replacing it. Newer systems are much more efficient and could save you money in the long run.
Air Flow. Check to make sure that your ductwork doesn’t have any leaks. If there are gaps in the ducts, air flow is diminished and your system is highly inefficient. Also make sure that your outside equipment is free of plants, shrubs, or any obstructions in order to maintain proper airflow.
The key component in prolonging the life of your system and all of its parts is a regularly-scheduled maintenance program with highly-skilled HVAC professionals like we have at Jarrell. We can tailor your program to meet the specific needs of your unit and your budget. By taking care of your HVAC, your HVAC will continue to take care of you for many years to come. If your system is not part of a regular maintenance program or you’re not happy with your current company, call Jarrell at (314) 291-0100 and let us show you how we can prolong the life of your HVAC.