The summer is upon us, and it’s already shaping up to be a hot one. Air conditioners all over the country are waking up from many months of slumber. And unfortunately, many of them won’t work properly. They may fail to work as soon as they’re turned on, a week later or a month later. In the HVAC business we call this “busy season,” and every HVAC technician and property manager knows the frantic repair calls start coming in.
As the president and general manager of an HVAC repair and replacement company, I’ve seen how important regular maintenance is to keep workplaces cool for maximum productivity and enjoyable customer experiences.
How should you maintain your properties’ HVAC systems?
The importance of HVAC system maintenance can’t be overstated in my experience. Maintaining a system helps ensure a building’s tenants can be comfortable during the year’s hottest months. Proper maintenance means not needing to wait for a repair — however long that might take during the busy season.
When it comes to basic maintenance, regularly check the filters on your HVAC system. If they’re dirty, replace them right away to keep your systems running efficiently. You should also check the outside of the units for dust, dirt and debris — especially if they’re facing a street — and check around the unit for drips and leaks and request maintenance right away if there’s an issue. Schedule preventative maintenance before the busy season to keep customers and employees happy and comfortable during especially hot or cold months of the year.
There will come a day, even for the most regularly maintained systems, when they will require an update and replacement. Updating HVAC systems can bring greater energy efficiency and satisfaction to customers and employees. Working in a building with a comfortable indoor temperature while knowing that the system that keeps it cool on those hot summer days has a low carbon footprint is ideal in my opinion.
Replacing your HVAC system can create efficiencies.
What about replacing an HVAC system that’s working properly? Is simply replacing the system enough to ensure that a building’s HVAC is running as efficiently as possible?
First, let’s consider the HVAC usage habits in the U.S. versus the rest of the world. There are several global trends in energy use and efficiency that differ from the U.S. market. For instance, air conditioning, in general, is still not an expectation in many European public buildings and homes.
Many office buildings and workplaces in the U.S. use some form of air conditioning, and our expectations for room temperature differ from other parts of the world. There are several reasons. One is that we enjoy generally affordable utility rates, and thus there’s less economic pressure for efficiency. Many European countries outperform the U.S. from an efficiency standpoint as the HVAC products in use are often state-of-the-art and highly efficient. One of the largest motivating factors for this is because their utility costs can be more expensive. Another motivating factor for many people is a concern for the impact that HVAC systems have on the planet.
The U.S. is concerned about carbon footprint, too. Many U.S. companies prioritize energy efficiency, viewing it as a corporate responsibility to do what’s good for the earth.
What efficient HVAC technologies are available right now?
One option that’s growing in popularity in the U.S. is inverter compressor technology. While inverter technology is fairly new in the United States, it has been proven to be state of the art and reliable all around the globe. Inverter systems reduce the overall operation of the HVAC system by controlling the motor speed within the air compressor, enabling it to work at just the right speed for the appropriate amount of time to efficiently control the temperature in a building. The carbon reduction this type of system provides is significant and it can lower operating costs. Inverter technology provides optimized dehumidification for better comfort, lowered CO2 output and a lower utility bill.
Another example of HVAC technology that can make a difference in both unit operation and efficiency is smart thermostats that monitor and adjust temperature compared to older on/off thermostats. Smart thermostats are a great tool for keeping HVAC units efficient, and on a larger scale they can provide valuable insights on living and workspace temperature and — when combined with remote monitoring sensors — can even help identify malfunctions and breakdowns before they occur.
Tips For Property Owners And Operators Considering An HVAC Update
An important aspect to consider before embarking on an HVAC system upgrade is the status of the building. What’s the age and condition of the building? What are the heat gain and loss properties of the structure?
A holistic look at the entirety of a building should always be a prerequisite when considering an HVAC upgrade. It’s important to inspect and evaluate the system’s function in every aspect, including duct work placement and condition, grills and vents and their locations. The reality is if the most energy-efficient equipment is installed on a poor distribution system, the end result is still a poor system. An HVAC upgrade has to be understood and looked at in terms of an overall package.
I recommend to utilize an “HVAC efficiency tool” to check energy impact from your old system to new, higher efficiency systems. You can also use an HVAC asset management tool to get a full scope view of the age, condition and efficiency of your HVAC units across one or all of your properties.
Another option is to request a consultation on a scalable HVAC preventative maintenance program to identify issues before they occur. Make sure to challenge the contractor to provide multiple efficiency options with payback models. Far too often contractors and customers look at initial prices versus the lifetime cost of ownership.
The HVAC technology of today can support a comfortable indoor temperature and low monthly energy bills in an energy-efficient and sustainable package.