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9 Ways to Determine Whether HVAC Repair or Replacement Is Your Next Step
Inefficient HVAC systems not only cost businesses money, they can also lead to health, comfort and productivity issues among employees and customers. Therefore, understanding the HVAC system in a building and determining whether it needs to be repaired or replaced is one of the most effective actions that can be taken to fully optimize nearly every aspect of a business.
Some business or building owners or managers attempt to put off HVAC repairs or replacements, hoping to defer the costs until a later date. But doing so only leads to greater expenses down the road and sometimes even in the short term. Tracking the maintenance needs of a commercial HVAC system and preventing it from a "run to failure" can reduce monthly utility bills, keep eventual repair costs down and vastly improve the work environment.
For building owners or managers who are experiencing substandard HVAC operation, here are 9 questions to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace a commercial HVAC system.
- When should a business consult an HVAC contractor?
When deciding between an HVAC repair or replacement, it is best to get help from someone with the necessary experience and certifications for the best possible guidance. That makes consulting an experienced HVAC contractor essential to getting the most out of any work that is done.
- How old is the current HVAC system?
Finding out more information about a building's current system, including its age and repair history, will help make repair decisions and working with an HVAC contractor much simpler. The older the system, the more likely it is that replacement will be the best option. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, furnaces and boilers usually need to be replaced at least once every 15 years. For air-conditioning units, 10 years is the suggested lifespan.
- Are utility bills higher than expected?
Inefficient commercial HVAC system operation, rate increases or energy misuses by employees are all considering factors that can lead to higher utility bills. To better monitor their utility bills, businesses should compare current energy use for gas and electricity to the prior usages. Evaluate the way the HVAC system has been used in the past and how it is used now. If there haven’t been major changes in usage, the higher bills are probably a sign that the HVAC system is in need of repair or replacement.
- Are indoor spaces not being heated or cooled properly?
Heating and cooling systems might cycle on and off too frequently and employees may regularly complain about an uncomfortable work environment. If standard tune-ups and adjustments aren’t resolving the issue, HVAC repair or total system replacement may be necessary.
- Are indoor air quality and airflow not up to standard?
Clean air and a balanced airflow are important to making a business as healthy and productive as possible. Upgrades, including demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) and enhanced ventilation control (EVC), can solve many air quality and airflow problems. Otherwise, the ventilation system itself might need to be replaced.
- What simple steps can be taken to improve HVAC efficiency?
Sometimes there are relatively simple methods to improve commercial HVAC efficiency. These include installing new insulation, tightening the building’s shell by looking for and sealing any cracks, changing air filters, tuning up HVAC equipment, and installing efficiency controls such as programmable thermostats.
- How will an HVAC quality maintenance plan help with efficiency?
Working with an HVAC contractor to set up a long-term quality maintenance program will extend the lifespan of the current system by outlining best practices for building staff and employees. Plans such as PG&E’s Commercial HVAC Quality Maintenance Program can get businesses into the pattern of maintaining their HVAC unit to prevent system failures that can threaten business operations.1 In the case of HVAC replacement, a detailed quality maintenance plan will help improve efficiency even further by laying the groundwork for the optimal way to use the system over the course of the ensuing months and years.
- Which products and technologies should be considered when performing HVAC repairs or replacement?
There are many newer products on the market, including digital controls for air-conditioning economizers and energy-recovery ventilation systems, which can improve HVAC efficiency and performance. Businesses can additionally turn to such resources as the U.S. Department of Energy's ENERGY STAR program, which provides information on energy-efficient products, many of which also qualify for incentives from PG&E.
- How can a business ensure proper installation of a new HVAC system?
Improper installation can reduce HVAC system efficiency by up to 30%.2 To avoid mitigating the effectiveness of a new or repaired system, businesses should do their homework before choosing an HVAC technician. Utilize existing information, such as PG&E's Trade Professional Alliance Online Directory, to find contractors that can help with an HVAC repair or replacement.
Understanding a business's HVAC system to know when it is not operating properly is one of many ways to determine whether a repair or replacement is necessary. Working with an HVAC contractor can help businesses identify whether the processes they need to initiate, to either repair or replace their HVAC system, are simple or more complex.
Download "The Complete Guide to Working with a Lighting or HVAC Contractor" eBook from PG&E and go beyond the deliberation stage in repairing or replacing an HVAC system. Explore product and incentive options with a contractor to improve system operation and further develop a long-term quality maintenance plan.
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