Facility managers across the country know HVAC health and equipment are one of the highest line items in commercial building budgets. Studies have shown the average commercial building requires $1,700 in HVAC maintenance alone every year. And that number does not include the internal time it takes to schedule preventative maintenance, work with technicians, or troubleshoot HVAC issues.
Regardless of the high costs, HVAC systems must be maintained to stay in good working order. Managers often perform weekly or daily in-person maintenance checks to ensure system functionality. Forgoing these checks can lead to costly truck rolls, repairs, and even system downtime causing employee and customer discomfort. On top of that, HVAC maintenance can easily override your allotted budget if not carefully tracked and can raise the cost of energy prices.
If not addressed and planned for accordingly, HVAC maintenance can wreak havoc on the comfort of your occupants and affect your budget. This guide will cover types of maintenance to keep your commercial HVAC in good working order, common costs and problems, and cost-saving measures.
Types of Maintenance
HVAC maintenance isn’t just a good idea; it’s essential for preserving and improving your building systems.
There are three types of maintenance that facility managers can utilize when addressing problems with HVAC units: preventative, reactive, and predictive. Preventative maintenance is scheduled maintenance that, just like its name, prevents critical issues. Reactive maintenance occurs when equipment has already broken down or malfunctioned to restore equipment to its normal functioning status. Predictive maintenance is a technique that uses condition-monitoring tools and methods to monitor the performance of a structure or a piece of equipment during operation.
Reactive maintenance can be extremely costly and put the comfort of both employees and customers at risk with prolonged outages, or worse, a loss in revenue due to having to stop operations.
Because predictive maintenance addresses problems before appliances stop working, it is highly cost-effective, saving roughly 8%-12% over preventive maintenance, and up to 40% over reactive maintenance. Predictive maintenance gives you the time to order parts, address needs, and, ultimately extend the life of existing appliances, eliminating the need to purchase new machines.
Common HVAC Problems
Common problems in commercial HVAC systems often revolve around maintenance and can be avoided or minimized with proper check-ins and predictive measures. The more preventative measures taken to prevent common problems, the less budget is needed for HVAC maintenance costs.
- Inadequate maintenance: Air filters and coils need maintenance regularly or they become dirty. Dirty coils and air filters can lead to malfunctioning systems or failing fans.
- Thermostat malfunctions: Thermostats control the temperature of buildings and can often be set incorrectly, especially when changes are made manually.
- Improper air balance: Air balancing is vital for commercial HVAC systems and ensures that the system pushes air into rooms properly. Improperly balanced systems can lead to uncomfortable patrons and extra strain on your wallet.
- Refrigerant problems: If your HVAC stops pushing out cold air; low or leaking refrigerant could be the problem. If your machine is low on refrigerant, a trained technician should be called to recharge the system. However, if the problem is a refrigerant leak, a trained technician will need to locate and fix the leak before recharging the system to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Sensor problems: HVAC systems have thermostat sensors behind the control panel, which measure air temperature entering the evaporative coil. If these sensors break, your HVAC could begin to cycle continuously and stop working altogether.
Average Maintenance & Replacement Costs
Commercial HVAC repairs can cost on average $450- $1000 per truck roll, not including the cost of parts needed to repair the machines. In addition, a recent study found that 25% of truck rolls require a return visit for additional maintenance, meaning more unexpected expenses working against your budget.
When maintenance is not performed regularly a full system replacement may be necessary in the future. The average cost to replace a commercial HVAC unit depends heavily on factors such as the size of the building, how many units are needed, climate, and the type of HVAC system. However, facility managers can expect to pay on average a minimum of $6,000 to replace a unit that serves a 1,000 sq/ft building.
Rising HVAC Maintenance Costs
The demand (and price) for HVAC systems and parts in the United States is soaring. The projected demand for HVAC units in the US is set to increase by more than 5% this year. With supply chain issues across the county worsening, a nightmare scenario is brewing for facility managers without preventative maintenance measures.
Supply issues and increased demand mean that HVAC pricing has skyrocketed and will continue to rise into the next year. HVAC pricing has risen by more than 80% in the last six months and prices on asset components and facility management parts are up 12 – 15% on average. These supply chain delays are also causing lead times to extend by as much as 50%.
Supply chain issues and raising costs noted above can make controlling facility budgets feel impossible. Costs continue to rise above budgeted prices, and outages seem to loom with order and shipping delays. However, it is still possible to stay within maintenance budgets and lower HVAC maintenance costs.
Budgeting for Maintenance
HVAC budgets should include planning for routine repairs, predictive maintenance, and long-term capital expenditures or system replacements. To start creating a maintenance budget facility managers should review past work orders, truck rolls, and replacement part purchases from previous years and combine the amount spent.
Facility managers should also budget for energy expenditure increases caused by any HVAC inefficiencies. HVAC inefficiencies can make up a large portion of energy budgets: According to the US department of energy, HVAC usage accounts for 44% of all commercial building energy usage.
How to Lower HVAC Maintenance Costs
One way to easily lower HVAC maintenance and energy costs is to employ an energy monitoring system.
Energy and asset monitoring systems can prevent truck rolls and costly repairs, as they identify HVAC issues before they become a major problem allowing you to easily perform predictive maintenance.
An energy and asset monitoring system is your first line of defense against costly HVAC outages. Monitoring systems use AI to collect data about your facility’s HVAC system, understand long-term, trending HVAC system issues, and help prioritize maintenance. This allows you to extend the life of existing equipment and reduce the need for new equipment.
In the last 12 months alone, GridPoint’s HVAC Health tool was able to identify 32,354 malfunctioning units (12,310 Sev 1 and 20,044 Sev 2) and alerted facility managers, before it became a critical issue.
HVAC maintenance costs and budgeting do not have to be daunting for facility managers. Even with rising costs, it is possible to take control of your maintenance budgets and create a predictive maintenance plan that ensures the comfort of employees and visitors as well as protects your budget. Learn more about GridPoint’s energy monitoring system.