HVAC maintenance is NOT a job for the amateur handyman, that’s for certain.
You’ve probably seen plenty of billboards, fleet vehicles and other advertisements with the word HVAC on it. Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning. It’s just one of those things that everyone takes for granted, but as soon as it’s gone, we seek immediate aid. In fact, modern living would be impossible without it.
Temperature control is not just a modern convenience—it’s a foundational necessity our entire civilization is built upon. We can’t control the weather, but we can control the atmosphere inside of our homes and commercial buildings. Temperature control is pretty obvious, but ventilation is also incredibly important. Air doesn’t move well inside of a building, causing molds, odors, allergens and other unpleasant side effects of stale air to build up.
Given the fact that we spend much of our time inside of these buildings, controlling the temperature and air quality within them is of primary importance. While it can be easy to forget, the HVAC systems that control the internal atmosphere of your building are hard-working machines that require regularly scheduled maintenance.
…which means you’ll be seeing your HVAC specialist at least a couple of times each year.
The changing seasons bring associated difficulties, putting pressure on different components of your HVAC systems during certain times of year. Pollen from trees can build up, sometimes within only a few days, and clog a rooftop and other exposed units. Fluctuating temperatures can cause lines to freeze, or make a system overheat. Regardless of what time of year, there will always be something.
This is why your HVAC systems need to be regularly monitored, maintained and upgraded as necessary. This won’t just prolong the life of your equipment, but it will also help to save money in energy usage. However, while saving money is a great added benefit, it’s not the main concern. Your HVAC needs to be maintained by professionals. Repairing an HVAC problem (and/or replacing your unit or various parts) can be prohibitively expensive. That’s why preventative HVAC maintenance is key. A rooftop unit can easily cost $30,000 or more, and if it’s not properly serviced, it’ll burn out and need replacing. Burn out can happen in as little as a year—so keeping on top of your HVAC preventative maintenance schedule is very important.
It’s not a matter of “IF” but a matter of “WHEN.” These systems need professional care, and you just can’t afford to neglect it. Winter is coming—so here’s what you need to know about your HVAC Tune Up.
Regularly scheduled professional maintenance is the only sure way to keep your HVAC running smoothly, and ensures that you’ll never be without it. Here are the major areas of importance. We’ve organized this list by: problem, cause of problem, results of failure and seasonal scheduled maintenance priority.
Compressor Can Blow Out (Spring & Fall)
This will happen if your HVAC’s filters are not cleaned or replaced on a regular basis. Dirty filters make the compressor work harder, and eventually it will fail. When the compressor finally fails and burns up, it fills the lines with burnt refrigerant and oil, creating a mess that costs thousands of dollars and requires a very long cleaning process. Replacing the compressor, refrigerant and oil will be expensive, and cleaning the lines of the system after a compressor burn out will also cost an excruciating amount in labor hours alone. Filters are much cheaper.
Bad Belts Can Catch Fire! (Inspect At Least Once/Year)
Just like your car, belts wear out. Loud, annoying and dangerous—that pretty much sums up this problem. When HVAC belts fail, they can cause major damage to the internal workings of your HVAC unit—mainly by starting fires: parts seize up and the belt itself can start on fire. If you’re anywhere near your HVAC units when a belt is going bad, you’ll know it. They make a lot of noise—an unmistakable warning sign. If your unit is loud or smoking, call an HVAC technician immediately. Your best bet is to have your HVAC belts inspected at least once a year.
Heating Section Trouble (Fall)
A lot of things can go wrong with your heating section, resulting in HVAC failure and a loss of heat during the winter. That and toxic air. Things like gas valves, gas lines and connection leaks can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) buildup from exhaust gasses. Not having heat is bad, but breathing toxic air is worse. Both require immediate building evacuations, and people cannot work or live in your building until these problems are resolved. CO poisoning is deadly, so be sure you have carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your establishment.
Ventilation Issues (Spring & Fall)
This problem is directly related to CO poisoning as well. Blocked exhaust vents, inadequate intake air and duct leaks can cause toxic air too, and similar to leaking gas lines, valves and connectors, ventilation problems can result in building evacuations—and can also be deadly. All of your HVAC equipment needs to be vented properly, and this requires regular ventilation maintenance checks. (And while we’re on the subject, check the ventilation for all your other gas-fired equipment too, like your water heater.)
Coil Evaporator and Condenser Failure (Spring and Fall)
By not cleaning and treating these HVAC components, they will cause the compressor to fail, resulting in the same problem as not maintaining the compressor filter. Again, this is an incredibly costly and wasteful part to fix/replace. Without the proper maintenance, the compressor will go out. It’s only a matter of time.
Broken Pipes (Fall)
If the lines and water pipes are not insulated properly, they’ll freeze and burst in winter. This can happen anywhere from within the boiler room, all the way to the rooftop. Burst pipes means flooding. It also means that HVAC units connected to them can no longer function properly—which may result in HVAC unit failure and the need for replacement.
Here’s a quick list of warning signs. Call your HVAC service provider immediately if any of these warning signs are noticed.
Signs of Trouble:
- Higher than normal energy bills
- Heating/cooling not maintaining normal or consistent temperatures
- Headaches (literally, not figuratively – headaches are a common side effect of CO exposure!)
- Occupants’ allergies get worse inside
As you can see, spring and fall are the two most important seasons when it comes to scheduling HVAC maintenance. And with fall upon us, now’s the time to be thinking about winterizing your HVAC equipment.
Taking these precautions will aid you in finding and maintaining a good relationship with your HVAC specialists. While some components need to be monitored seasonally, others just need to be checked on once or twice a year. Each component of this system has its own vulnerabilities and care requirements.
HVAC specialists have multiple certifications across these various elements and the tools to do the job right. HVAC maintenance is NOT a job for the amateur handyman, that’s for certain.
Don’t wait. You simply can’t afford it. If you don’t have a regular HVAC maintenance schedule, now is the time to start. Call your HVAC professional today.
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