HVAC Systems & Maintenance:
Everything You Need to Know
What is an HVAC System?
Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed to heat and cool commercial, industrial and residential buildings. They may also provide the appropriate amount of fresh air to combat the pollutants and contaminants that are expelled from interior furnishings and chemicals used during cleaning and other harmful airborne agents.
A well-designed and maintained HVAC system will provide a comfortable indoor climate year-round.
What Makes Up Your HVAC System?
Your HVAC system is the source of cooling off on a hot summer’s day and keeping you warm and cozy on those cold winter days. You should understand how it works. HVAC systems contain components that are on the interior and exterior of your building. Together, they ensure a comfortable space.
Here is an example of a common HVAC system:
- Thermostat: This is the piece of your HVAC system you will interact with the most. It allows you to control the temperature, either manually or programmed automatically to adjust on a timer. When the air temperature drops below a set point in heating mode, the thermostat turns on the heat source. In cooling mode, when the temperature rises above a set point, the thermostat turns on the A/C and the fan in your air handling unit.
- Air Handling Unit: This can be a piece of equipment that is dedicated to only circulate air across a heating or cooling coil, or it can be a “furnace” that internally heats the air with gas or electric heat. Either way, this piece of equipment is designed to deliver heated or cooled air to the various supply ducts throughout your building.
- Vents: Vents are 1 of 2 styles, either a “return air” or a “supply air.” Return air vents pull cold air back to your air handling unit. Your air handler then heats or cools the air. Then the heated or cooled air is sent to the facility through the supply vents.
- Evaporator Coil: Connected to your outdoor condensing unit, the evaporator coil is responsible for absorbing heat from inside your facility. This keeps your facility cool and drastically reduces the humidity inside your structure.
- Condensing Unit: This can be found outside of your facility and is filled will something called refrigerant gas. It is responsible for condensing the refrigerant gas back to a liquid.
- Refrigerant Lines: These are responsible for transferring refrigerant from the condensing unit to the evaporator coil.
While a version of these pieces makes up nearly every HVAC system, it is important to keep spare parts on hand in case of an emergency or a quick fix. Keeping these parts stocked will save you valuable downtime, service costs, and labor to fix your HVAC unit.
How Can You Reduce the Stress on Your HVAC?
If you can effectively reduce the stress on your HVAC equipment, it will be sure to save yourself some stress, time and money in the future. As a facility manager, you need to take care of your equipment. Stress can be added at any time, but especially when the flowers are blooming and the leaves are changing colors. Here are a few ways you can help reduce the stress on your equipment:
- Changing Filters – Your HVAC is hard at work every single day, collecting dust and debris that can enter your facility. Over time, that dust and debris can add up, lowering efficiency, increasing operating costs, shortening equipment life span, and damaging your equipment.
- Ventilation – Ensure all vents are free and clear of obstruction. This is true for supply air registers, return air registers, fresh air intakes, exhaust louvers, furnace vents, and outdoor unit coils.
- Cleaning Coils – This tip pertains to any and every HVAC system. HVAC coils have tiny grooves that can be packed with pollen, debris, and vegetation. You can prevent further damage, downtime, and costly repairs by simply keeping your coils clean. Please do this safely as it can be dangerous if done improperly. Remember, just because it looks clean does not mean that it is clean! Call or contact Rasmussen Mechanical Services to ensure coils are properly and safely cleaned!
How Can You Be Prepared for an HVAC Shutdown?
If the stress on your HVAC becomes too great, your equipment will shut down and cost you to repair it or even more to replace it. Setting an action plan in place will help limit the catastrophic effects of an unexpected plant shutdown. However, if your shutdown plan is executed to a tee, your plant has much better odds of remaining safe and efficient in the long run.
While the word “shutdown” strikes fear in most people, they are not all bad. They can be necessary to implement the required equipment changes or policy amendments so that your facility can run on all cylinders in the future. Many shutdowns occur for simple cleaning, inspection and repair. Nonetheless, shutdowns boil down to three processes: plan, execute and analyze.
- Plan: Your plan needs to be in place before you can begin working on your plant. Here is where you plan out what replacements, repairs and upgrades are needed. Once duties are delegated and discussed, your team can begin working on improving your equipment.
