The ravages of winter can be tough on a commercial HVAC system, furnace or heat pump. Ice, snow, rough winds and low temperatures can really wreak havoc on mechanical parts, causing extreme wear and tear, cracked seals and pipes, leaks, frozen pipes, and hundreds of other problems, not the least of which is a complete heating system failure. And no one wants that in subzero conditions.
Any property owner’s maintenance plan should consider that an inspection and winterization in the Fall can protect their HVAC equipment investment and ensure that the building’s occupants have a comfortable environment all winter. A thorough inspection and series of checks are essential for reducing unnecessary emergency expenses. Heating is the largest use of fuel for any building, and when HVAC equipment is working at optimum levels, building owners can harvest substantial energy savings.
The bottom line is that HVAC systems need to be winterized each Fall to ensure they keep working efficiently during the bitterly cold winter. Below are the basic considerations that should be part of the winter maintenance plan to ensure your building and its occupants are comfortable all winter.
Inspect the entire HVAC system
Any coil, pipe, faucet, hose, or part that comes in contact with water and/or is exposed to outdoor air must be inspected carefully to avoid freezing and failure.
- HVAC controls should be evaluated for proper operation
- Set freeze stats to the correct temperature to protect the coils (a visual inspection should be done periodically throughout the winter to ensure all freeze protection controls are working)
- Check for cracks in the heating system
- Inspect blowers and hoses and check for blockages
- Check for abnormal sounds
- Empty condensation traps
- Clean air vents
- Monitor air flow
Frozen pipes are a nightmare and can cause serious damage to your building when they break.
- Check exposed pipes and exterior pipes for vulnerability to winter freezing
- Insulate and seal openings around exposed pipes
- Look for signs of excess moisture
- Check for mold and mildew around pipes and remediate where necessary
Heating System Inspection
Cracked heat exchangers can leak carbon dioxide into a building, making this one of the most important parts of your fall inspection. Also,
- Check safety settings and confirm proper operation
- Remove and clean burners
- Make sure that the flames in burners are burning clean
- Check the flues for ventilation
- Calibrate the water pressure gauge
- Check expansion tanks for proper air cushions
- Clean the boiler tubes
Inspect Airside Economizers
Your HVAC system is most likely equipped with an airside economizer, a component that allows the HVAC system to use outdoor air for cooling, depending on the ambient air temperature and indoor humidity. This is known as “free cooling” because a compressor doesn’t need to run to cool the air. When airside economizers are disabled or not working correctly, you’ll either be leaking warm air or pulling in too much cold air, which will send your energy bill through the roof.
Thermostat Calibration & Reduced Settings
Today’s thermostats are digital, but they might start to drift off the mark as they age. If thermostats are not in sync, systems will not be as efficient as they could be. Worse, simultaneous heating and cooling might occur.
Change HVAC Air Filters
Filters catch dust and airborne particles, improving the quality of indoor air. Filters for the hot air side of your HVAC system need to replaced regularly just like the cooling filters. Not doing this drives up the cost of running your HVAC system and provides extraordinary wear and tear on fans and compressors as they struggle to move air through dirty filters.
In critical heating and cooling situations, such as data centers, food storage, and pharmaceutical
- Check head pressure controls that keep refrigeration system pressures from dropping too low
- To ensure that fans run at the proper temperatures, calibrate thermostatic fan controls on outdoor condensers and dry coolers
- Inspect and test humidifiers. Winter is when they’re needed most, as indoor heat causes humidity to drop
If you need an HVAC contractor in Philadelphia, call Chadwick Service to speak about wintering your HVAC system. We’ll identify potential problems and perform winter maintenance before costly breakdowns occur. A typical service agreement will cover your HVAC rooftop units, chillers, boilers, compressors, air handlers, cooling towers, pumps, variable speed drives, controls, and accessories. Naturally, the maintenance agreement will be tailored to your specific equipment and requirements.
An effective HVAC winterization plan requires Fall planning, a heightened level of vigilance and targeted tasking to the areas most at risk. Once your annual maintenance agreement is in place, your building will be safe, comfortable, and efficient all winter.