Maintenance Q&As

Should you perform HVAC preventive maintenance?

Answered April 22 2019

If you’ve ever experienced a broken air conditioner on a particularly hot day, your answer to this question is probably a resounding yes. Moreso than feeling uncomfortable, though, performing preventive maintenance (PM) on HVAC systems is a matter of saving money and fulfilling a responsibility to tenants.

In general, preventive equipment maintenance is a good idea for buildings and facilities – catching issues quickly helps avoid any unnecessary damage and makes tenants’ lives simpler. Sometimes, though, building managers will shirk their maintenance plans, thinking that they can save some money by pushing repairs to a later date.

I like to think of this like the old boot example. Buy a pair of 10 dollar boots and you’ll replace those boots 10 or 15 times over. Buy 1 pair of 100 dollar boots and you’ll have them for decades.

HVAC systems are the same way: you can stay on top of repairs and perform regular maintenance, thus saving the cost of a new HVAC system, or push repairs off until the entire system breaks. At this point, you have to spend an enormous amount of money replacing the system, as well as depriving the residents of the building the ability to use the heating or air conditioning. In this way, the loss is twofold: you’ve lost money on the HVAC system, and you’ve lost some good faith with the residents (who definitely don’t want to brave 100 degree days without AC).

What is a good preventive maintenance program for HVACs?

A well-functioning HVAC system provides the comfortable environments we live, work, and recreate in. It’s such an important backdrop to our lives that we often take it for granted; that is, until something doesn’t work. When the furnace breaks down in the winter or the air conditioning fails in summer’s heat, it’s often an emergency and one that can generate a great deal of discomfort.

For facilities and complexes, a good preventive maintenance program is even more critical because a working HVAC system impacts the business’ ability to fulfill its core mission and keep its production or service lines up and running. Here are some important components of putting together a reliable maintenance program for your HVAC system.

Start With Owner’s Manuals

The first and easiest things to reference are the owner’s manuals that come with your HVAC system. Depending on the size of your facility, this may be one booklet or a series of manuals for different pieces of equipment. HVAC manufacturers spend a great deal of time and money testing their equipment and provide you the information you need to take care of it.

Prioritize Important Tasks

Some aspects of HVAC preventive maintenance are no-brainers. For instance, you have to change the oil, belts, and filters regularly to keep everything running smoothly. After these items, you’ll want to look for ways to maximize efficiency by cleaning items such as air-handler coils and boilers. According to Buildings.com, one-sixteenth of an inch of soot in the heat-exchange area can drop your boiler’s efficiency by 10 percent.

Integrate With CMMS

Once you understand the tasks that need to be done and at what intervals, enter all this information into a CMMS to help you automatically schedule, perform, and track your HVAC maintenance. If you want to invest in a building automation system, this data can also be integrated into your CMMS.

By using a CMMS, you can build a solid HVAC preventive maintenance program that provides a complete history of inspections, work, and repair as well as the costs and resources required for the maintenance tasks. In the long run, that means you’ll have better information to make smarter decisions moving forward saving you time and money.

Obviously, a point will come when the HVAC system needs to be replaced. When this comes, you might feel as though any maintenance efforts have been wasted. I think you’ll find that the cost of maintaining an HVAC system over its lifetime ends up being far less expensive than replacing it every time it breaks catastrophically, though.

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