08/25/2003

HVAC: Repair or Replace?

Follow These Clearly Defined Steps

 

Maintenance is a Good Investment


Faults can be more costly than failures.

  • Equipment failures require service. But certain faults, due to degrading equipment, also require service in a less obvious way.
  • Every day that performance is degraded, it adds another day of costs. Day after day, these costs accumulate, and end up costing more than repairing an outright failure.

Degraded performance adds costs:

  • Higher energy bills – HVAC systems average 30 percent of a building’s energy consumption. Poor performance can increase energy consumption from 20 to 50 percent.
  • Early compressor failure – raises the cost of equipment ownership because compressor replacement is the most expensive repair.

How does service produce a payback?

When performance of degrading equipment is restored, it produces an immediate payback by:

  • Eliminating problem areas and improving occupant comfort.
  • Extending the life of the most important and expensive component in your rooftop unit – the compressor.

Timely service delivers value.

Correcting deteriorating performance is far less expensive than waiting for failures to occur. Restoring performance saves energy, ensures equipment uptime, improves budgeting by reducing the number of units at risk, and keeps occupants comfortable and productive.

SOURCE: YORK SERVICE (www.york.com)

As warmer weather taxes aging air-conditioning systems, the decision whether to repair an older rooftop unit or replace it with a newer, higher efficiency system may loom large for some commercial property owners.

Most light-commercial HVAC products are designed for a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. However, factors beyond the control of the original equipment manufacturer dictate the actual reliability and cost effectiveness of operating the equipment during its useful life period. That’s why it’s important to carefully examine each piece of equipment before reaching a decision to repair or replace a system.

Understand the History of Your System

A careful examination begins with the collection of all available information regarding the system, including records of the original installation, periodic maintenance, and repairs. If you do not have this information, contact servicing contractors and let them know you are evaluating your equipment to determine whether or not you will be replacing it. Cooperation will usually follow, and you will have the opportunity to “size up” the contractor for consideration when doing future maintenance, repairs, or replacement.

If you do not have a file on each piece of equipment, start one. In addition to the records you collect, be sure to include the manufacturer’s model and serial number, individual unit or site reference numbers, installation and operating instructions, warranty information, and factory- or contractor-backed service and maintenance agreements.

Inspect the Equipment

Overall appearance of each unit will provide valuable information about the quality and attention to maintenance provided the unit. Inspect the equipment (or have a qualified technician perform the inspection), following the manufacturer’s instructions and safety warnings before removing any access panels.

The cabinetry should be intact and fastened properly to minimize any air (or weather) leakage into or out of the unit. Filters, too, should be clean. Clogged or restricted filters reduce a system’s efficiency markedly, increasing the internal negative air pressure and pulling dust, dirt, and debris into the unit’s air circulating system.

Check the condition of the coils as well, looking for evidence of dirt, debris, or physical damage to the coils. Bent, damaged, or restricted coils restrict air flow, reducing unit efficiency and increasing operating costs.

Arrange for a professional contractor to inspect each unit to assess its operating condition. If you can tie this to a periodic maintenance or repair call, you will save some expense. The inspection should include a complete operating review of the heating and cooling portions of the equipment and an assessment of the airflow, temperature rise, and temperature split to be certain they are within the manufacturer’s specified ratings. Be present for the inspection and request that the technician review the findings with you, including the identification of problems and recommendations and quotes for corrective actions. Include this information in the unit files you have started.

Review the Information You Have Collected

At this point in the evaluation process, you likely have learned a lot about each system. As you review the information you have gathered, determine and confirm the applicable manufacturer and contractor-supported warranty coverage that remains on each unit.

Based on the records you have and inspections conducted, assess the condition of each unit. Equipment improperly maintained and serviced is likely to be less reliable and less efficient, resulting in increased operating costs and premature failures and repair costs. Consider the age of the unit, warranties or service contracts that apply, and the condition of the unit. Has it been well-maintained and what repairs are needed in the short term and the long term?

Make the Decision to Repair or Replace

Studying current operating expenses as well as projected repair and operating expenses better equips you to make the decision to repair or replace existing equipment. Compare these expenses to the operating costs of new, high-efficiency equipment. Most manufacturers can help you make this comparison by estimating operating costs based on unit efficiency and local utility costs. In many cases, if your equipment is aged, new high-efficiency replacements will provide significant utility savings that can be factored as a “payback” in a decision to replace.           

A firm quote from your contractor will help you estimate the future costs associated with restoring a unit’s operating performance.

Finally, as you make your decision to repair or replace, consider applicable utility rebates for the installation of high-efficiency equipment. Your local utility can provide rebate information that applies to your area.

You should also consider potential savings that new equipment warranties will provide compared to out-of-warranty repair estimates. The purchase of extended warranties and scheduled maintenance programs offer additional savings worthy of your consideration. Often these warranties can be negotiated into the initial purchase price for new equipment and offer an affordable approach to future maintenance and repairs.

Execute Your Decision

Select a reputable local contractor who will offer future support or backup of their workmanship. Work to define a maintenance and monitor program for the existing or new installation. This program should cover all aspects of the equipment, be performed regularly with accurate recordkeeping, and include basic system performance measurements to assure each unit remains in peak operating condition.

Be certain to keep accurate records. These records will help you estimate operating expenses and, in the event of future problems, guide your contractor in proper repairs. And as your equipment ages, these same records will prove useful as you again consider the decision to repair or replace.

Dave Negrey is technical services director at York Unitary Products Group (www.yorkupg.com), Norman, OK.

 

Need portable cooling?

Rent or buy spot coolers from full-service locations nationwide. On call “24/7”. Primary, supplemental or emergency cooling. Atlas Sales & Rentals, Inc., or call (800) 972-6600.

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Yaskawa drives offer quality performance for air handlers and cooling towers on the roof to secondary chilled water pumps in the basement

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Need portable cooling?

Rent or buy spot coolers from full-service locations nationwide. On call “24/7”. Primary, supplemental or emergency cooling. Atlas Sales & Rentals, Inc., or call (800) 972-6600.

Click here for more info


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Yaskawa drives offer quality performance for air handlers and cooling towers on the roof to secondary chilled water pumps in the basement

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.


 
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