Preventive HVAC Maintenance isn’t optional; it’s mandatory.

Building systems are the lifeblood of any facility, notes Robin Suttell (rsuttell@cox.net) in Buildings Magazine. Without lighting, water, or heating and cooling, a building would be uninhabitable. That’s why a strong preventive and predictive HVAC maintenance program isn’t an option; it’s a must.

“Two issues – the asset and the life of the building – can be tied back to the fact that a solid program of preventive maintenance is absolutely paramount,” says Anthony Shaker, Vice President of Operations and Maintenance at UNICCO, Newton, MA. “The better it is maintained, the more likely you’re going to get the appropriate life-cycle from the equipment. If not, it will deteriorate. If you are looking for viable occupancy, you need to maintain the system so people can inhabit the building and [achieve] full productivity.”

A Case for Maintenance
Think of preventive HVAC maintenance in the same way as the preventive maintenance for your car: If you don’t change your oil and filters, the engine will lock up and the vehicle will not operate at its full potential. The same holds true, in a sense, for HVAC systems. “If you spend $30 on an oil change in your car, you will save $3,000 on a new engine,” says Matt Ashwood, president and CEO at Bonded Filter Co., Nashville, TN. “Proper preventive maintenance [for] HVAC equipment will do the same thing.”

Maintenance isn’t expensive compared to what you might need to spend if your system degrades (and ultimately fails). Shaker provides this example: “If you have a piece of equipment that costs $10,000 to maintain and has a forecasted life of 10 years if properly maintained, you will spend only $20,000 from first cost to replacement cost at the 10-year mark, assuming it would cost $10,000 again to replace it at the end of its life-cycle. However, if you did not properly maintain the unit and it failed at the 5-year mark, you would need to spend $10,000 to replace it after 5 years and then replace that same unit again in another 5 years if you continued to not perform maintenance. Your total cost would be $30,000.”

“[Those are] significant savings. Proper maintenance costs a lot less over the life of the equipment than to change out equipment on a more frequent basis,” Shaker says. “The word ‘preventive’ speaks for itself. It keeps things from happening.”

Crafting the Perfect Plan
Two main issues are at the heart of any HVAC maintenance program:

  1. The recommended performance and maintenance tasks for each piece of equipment.
  2. The overall operation of the system in relation to the building in which it’s installed.

“Depending on those two requirements – the sophistication of the equipment, as well as the environment and operation of the overall system – you need to decide if your preventive maintenance plan is a full-maintenance-coverage plan or if there’s an opportunity for system-performance enhancement,” notes Michael P. Bordes, senior vice president at EMCOR Facilities Services and president at Norwalk, CT-based EMCOR Services’ Elmhurst, IL, office.

The first place to turn to if you have questions about how to build a successful HVAC maintenance plan should be right at your fingertips – or at least nearby on a bookshelf or in a desk drawer: It’s the operating and maintenance manual, provided by the manufacturer.

Don’t overlook these maintenance manuals. They provide a concrete blueprint for the steps you need to take to maintain chillers, boilers, motors, air-handling units – every piece of equipment in a building’s HVAC system. “Manufacturers spend a lot of time and money testing their equipment to determine what the maintenance needs are,” says Walter M. D’Ascenzo, senior project manager at Fairfax, VA-based Facility Engineering Associates PC. “They put this information into the manuals; it’s all there in black and white. These maintenance manuals were not dreamt up in a conference room over doughnuts and coffee.”

If you don’t have the original manuals, you can easily get replacements—most can be found online. Call your manufacturer’s representative with the pertinent model and serial numbers, and they can get you the replacement information you need.

Once you have reviewed the manuals and consider your system’s specific needs, you will have all the necessary information to get a successful preventive and predictive maintenance program off the ground – one that is tailored to your building’s HVAC system and operating environment.

While every piece of equipment will need to be replaced eventually, following a stringent, comprehensive maintenance schedule will prolong your building’s HVAC system and maintain not only a healthy bottom line, but happy, satisfied, and comfortable tenants.

This article by Robin Suttell (rsuttell@cox.net) originally appeared in Buildings Magazine. The full article appears here: https://www.buildings.com/article-details/articleid/3183/title/preventive-hvac-maintenance-is-a-good-investment

 

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