Evaluating Your HVAC System Before Upgrading

Upgrading your HVAC system can improve performance and provide opportunities for greater savings down the road. However, it is a time- and labor-intensive project that requires strong planning for smooth execution.

Especially in a large commercial building, any proposed upgrade should be preceded by complete evaluation of the system’s status and performance. This prevents unnecessary replacements that can happen in response to tenant complaints that have not been fully explored from the technical perspective.

Many common complaints are caused by minor system glitches that can easily be resolved by a preventative maintenance contract with a reputable team of experts. However, there are times when a system’s age, repair status, or the march of new technology will require a significant HVAC system update. In these situations, an evaluation is crucial.

Core Questions for Full HVAC System Analysis

For a HVAC system evaluation to provide actionable information, it needs to be precise and detailed. A component-by-component, system-by-system inspection of the system should be executed over a period of several days, covering all relevant equipment within the building.

Beyond the equipment, the evaluation should consider these questions:

  • “Is the HVAC system fully supporting the way this building is occupied and used?”
  • “Is there sufficient space, fuel, and other resources for the proposed upgrades?”
  • “What opportunities are there to optimize the system while maintaining low costs?”

Questions about human factors are essential – they ensure the needs of tenants will be met while taking into account technical and financial constraints. Without them, a “successful” system upgrade that reduces costs and improves energy efficiency may still generate complaints!

Planning and Executing an Evaluation

A successful system evaluation will reduce costs by demonstrating where repairs can be done in lieu of replacements and providing insight into your options when replacement is inevitable. To make sure the evaluation is successful, use a checklist to manage each step of the process.

Your checklist might include:

  • Ensuring your contractor has the appropriate memberships and certifications.
  • Having appropriate project specifications developed throughout the process.
  • Taking information from recent indoor air quality assessments into account.
  • A full scope of work, including all parts to be cleaned, replaced, or updated.
  • Information on potential service disruptions and health/safety steps to take.
  • Appropriate timelines, waste disposal processes, and wind-down procedures.

Evaluating Your Evaluation: Deciding When Upgrades are Necessary

A HVAC system evaluation should provide you with a wealth of data you can use to make an informed decision about investments – however, it can also hold nasty surprises. Systems that seem to be working adequately may, in fact, be on the verge of catastrophic failure!

Ask these questions when deciding whether to go forward with a significant upgrade:

  • What is the overall age of your system? Have repairs become more frequent or costly?
  • Are the limitations of your current system making it hard to reach compliance targets?
  • Will the cost of a system upgrade be significantly offset by energy savings? By when?

Time to evaluate your HVAC system? Contact the experts at Donnelly Mechanical.

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