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March 23, 2011 -
Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Take a close look at maintenance issues when considering an HVAC system upgrade.
There are many factors to weigh when evaluating the feasibility of an HVAC system upgrade. Potential benefits range from reduced energy use to improved comfort to improved reliability. But as HVAC systems age, maintenance requirements also increase. Yet maintenance costs are too often ignored when system retrofits are being evaluated. In fact, as long as a system doesn’t stop working, it might not even be considered as a retrofit candidate. But just because an HVAC system is able to limp along doesn’t mean it is operating efficiently or meeting the requirements of the application.
When a facility manager is considering an HVAC upgrade, it is worthwhile to look through maintenance records for the building. High maintenance costs and increasing maintenance requirements are an indication that those systems or components might be approaching the end of their service lives. Facility executives should set priorities for HVAC system retrofits based in part on maintenance requirements.
Another factor to consider is the availability of replacement parts. When components for a particular system are no longer manufactured, or if the manufacturer should go out of business, it is only a matter of time before it will be necessary to replace the system. This has happened frequently with building automation systems.
Consider also the maintenance requirements of the HVAC systems and components that are being installed as part of the retrofit. Can they be maintained by in-house personnel, or will the maintenance have to be performed by an outside party under contract? What tools and training will be required if the system is to be properly operated and maintained? What are the projected maintenance costs? Ignoring maintenance requirements for the upgraded system will only guarantee having to retrofit the system before it would otherwise be necessary.