Have you noticed an increase in your HVAC costs? While HVAC energy usage isn’t itemized on utility bills, most buildings spend about 38 percent of their total energy usage on heating and cooling costs, according to the Department of Energy. The rest of the energy usage breaks down into lights, security, running mechanical equipment, like elevators and escalators and running computers and office equipment. Therefore, when you see a sudden increase in your energy usage and your bill, it’s reasonable to assume it’s due to your HVAC system not operating efficiently, and the number one reason HVAC systems fail to run efficiently is due to lack of maintenance. In other words, your lack of HVAC maintenance negatively impacts your energy savings and bottom line.
Lack of Preventative HVAC Maintenance and Energy Savings
According to Building Efficiency Initiative, fewer than 50 percent of all businesses perform preventative maintenance on their HVAC systems. This means that those businesses are performing what is known as reactive maintenance, which is maintenance that is only performed once something breaks. In this instance, maintenance is only performed when the HVAC system stops working. This is an inefficient way to maintain an HVAC unit, and it makes it more likely that your employees, guests, customers and/or residents are left uncomfortable while the HVAC isn’t operating. In the worst case scenario, your HVAC unit could experience a catastrophic failure, which requires the replacement of the system.
Why Companies Perform Reactive Maintenance
Companies perform reactive maintenance for a variety of reasons. The number one reason is lack of financial resources or believing that it’s cheaper to perform maintenance as needed rather than on a set schedule. The fact is that reactive maintenance is only cheaper in the short-term. Continued reliance on reactive maintenance can reduce the operational efficiency of the equipment, result in higher energy bills and cause the equipment to wear out faster, which means it’ll need to be replaced more often. Considering that rooftop units are designed to last between 15 and 25 years with proper maintenance, a lack of maintenance could mean incurring expensive repairs in as few as five years with the need to completely replace the unit is 10 years.
Why Companies Should Perform Preventative Maintenance
Instead of reactive maintenance, companies should be performing preventative maintenance, which is regular maintenance that is performed according to a schedule. The most basic type of preventative maintenance is changing the air filters regularly and scheduling HVAC inspections twice a year with an HVAC contractor, like Althoff, serving Chicago. Maintenance inspections help ensure that coolant levels are optimal, all the components are operating within factory specs, and that all the wiring is in good condition and supplying the correct amount of voltage to the unit. It can also include cleaning the interior and exterior of the unit and performing duct cleaning, which removed dirt and debris from inside the ducts that can contribute to indoor allergy symptoms and poor air quality. If problems are found during these inspections, like leaking coils, improperly calibrated and programmed thermostats and fans that aren’t functioning, they can be repaired in a timely manner so that the useful life of the HVAC system isn’t affected, and the unit continues to function optimally.
In fact, it is estimated that companies and businesses that perform HVAC maintenance on a regular schedule lower their overall energy usage between 10 and 20 percent, which means you’ll save money on your monthly operational costs and improve your profitability. Not to mention, you may even score better the next time you have to submit paperwork for the Chicago Energy Benchmarking initiative.
Implementing HVAC Maintenance for Energy Savings
Implementing HVAC maintenance to achieve maximum energy savings is possible, and it’s relatively easy to get started. The first step is making the decision to move from reactive maintenance to preventative maintenance.
1. Research Your HVAC Repair Bills
In some instances, you may have trouble convincing the building owner or HOA that a preventative maintenance plan is needed. If you suspect this is going to be a problem, you can research all your past HVAC repair bills and add up the totals for the last 12 or 24 months. There’s a good chance that if you invested that same amount of money into a preventative maintenance plan, you’d see a decrease in costs over the course of the next 12 months, especially when you consider that a lack of maintenance can lead to the need to completely replace your commercial HVAC unit.
2. Determine the last time your HVAC system was inspected
It’s important to determine when the last inspection was performed on your HVAC system. If the answer is more than 12 months ago, the last time it broke or never, your unit is due for a professional inspection. If you’re not sure if your commercial HVAC unit needs maintenance, take a walk through your building. Are some rooms freezing while others are hot? Have your indoor allergy symptoms increased? Does your building feel humid even when the HVAC system is running? These are all signs that your HVAC unit isn’t operating efficiently.
3. Perform Some Basic Maintenance
There are certain tasks that can be performed by maintenance staff. These include changing the air filter once a month, keeping the outside of the HVAC unit clean by removing trash, twigs and visible debris and checking the unit for leaks and looking for puddles around the unit. These basic tasks can help the efficiency of your HVAC system by ensuring proper airflow around and through the system, and by locating leaks in a timely manner so that they can be investigated by an experienced HVAC technician in Chicago.
4. Create an HVAC Maintenance Plan
Next, create a preventative HVAC maintenance plan. This plan will include things that should be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. For example, daily tasks would involve monitoring the system and looking for parameters that are outside the normal range of operation. BAS systems help with these tasks. Seasonal tasks would include changing the air filter and scheduling an HVAC tune-up or inspection to check for problems with the system, like a dirty chiller or cooling tower and leaking coils. These tasks may also include adding additives to the chiller water in order to inhibit pathogen growth and corrosion.
5. Consider Installing a Building Automation System
If your building doesn’t have a Building Automation System (BAS), consider having one designed for your building and installed. BAS systems help automate building functions, including HVAC operation, lighting and security systems. They can also monitor the sensors in your building and report any anomalies that might require further inspection or the services of a mechanical contractor.
Improving HVAC Efficiency with Maintenance from Althoff
Here at Althoff, we can help you improve the energy efficiency of your HVAC unit with preventative maintenance that includes inspecting all the critical components of your rooftop unit, cleaning the interior and exterior of the unit and ensuring that all your thermostats are set correctly. We can also design and install custom BAS systems to help you manage your heating, cooling and ventilation equipment more efficiently.
To learn more about how we can help you save energy with HVAC maintenance and to schedule an HVAC inspection, give us a call at 800-225-2443. We also handle