When the summer hits and temperatures rise, people are looking for ways to escape the heat. A common method is by visiting commercial facilities— shops, restaurants, gyms, etc.— that offer cool respites thanks to their powerful air conditioning systems.
For these businesses, having a well-functioning HVAC system is essential for attracting customers during warm weather months, but it can also be extremely expensive; in fact, air conditioning costs are one of the top three expenditures business owners report.
For facilities managers, keeping air conditioning systems functioning optimally and cost-effectively is a tall order, especially if they’re not familiar with how to maintain equipment health and extend its lifespans. AC systems can last between ten and fifteen years, so if facilities managers prioritize maintenance, they can sustain a well-functioning structure that keeps facilities cool and attracts customers long-term.
The first step towards achieving proper AC system maintenance is understanding how air conditioners work and what can go wrong:
Air Conditioning Maintenance Challenges
The most common central cooling system is a split system, which uses an exterior condenser coil and compressor and an indoor evaporator coil. The compressor pumps refrigerant through the system, which absorbs hot interior air, moves it outside via ducts, and blows cooled air inside. This cycle continues until the system is shut off or the desired temperature is reached.
HVAC systems are complex pieces of equipment, housing many moving parts that need routine maintenance. FMs should pay attention to the issues that are common with air conditioning maintenance, including:
Blocked Air Flow
Air flow is essential for properly removing warm air and replacing it with cooled air. Air flow problems can cause everything from temperature inconsistencies to frozen coils and compressor failure. Air movement blocks can result from a number of causes, such as:
- Clogged air filters
- Leaky ducts
- Blocked vents
- Closed registers
- Obstructed condensing units
- Low thermostat battery
- Dirty coils
Since air flow issues can originate at multiple points throughout the HVAC system, keeping air moving requires regular cleaning and monitoring across the entire unit.
Dirt and debris can wreak havoc on AC equipment:
- Dirty coils block the heat release system, which can lead to eventual overheating and compressor failure
- Air filters filled with debris can hurt the system’s efficiency and cause damage
- Clogged lines and drains can spur water leaks.
Keeping dirt and debris out of HVAC systems is not easy, requiring consistent attention and frequent cleaning.
Air conditioning systems need refrigerant— the liquid stored inside the system’s coils that absorbs heat and transitions it into cold air— in a specific amount in order to function. The amount is known as refrigerant charge, and if it gets too low the system will run itself down to compensate, eventually leading to frozen coils and compressor failure. Additionally, refrigerant lines can get corroded and develop leaks that can damage, not just to the HVAC unit, but to other nearby assets.
Maintaining refrigerant charge and negating refrigerant-related issues involves closely monitoring charge levels and cleaning lines regularly.
Failure of the electrical components of HVAC units— including wires, capacitors and thermostats— can cause complete system shut down and tripped circuit breakers. Some businesses are also now using electronic air cleaners in tangent with their air conditioning systems, as these are 40 times more efficient than standard filters. While electronic air filters are innovative, they have the potential to short circuit or experience other issues.
Keeping HVAC electrical features in optimal working order requires monitoring performance closely and addressing budding issues as quickly as possible.
The ways to address the above challenges are consistent: monitor closely and perform regular maintenance. As FMs know, these tasks require high levels of organization, long-term planning, and spend allocation, not to mention a lot of their most precious resource — time.
Optimizing AC Maintenance with FM Software
FM software is an incredibly valuable tool for facilities managers needing to maintain HVAC units, as it can automatically monitor the system, schedule service work, streamline communication with service providers, and perform analytics.
In particular, facilities managers can take advantage of FM software and preventive maintenance capabilities to optimize their HVAC systems. Preventive maintenance, which is service work performed regularly to maintain equipment health, is integral to stopping issues before they arise, keeping spend to a minimum and enabling optimal asset function at all times.
For HVAC units, this is absolutely essential, since regular maintenance ensures coils are clean, lines are unblocked, air flow is unobstructed, filters are changed, and refrigerant charge is maintained. FMs can use this software to set up recurring work orders so that contractors and service providers arrive to maintain the system on a regular basis.
FM software also provides visibility into HVAC system details, such as maintenance history, warranty and current functionality, through barcodes or NFC technology. Thus, FMs can analyze HVAC system health and easily schedule preventive maintenance work with trusted, highly-rated contractors.
Air conditioning maintenance is not without its challenges, but there are steps facilities managers can take to ease those burdens. With a properly-functioning air conditioning system, organizations stand to do big business in the summertime when customers are looking for places to go that are out of the heat. Pleasant air temperature and flow are key way to maintain brand uptime, drawing customers in and appealing to business bottom lines.
Learn more about how facilities management software can optimize your FM operations.