A building's HVAC system is often one of the most extensive pieces of infrastructure facility managers are responsible for. Not only do its components often span the entire facility, but the frequency of use the equipment sees on a daily basis makes these systems crucial parts of a building's operation.
With this in mind, facility managers have a vested interest in staying on top of HVAC maintenance, since repairs and replacements on such extensive pieces of equipment can often be prohibitively expensive. However, when it comes to HVAC maintenance, there are a few practices that FMs should be aware of as having potential to increase operations costs in the long run.
HVAC systems tend to have fairly long lifecycles. In fact, a report from the National Association of Home Builders reported that while fixtures such as air conditioners last an average of 10-15 years, other equipment such as water heaters can last up to 20 years, and radiators can often live to see 40 years of service. With equipment lasting in some cases longer than the tenure of a given facility manager, it stands to reason that accumulated repairs over the years can take on an inconsistent, "patchwork" quality.
FacilitiesNet reports that while in general it's cheaper to repair a system than it is to replace it, facility managers and maintenance teams often resort to quick, cheap fixes designed to solve the problem in the short term. Such an approach is appealing from the standpoint of the operations budget, since it keeps immediate building maintenance costs down, but the source noted that it may have consequences in the long run. These fixes can alter the operation of a piece of equipment, making it less efficient as well as making future maintenance even more difficult.
It's inevitable that over time infrastructure will require maintenance and repair. But by taking a preventive approach, facility managers can minimize the need for these patchwork repair operations.
One of the most effective and most basic tools FMs have at their disposal in this regard is the walkthrough. Through increased monitoring of the HVAC system, potential maintenance issues can be spotted early and repaired cheaply. More importantly, this can offer insight into potential problem areas that are not yet maintenance concerns, but that can become repair issues in the future.
Using a CMMS or building maintenance software to log detailed performance information on your HVAC system can both help prevent the need for corrective maintenance, and can offer FMs the most accurate information on equipment lifecycles.