There are many different parts of a facility that all have to work in tandem for the building to operate at peak efficiency. In many instances, if just one of those elements is out of sync, it can have a tremendous impact that ripples through the rest of the building. There are perhaps few of your building's systems that embody this truth more acutely than your HVAC.
Especially in the heat of summer, your facility's AC is going to be the star of the show for months on end. A climate-controlled building can feel like a godsend in the middle of a heat wave, but, if your AC goes on the fritz, you can rest assured that you'll hear no end of complaints from your building's occupants.
As with most elements of building maintenance, prevention is the key to keeping your HVAC in working order.
You already conduct regular inspections of your building as part of your preventive maintenance strategy. The important thing to remember when doing walkthroughs of your essential infrastructure is that any problems you find, no matter how insignificant they may seem, should be addressed right away.
From a short-term, cost-centric perspective, it may seem like a good idea to hold off on spending time and manpower on fixing problems that aren't essential. After all, as long as your HVAC system is still running, you don't have a problem, right? Not only is this short-sighted, but it can come back to bite you in a very real way. Not only are deferred maintenance issues far more expensive to fix later down the road than they would be when you first encounter them, but inefficient operation due to an outstanding maintenance issue can mean that your building isn't performing as well as it could be. As a result, you could be wasting money on inefficient water or energy consumption.
Not surprisingly, energy efficiency is a key aspect of maintaining your HVAC system's performance. By increasing the energy efficiency of your infrastructure, you may be able to extend the lifecycle of your equipment and reduce future expenditures, not to mention keep energy-related utility costs under control.
There are a variety of ways to achieve greater efficiency, including some new techniques, such as a variable refrigerant unit. This trend comes to the U.S. from long years of use in Asia and Europe, where it's proven to be much more efficient than standard models used in facilities here at home.
Of course, not every update or retrofit is necessary, or even a good idea. As a facility manager, your job is to balance operational efficiency with budgetary requirements and the needs of your occupants.
This means that just because you could retrofit your HVAC to be significantly more energy efficient, doing so may eat into your capital budget more than is feasible. Similarly, while newer systems may require less regular maintenance than older equipment, the more complex a new system is, the greater your maintenance responsibility will be when it comes to maintaining it.
A building's HVAC system is one of the most complex parts of its operation, and your scheduled maintenance should reflect this. In addition to registers, ducts, vents and other indoor elements, be sure to inspect the outdoor part of your HVAC. Exposure to weather and even animals can jeopardize performance, so be sure you don't overlook this.
Also, keep in mind that the small stuff matters just as much. If you're seeing your CMMS or building management system reporting faulty performance but see no signs of damage to your HVAC system itself, the problem may instead be with your thermostat.