- Execute: Time is ticking. The execution process requires that your plan is completed with speed and a critical eye, so any important pieces are not overlooked.
- Analyze: Here is when you examine the changes made and ensure they line up with the original plan. In many cases, reports are created to make record keeping easier.
HVAC Parts to Keep on Hand
For HVAC shutdowns, following the steps above will surely help you. Another way to lower your costs even further is to keep spare parts around your shop. Below is a list of what you can keep in stock to limit further expenses!
- Air filters
- Coil Condenser Cleaners
- Fan Motor
- Thermostat Batteries
What Preventative Measures Can You Take to Help Your HVAC?
Before you can take preventative steps, you must understand the cost of your HVAC. From there, you can take the correct measures and plan out how you can maintain your system. One important thing you must keep in mind is to take your costs further than the mere purchase price and installation. On average, a well-serviced HVAC will last 20-25 years. It is much more than a receipt for your accountant; it is an investment to your facility.
Having a critical eye when selecting your HVAC system will help you in the long run. Here are a few things you need to do when evaluating the cost of your HVAC:
- Compare different HVAC systems. Asking questions about the average lifespan of a particular system or unit can help you determine which one to select. For example, if a unit is projected to outlive a cheaper unit by 15 years, you may want to invest more now, so you don’t have to worry about preventative costs later on down the road.
- Analyze the designs of various HVAC systems. It may be cheaper for your HVAC to be designed one way for installation, but it can also leave you scrambling and bleeding money later on. If you need help with the design of your HVAC, contact our designers. Your HVAC system needs to be thought of as an investment, not a cost. We all think of investments for the long haul, your HVAC equipment should be no different! Cheap does not equal better, quite the contrary in the long run.
The proof is evident. Check out our article “Understanding the Costs of an Energy Efficient HVAC System” today and discover how plants were able to cut their expenses today!
Now that you can effectively select the HVAC system, it is time to understand how to maintain your equipment. Regular maintenance and tracking the performance of your equipment will keep you ahead of disaster. Preventative maintenance is the best thing you can do to save money and conserve energy. Here are a few tips to help the performance of your HVAC:
- Keep your lines clear of any obstruction. A clogged drainage line can cause a build-up that can produce mildew or mold, along with substantial equipment damage
- Make sure your gas fired equipment is burning properly to prevent damage to the equipment, inefficient operation, and health hazards to your employees.
- Programming your thermostat correctly can help your efficiency as well. A thermostat set for optimal energy saving will surely set your facility performance up for excellence.
For our entire list, download the HVAC Preventative Maintenance checklist today!
FAQs on All Things HVAC
HVAC systems are complicated pieces of equipment that are vital to your facility. However, they are rather simple to fix if your problems are minor. Here are just a few that are at the top of our list:
When should I replace my air filter?
It is considered best practice to replace your air filters at a minimum of four times a year or as the seasons change. Check your filters once a month for a year to see how your location and the seasons affect the frequency at which you should change your filters. If it is cooling season and your air conditioner is freezing, check your air filters. You could be restricting air flow.
What is the best way to heat/cool my home?
The best HVAC system never runs. This, of course, depends on the location your home is in. If you live in a moderate climate like Northern California, you can take advantage of free cooling for most of the year. However, if you’re in the midwest, you need equipment that is capable of utilizing outside air to cool your facility when outdoor air conditions are acceptable for pulling that air into the facility if you don’t mind the aesthetics that is. Mini-split systems are cost and energy efficient but aren’t the most appealing because the indoor (evaporator) units are hung on walls. If your budget allows for it, central air systems coupled with radiant heating and/or cooling provide 40% reduction in operating costs. This is because forced air systems have to heat the entire space before a thermostat reaches its set point. Radiant systems heat or cool the objects within the space and achieve this at lower temperatures.
How often should I have my equipment serviced?
It depends on the age, type and location of your building’s equipment. It’s considered best practice to service your equipment at least four times a year or as the seasons change. You may find that some pieces of equipment need to be serviced more frequently than others.
Check out some other questions we get so you can save yourself some time!
HVAC systems are vital to the comfortability of your work environment. They are relatively simple to maintain but can cost your company a fortune if issues are ignored or preventative measures are not taken. Want us to take a closer look? We’d be glad to! Contact us, and we can give you an estimate for your system.