Are you concerned about the performance of your commercial HVAC unit during this most recent heat wave? With the cool weather in June, many property managers envisioned a mild summer. Unfortunately, with the 90 plus degree temps in early July, the comfortable days and cool evenings appear to be gone until fall. This means that your commercial cooling equipment could be working harder than normal and using more electricity than anticipated.
Why Commercial Air Conditioners Can’t Keep up on Extremely Hot Days
It’s no secret that on a hot day, your commercial HVAC in Chicago may not be able to keep up. This is because commercial HVAC systems are sized for the building in relation to the most common temperatures. In Chicago, the average high temperature in July is 81 degrees, according to U.S. Climate Data. With the recent temperatures being in the upper 80s and 90s, your commercial air conditioner may not be able to keep up, leaving the employees, residents and visitors of your building feeling a little hot and sticky. While it can be uncomfortable, it’s actually normal. Your air conditioner was designed to be able to keep up with 98 percent of the weather conditions. Extreme heat days fall under the other 2 percent.
Air Conditioning and Thermal Comfort
When it comes to improving indoor comfort, commercial buildings need to pay attention to thermal comfort, which is covered by ASHRAE Standard 55, which is entitled Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. The standard takes into consideration indoor air temperature, air flow, humidity levels, activity levels of the occupants and the amount of clothing worn by the majority of individuals. Thermal comfort is said to be achieved when 80 percent of the occupants are satisfied with the indoor conditions, or about 8 occupants per every 10 occupants. This means there will still be a few individuals that are either too hot or too cold on most days.
However, if you find yourself getting increasing complaints about the temperature and humidity levels, even when the outdoor temperatures are normal, you may want to conduct a survey to determine if your HVAC equipment is meeting the needs of your employees and residents. If you find that less than 80 percent of your occupants are comfortable, you may need to have your commercial heating and cooling equipment inspected for efficiency and operation.
Air Conditioner Problems Caused by Extreme Heat
Air conditioners are designed to lower the indoor temperatures about 15 to 20 degrees. This means that if your indoor temperature without the A/C would be 100 degrees, the air conditioner should be able to reduce it to between 80 and 85 degrees. It’s important to note that the outside temperature is only part of the equation. The amount of sunlight, humidity levels and insulation in your walls also affects how hot your building would be without the air conditioner operating. For example, if your building has minimal insulation and is sitting in full sun, it’s going to be hotter than a building that has tall trees around it with improved insulation and energy efficient doors and windows. It also means that your commercial HVAC system will work hard to keep your building cool.
When the temperatures outside are extremely high, your commercial cooling equipment may operate continuously or have very short off cycles. This is because the unit cannot keep up with your thermostat settings. In order to combat this problem, it may be beneficial to increase the thermostats in your building by a few degrees. For example, if you normally keep your thermostats set on 72 in the summer during the day, it may be beneficial to increase them to 75 degrees in order to help your air conditioner keep up with the extremely hot temperatures. It will also help control your cooling costs.
Increased Indoor Humidity Levels
Along with increased indoor temperatures, you may also notice an increase in the indoor humidity levels. Commercial HVAC systems are required to control indoor air pollutants by allowing a certain amount of outside air into the building and venting old, stale air. This can result in the indoor air being completely replaced every one to two hours. Unfortunately, all that fresh air also allows moisture into the building, which increases humidity levels.
The solution to this problem involves reducing the amount of fresh air that enters the building, but without advanced air filtering technology, this can lead to unhealthy levels of indoor air pollutants. Fortunately, new HVAC technology is being developed every day, and one of the newer technologies is HLR or HVAC Load Reduction, which utilizes special filters and components in order to clean and recycle indoor air so that it can be reused. This is estimated to reduce the need for outside air by as much as 80 percent while keeping indoor air pollutants and allergens within acceptable ranges.
Increased Wear and Tear
With increased operation due to the high outdoor temperatures and the need to allow hot, humid air into the building in order to offset indoor pollution, your commercial HVAC system in Chicago will experience increased wear and tear. In order to combat this problem and keep your air conditioner running efficiently, you may want to consider more frequent HVAC inspections. HVAC inspections are designed to locate problems within your system before they result in expensive repair bills or your unit failing to operate.
Ensuring Your HVAC System Remains Operational During High Heat Days
At Althoff, Serving Chicago, we can help ensure that your HVAC system remains operational and efficient even during high heat days. We do this by performing comprehensive commercial HVAC inspections and offering energy-saving upgrades and replacements. Our HVAC inspections include checking all the components of your rooftop or ground level HVAC system, ensuring that the coolant levels are optimal and by cleaning the coils and checking fans and motors for correct operation. If we find a problem with your HVAC unit, we will recommend the appropriate repair and provide you with an estimate.
Our energy saving services can help determine if your HVAC unit is sized correctly for your building, if you would benefit from any energy saving retrofits and help optimize your Building Automation System (BAS). If you don’t have a BAS system, we can custom design one for your building so that you can monitor your HVAC system more efficiently.
To learn more about how we can help you beat the heat on hot summer days and to schedule an inspection of your commercial HVAC system, give us a call at 800-225-2443.