Building systems are the lifeblood of any facility. That's why a strong preventive and predictive HVAC maintenance program isn't an option; it's a must. The better it is maintained, the more likely you're going to get the appropriate life-cycle from the equipment. If not, it will deteriorate.
A Case for Maintenance
Think of HVAC preventive maintenance in the same way as the preventive maintenance for your car: If you don't change your engine oil and replace belts and filters, the engine will lock up and the vehicle won't operate. The same holds true, in a sense, for HVAC systems. Maintenance isn't expensive compared to what you might need to spend if your system degrades (and ultimately fails). Proper maintenance costs a lot less over the life of the equipment than to change out equipment on a more frequent basis.
Some aspects of a maintenance plan are simple - change the oil, change the belts, change the filters (just like your car). But, to keep a system operating at maximum efficiency, you'll need to expend more elbow grease beyond the basics from time to time. Air-handler coils need to be cleaned periodically to keep heat transfer at maximum amounts. Boilers need to be cleaned annually; even 1/16-inch of soot and ash on heat-exchange surfaces in an oil-firing boiler can reduce efficiency by 10 percent. And, don't forget fire testing. Fire testing and flame adjustment is suggested every 3 years. Predictive maintenance is also important. By tracking different system indicators such as oil temperature, RPM speeds, and other factors, you can pick up on many emerging problems before they reach a crisis situation.
Keeping Tabs on Work
Take the list of HVAC tasks that need to be done monthly, quarterly, annually, etc., and input them into your maintenance management system, along with any of the documentation that goes with it. A solid program should provide a comprehensive history of maintenance conducted on every piece of equipment, as well as the corrective costs incurred.
Placing stickers on your equipment is another way to keep maintenance professionals apprised of the work that has been done on a system's many and varied components. A simple decal affixed to the equipment that lists the last time the equipment was serviced, what was done, and who serviced it is invaluable.
Repair vs. Replace
In any system's life-cycle, there comes a point where you need to decide whether it's fiscally and practically feasible to continue maintaining and repairing an aging, degrading piece of equipment. It's important to do a life-cycle cost analysis when determining if you should repair or replace an aging HVAC system component. A life-cycle cost analysis will consider the current condition and efficiency of the unit. While every piece of equipment will need to be replaced eventually, following a stringent, comprehensive maintenance schedule will prolong your building's HVAC system and maintain not only a healthy bottom line, but happy, satisfied, and comfortable occupants.