Commercial Hvac Maintenance Economics 101


Air conditioning and heating maintenance is largely a matter of economics.

If you manage commercial buildings you know that there are two approaches to HVAC maintenance.  One option is what we refer to as “break and fix”.  The other approach is  “scheduled preventive maintenance” with repairs as needed.

While the scheduled approach is intuitively the way to go, there are other factors, not so readily apparent, that reinforce the validity and economy of this approach.

Deferred maintenance (break and fix) is costly in the following ways.

¨    Increased energy consumption

¨    Repairs are usually more costly because of a “cascading” effect in the system, where a small problem tends to cascade to other system components

¨    Occupant comfort and related productivity

¨    Poor reliability resulting in down time

¨    Premature equipment aging and the accelerated need to replace equipment

We can further elaborate on these factors as follows:

¨    Airborne dust and debris particles accumulate on heat transfer surfaces and air filters.  This reduces air flow and heat transfer capacity, meaning you get less of the desired cooling, heating or ventilation capacity per unit of energy.  This causes the machine to run longer at a lower efficiency rate.

¨    A loose or worn drive belt on the blower can cause the cooling coil to ice over and damage the compressor or over-heat the heat exchanger in winter.  This is an example of the “ounce of prevention” adage and the cascading failure principle.

¨    The effects of poor reliability are quite obvious if you are a building manager.

A maintenance program is relatively low in cost and usually involves four visits per year to perform inspections and maintenance.  A maintenance check list is developed and followed for each specific building and system.

There are examples of 30-year-old equipment which was properly maintained throughout its life and is still operating reliably.

Commercial Outdoor Lighting Versus Residential Outdoor Lighting

Ann Marier asked:

Commercial outdoor lighting requirements are a lot different from those required in the home where the purpose of outdoor lighting is to set the mood so that you can relax and entertain guests. The commercial scenario is different as the aim is to make people want to buy things and spend money. Thus, you will find commercial outdoor lighting makes use of different colors some of which have been proven to be instrumental into enticing people to spend money as well as shop more.

Mostly, home outdoor lighting is all in the same color and incandescent lighting is the norm. The positioning acts in a way so as to dictate the final appearance of the outdoor home. On the other hand, commercial outdoor lighting generally means using different colors, designs as well as intensities. Such a difference is meant to keep the customers in a happier state of mind and be more excited about being present on the commercial property.

Red and Green Lighting

When choosing different colors for commercial outdoor lighting it has been found that green and red combine well and cause most people to spend more money. This may be the reason why most of the casinos in Las Vegas use such a combination to light up the outside of their commercial premises.

Blue Lighting

And, it has also been found that blue combined with other colors helps to create the right mood which makes people generally spend less money than otherwise. In fact, you won’t find casinos using blue outside their premises and a lot of study has been undertaken on getting the right combination of commercial outdoor lighting since a wrong combination can cause potentially huge financial losses.

Nevertheless, the commercial outdoor lighting should complement the lighting indoor, and this may best be achieved by balancing ambience of commercial outdoor lighting at a number of different angles and points.

Commercial outdoor lighting in places such as malls, hotels, and schools as well as clubs is not only decorative, but also often is artistic as well as utilitarian. It would be nice to have compact fluorescent lighting as well as ground level moon lamps to add to the ambience.

In addition, there are various designs to choose from including diamond shapes, opal as well as antique and lights with frosted exteriors. The placement of the commercial outdoor lighting should be just right so that customers, guests and visitors are not inconvenienced.

The New Light @ The New LightSource: The New Light

Why a Facilities Management Approach to Commercial Roofing Repair and Preventive Maintenance Works Best

On one level the practice of facilities management is the constant prioritizing and reassessing of which necessary facility repairs warrant immediate budget expenditures.

A commercial roofing contractor needs to understand this to effectively maintain and repair a facility’s roofing system(s).

The contractor must help the facilities manager walk the fine line between major repairs of older roofing systems and the minor repairs of new roofing systems that could become major repairs if neglected.  The idea is to maintain the newer roofing system(s) while over time bringing the older system(s) into an acceptable level of repair and performance.  It is also important for the facilities manager to understand when it is time to replace an older roofing system.  Typically that time is when too much money is being spent on the repair of an older roofing system, while too little is being spent on the necessary maintenance of newer roofing systems to prolong their life cycle.

Eventually, every commercial roofing system must be replaced. But, with inspection, maintenance and repair, building owners can extend a roofing system’s life cycle to maximize their return on investment.

According to the National Roofing Contractors Association preventive maintenance adds 30%-100% service life to a commercial roofing system. That means repair costs could be triple the cost of a preventive maintenance program over the life cycle of a commercial roofing system.

Another facilities management factor to consider in maintaining roofing systems is energy management.  Wet insulation in a roofing system loses energy.  According to the Building Owners and Managers Institute, good maintenance practices and good energy management go hand in hand. Some of the highest rates of return on energy conservation are generated simply by performing maintenance.

The key element to an effective facility asset management process is having professionals inspect those assets on a regular basis. On a periodic schedule determined with the building owner or manager the following should be done;

* Inspect the entire roofing system including flashings, drains or gutters and leaders, masonry, etc.

* Document each inspection (roof plan, inspection forms, and photo documentation). Each technician should carry a digital camera to document noteworthy roof conditions. Digital photos can be included with inspection reports.

* Perform infrared testing as needed to provide thermal energy reports to identify moisture within a roof system

* Remove all debris, clean gutters, leaders and drains

* Make minor repairs at the time of inspection.

* Provide estimates for roof repairs (or replacement if necessary)

* Comply with and document compliance with the maintenance requirements of any roofing system manufacturer warranties in effect.

Physical rooftop inspections and color infrared camera surveys are the keys to the effective documentation and analysis of energy loss, roof repair and maintenance issues.

In addition to the information gathered during roof inspections, the importance of maintaining warranty, design, installer, as-built materials data, and repair history information should be emphasized.  Contractors will benefit from assisting in the compilation of this additional data.

If this process is followed, the repair, maintenance and energy conservation of commercial roofing systems will be as cost-effective as possible.  And with this process, facilities-manager clients know years in advance of when a roofing system will have to be replaced, and what its projected expense will be.

For more information,

Mel Thompson is a commercial roofing consultant for Flagship Roofing and Sheet Metal Co., Inc. in southeastern Massachusetts