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Commercial HVAC System Maintenance: What You Need to Know

Commercial HVAC system maintenance is a must for businesses in every industry to maximize air quality, make their customers and staff comfortable and reign in utility costs. If you’re a business owner or building manager, it’s critical that you keep your commercial HVAC system properly maintained and running on all cylinders. The average commercial HVAC system lasts anywhere from 15 to 25 years; the difference between these two time frames usually lies squarely with the quality and frequency of maintenance. When you’re getting ready to repair or service your commercial HVAC system in NJ or anywhere else, there are a few things you should know before getting started.

How Often Should I Receive Commercial HVAC Maintenance?

Regular commercial HVAC system maintenance is critical to ensuring the health and longevity of your system. It’s highly recommended that businesses have their commercial HVAC systems serviced at least twice a year. In certain environments, such as factories, restaurants and other poorly ventilated spaces, or where there’s more of a strain on air quality, inspection and maintenance may need to occur even more frequently. Other factors that dictate the frequency of maintenance include geography (if you live in Florida or Alaska, you’re probably more inclined to have your system checked more often), age, size and level of use. For commercial HVAC systems in New Jersey, where the weather is still comparatively temperate and diverse, it’s generally advisable to have your system serviced every six months or at the start of the summer and winter seasons.

Common Commercial HVAC Maintenance Issues

As changes in climate lead to more prolonged periods of hot or cold weather, there is more pressure on your commercial HVAC system to run at optimum performance than ever before. At the same time, businesses are spending more and more money on their monthly heating and cooling bills. Your employees and colleagues deserve the benefit of proper ventilation and comfortable temperatures throughout their workday and their consumer experience, and you need to ensure your businesses isn’t throwing good money after bad.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish both of these goals is to ensure that your company is keeping up with regular maintenance issues commonly associated with commercial HVAC systems, and knowing what to expect when hiring a company to conduct said maintenance.

What’s the Difference Between Repair and Maintenance?

There’s a saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This means that maintenance prevents the onset of more damaging issues that can lead to costly and expensive repairs. While these two concepts often go hand in hand, it’s usually because repair issues are unearthed during the commercial HVAC system maintenance process. Maintenance includes everyday tasks that keep your system running at peak performance, and repair is required when a larger problem identified. It’s important to understand the distinction between repair and maintenance to avoid being blindsided by additional costs on which you may not have been counting. While maintenance is often covered by the installer, to a certain point, repair issues identified during and outside of maintenance, are generally a different matter.

What Is Included in Commercial HVAC Maintenance?

There are a multiple key issues that should be addressed during commercial HVAC system maintenance and inspection. Any reputable company will carry out the following tasks to ensure your system is ready for the season and running at optimal performance:

  • Thorough Inspection of Entire System – This includes all system components, including sensors, pulleys, belts, fluid seals, refrigerant charge, electrical and thermostat controls, evaporator and condenser coils, fan and blower motor and more. Technicians should also inspect ignition switches, thermocouples, heat exchangers and the presence and origin of any potential obstructions in air flow. Your maintenance report should include a breakdown of all inspections.
  • Cleaning – One of the most common maintenance and repair issues associated with commercial HVAC systems is inadequate cleaning that obstructs air flow and causes sensors to burnout from over-performance. You will often hear a “choking” or “sputtering” sound as the system tries to push through air but is prevented by dust, debris and other accumulated materials. A routine cleaning of your system, including air filters drain lines and pans, and vacuuming out all dust and debris from helps prevent these minor issues from escalating. Routine cleaning of your commercial HVAC system also helps to alleviate the onset of mold which can lead to airborne illness. Any leaks that are identified should be repaired and sealed immediately.
  • Repairs, Replacements and Oversights – Over time, components of commercial HVAC systems undergo significant wear and tear, and it’s the responsibility of the maintenance technician to identify issues that need repair during the course of their inspection. Whether this means something small and simple like a belt or filter (technicians should always change the air filter during maintenance) or a larger component like a thermocouple or blower motor, it’s critical that you have the right parts and level of performance to keep your system running at 100 percent. This stage of the commercial HVAC maintenance process should also include lubrication of bearings, motors and other moving parts; ensuring no parts are misaligned; checking for air-flow issues in the blower motor and other components.
  • Necessary System Testing and Diagnostics – The only real way to identify the scope and origin of a problem is to start with testing a commercial HVAC system’s overall performance. Testing should take place before and after inspection and maintenance to ensure optimum system performance and safety. Never let a maintenance technician leave their appointment without testing the system after they’ve performed the maintenance. This testing includes firing the system on and off to ensure it stops and starts, as well as making sure that there are no noises to indicate things like loose or damaged components, choked-off airflow and other issues. If you identify any issues at the conclusion of your inspection and maintenance, notify the technician immediately so they may rectify the error.

Very often, companies will have HVAC service agreements that clearly outline what is covered and what is not under their routine inspection and maintenance. Refer to this agreement when dealing with HVAC technicians and determining the best course of action for repair or replacement.

Know Your System

A critical part of the commercial HVAC maintenance process is letting the owners know about large-scale problematic issues that could arise. It may seem inconvenient to get news that your system needs an expensive repair, but it’s the responsibility of the technician to alert owners of all issues to ensure their safety and give them a clear picture of the state of their systems. Technicians should thoroughly explain what, if any, repairs are needed and why, including what the issue is, why it matters, how much it will cost to repair, and risks that can arise from inaction. Knowledge is power.

Old Vs. New: Dealing with An Aging Commercial HVAC Systems

The maintenance on an older commercial HVAC system will be quite different, and more expensive, than those with less “mileage” on them. Just some of the issues that arise from an aging system include lack of efficiency, more frequent repair issues and a general decline in quality. Whether it’s having to constantly replace belts or deal with more serious leaking for mold issues, over time these issues can become increasingly problematic and unsafe. The more you have your commercial HVAC system inspected, the better an idea you will have of its overall long-term condition and repair needs as the years progress.

When You Need More than Maintenance

The reality of older HVAC systems, like anything else, is that sometimes maintenance just isn’t enough. The more money you throw into repairing your aging unit, the less of a sound investment it becomes. At the same time, you owe it your company, your customers, your staff and your monthly bottom line to have a reliable, fully performing system in place. When it comes to environmental quality of your daily operations, there is perhaps no greater investment you can make than a proper commercial HVAC system. If your system has surpassed that tell-tale 15-year mark, it might be time to consider a replacement sooner rather than later.

Let UMG Help with Your Commercial HVAC Installation and Maintenance

When it finally comes time to repair your commercial HVAC unit in NJ or NYC, Universal Mechanical Group is ready to offer exemplary service, competitive pricing and state-of-the-art products. Our licensed and qualified efforts have decades of experience providing businesses throughout New Jersey with the HVAC and plumbing services they need to have peace of mind and comfort while running their business. Whether you need routine maintenance, large-scale repair or replacement or installation of an entirely new unit, we’re ready to take care of it all. We service the commercial HVAC needs of all types of organizations, from schools to churches to restaurants, non-profits, retail chains and more. Our technicians are available 24-7 to help.

Call us now at 973-866-5445 or fill out our web form to let us know what we can do for you.

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