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Air Conditioner Basics All Facility Manager's Should Know

Air Conditioner Basics All Facilities Managers Should Know

As a facilities manager, you are responsible for keeping your building at a steady and comfortable temperature throughout the year. Regardless of the season, you must ensure your building’s HVAC system functions properly and puts out the right amount of heating or air conditioning for the entire premise. You can accomplish this important goal in the summer months by learning about the basics of air conditioning that all facility managers like you should know. 

Types of HVAC Systems

Before you can maintain and service your HVAC system, you need to know first what kinds of systems are commonly used in commercial buildings like yours. The most common types of HVAC systems utilized today include: 

  • Constant volume 
  • Variable volume
  • Hybrid split ducts
  • Packaged heating and cooling
  • Heating and AC split
  • Heat pumps
  • Forced air
  • Multiple zones

These systems are most often used in commercial buildings and when properly serviced can maintain a steady temperature throughout large areas like office buildings, retail centers, and other similar properties.

Common Causes of HVAC Problems

Facility managers also need to understand and be able to identify the most common causes that result in HVAC issues. These systems can develop any number of challenges over time. By knowing about the ones that commonly afflict HVAC systems, you can be ready to address them if or when they arise in your building.

For example, challenges with air flow in the building can be caused by factors like: 

  • Clogged air filters
  • Leaky ductwork
  • Closed registers or blocked veins
  • Obstructed condensing units

Further, when your system is blowing out hot air, you may check it for dirty coils, filters, lines, and drains. Debris and dirt can get into any of these components, causing the system to malfunction and blow out hot instead of cool air. 

Likewise, a low refrigerant charge can also cause an HVAC system to blow out hot air. If the refrigerant in the system gets too low, the entire system could malfunction or stop working entirely. 

Low refrigerant can also be caused by corroded coils. If the coils and lines are not cleaned and serviced often, it can lead to small leaks developing throughout the entire system. 

These small leaks may cause the HVAC system to stop blowing out cold air and struggle to maintain a steady temperature during the summertime. It may run constantly to compensate for these leaks and cause its own coils to freeze as well as the compressor to fail. 

Finally, electrical issues can cause the breakdown of an entire HVAC system. Damaged parts like capacitors, wiring, and other parts can cause the circuit breakers in the system to trip and the system to stop working as it should.

Prevention of HVAC Breakdowns 

You can prevent many of the most common breakdowns that HVAC systems experience by taking preventative measures for your building. The best steps you can take to protect your building’s HVAC system include: 

  • Maintaining the entire system at least two to three times per year
  • Cleaning coils to prevent refrigerant leaks
  • Changing the filters to improve indoor air quality and maintain consistent air flow
  • Keeping the equipment free from clutter and debris
  • Avoiding closing, taping, or blocking the vents to maintain a steady temperature in the building

These simple yet important measures can go a long way in preventing serious breakdowns of your HVAC system.

The HVAC system in your building is important to its overall comfort and safety. This system requires regular maintenance and careful attention to its parts and equipment. By knowing what issues often arise with these systems and what measures you can take to prevent them, you can keep your building comfortable and cool during the hottest parts of the year.

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Is it Time to Upgrade Your Long Island Property’s HVAC System?

long Island hvac system replacement

This is the time of year when most Long Island properties are in the lull between the need for heat and the need for air conditioning. That being said, it will soon be time to turn on your building’s central air conditioning system.  If you are planning to repair or replace your HVAC units or furnaces, now is the time. But do you know if it makes more sense to replace aging units or just maintain them for another season?

With regular maintenance, most commercial HVAC systems last between 15-20 years. If your system is close to the end of its lifespan, it may make financial and logistical sense to upgrade your property’s units. A scheduled replacement is much less difficult to deal with than having to close your building for an extended period of time because you waited until it stopped working to replace it. When you schedule a replacement, you can prepare the tenants in your building(s) and may not even have to close your building, depending on the time of year and the weather.

There are close to five million commercial buildings in the United States today.  Some of these facilities were built or upgraded in recent years with the latest in technology and systems for occupant comfort and convenience, but many others still rely on outdated technology in their HVAC systems.

Commercial buildings consume just over 30 percent of the energy produced in the United States. Heating and cooling costs account for 40 percent of a commercial building’s total electricity bill. Building managers are always looking for ways to cut costs. Some of the greatest cost-cutting opportunity lies with the HVAC system, a property’s biggest energy user and highest controllable expense. Local utility companies throughout the country offer rebates and other business programs that will subsidize and facilitate commercial energy efficiency systems, further reducing the installation expenses associated with an upgrade.

In the next few years, the HVAC systems that were installed in the 1990s will be reaching their end of life. As your building’s equipment ages, maintenance and operating costs increase and reliability decreases.  Today’s heating and cooling systems have made substantial advances in design and efficiency, so facilities managers can look forward to significant operational benefits if they upgrade some or all of the building’s HVAC system.

How Do You Decide Whether to Make Repairs or Replace Your HVAC Units?

One way to know if replacement is the right choice is to check your furnace’s annual fuel utilization efficiency rating (AFUE). This number measures how efficient your unit is in converting fuel energy into heat. The higher the rating, the more efficient it is. For example, an 80 percent AFUE rating on a gas furnace means 20 percent of the heating will escape out the chimney or elsewhere.

The general rule of thumb is: If annual repair costs are more than 10 percent of what it would cost to replace the unit, you may as well replace it. A 10 percent return on capital is a solid return in today’s environment—especially if you’re able to invest in something far more efficient.

According to information from the Department of Energy, replacing an older furnace or boiler with a high efficiency unit, together with upgrades to flues, vents and other systems, can cut energy consumption in half. This is a big improvement over older, low-efficiency systems that log AFUE ratings of only 56 to 70 percent.

If you do decide to switch out your units, be sure to let your accountant know. IRS MACRS rules require that landlords depreciate HVAC units and furnaces in residential properties over 27.5 years. Most units will not last that long, so you will want your accountant to know that you are upgrading out this capital equipment so they can work with you to claim accelerated depreciation when you replace the old units. If you decide to repair instead of replace, you will also see some benefits, as repair costs are generally fully deductible in the current tax year.

Installing a high efficiency HVAC system allows you to effectively manage energy consumption, leading to better indoor air quality, lower costs, and a reduced carbon footprint. Along with regularly scheduled preventative maintenance, your high efficiency HVAC system can actually lower your total energy consumption by up to 50%. During peak summer months, your new system can save you a minimum of 15 percent off of your utility bill, potentially freeing thousands of dollars to allocate elsewhere. When making the decision whether to repair or replace your HVAC system, carefully weigh the pros and cons and consult with your building’s facility maintenance team to determine the most appropriate course of action.

Contact IFMA-Long Island bronze sponsor, Kelair, Inc. for all of your industrial and commercial HVAC needs.

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HVAC System Fires On The Rise: What You Need To Know

HVAC Maintenance Long Island

The primary job of all facility, property, and energy managers is to keep their buildings' occupants safe. In January 2017 there have been no less than six reports of fires related to faulty HVAC systems. The silver lining to these bad reports is that none of these incidents led to any serious injury or death.

However, these fires have raised the question of what facility professionals can do to ensure their properties' HVAC systems are safe and operating properly. If your maintenace is overdue, this post is a reminder to have your system inspected to make sure its is not only running efficiently, but also safely.

For specifics on these recently reported HVAC files, read the complete article on the Energy Manager Today website.

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