Having a building that stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter – keeping your employees and clients comfortable year-round, is something you may take for granted.
Understanding your commercial building’s HVAC system is an important detail for many reasons, not the least of which is keeping the system humming along so you aren’t stuck baking in the summer when something goes wrong, costing time and money. Today, we’ll explain some details about commercial building HVAC systems, how they work, what to expect for maintenance and more.
What is a Commercial HVAC System And How Does It Work?
Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling systems, otherwise known as HVAC systems, are an integral part of modern buildings. HVAC systems are in charge of keeping temperatures comfortable (usually around 72 degrees), humidity consistent (between 40-60%), and indoor air quality high (keeping C02 to less than 1000PPM).
There are several different types of commercial HVAC systems, but in general, these systems operate similarly:
- Air conditioning units lower the temperature by passing air through refrigerant or water-cooled systems, also removing excess moisture from the air in the process.
- Heating systems essentially work in the opposite fashion of air conditioning/cooling systems, where air passes through systems that heat the air using water, radiator coils, or gas.
- Ventilation systems keep the air clean by circulating air with fans and passing air through filtration systems.
What Are The Different Types Of HVAC Systems?
If you’ve looked into replacement, repair, or maintenance of your buildings’ HVAC system, you’ll know that there are an overwhelming number of combinations of different types of systems. While this is true, all of these various types fall into 3 main categories:
- Single Split System – This is the most popular and affordable type of HVAC system, found most commonly in smaller commercial buildings. These systems allow individual control of the heating and cooling for each space, making it ideal for offices with server rooms or restaurants.
These systems typically include air conditioners that pass air by refrigerant lines and furnaces in one system that circulates air throughout the space via air ducts. The drawback of single split systems is that for each space you wish to control separately, you’ll need an outdoor unit – taking up precious space.
- Multi-Split System – Multi-split systems operate similarly to the single split system, but offer much higher energy efficiency and much smaller outdoor footprint. Multi-split systems allow you to connect up to 9 indoor units to one outdoor unit. These systems also include sensors that detect temperature changes and can adjust as needed, consuming far less energy.
Heat pumps in this type of system are also designed to move air in a way that works with the natural flow of warm air into cool areas, saving money and energy. These systems do require more installation time, so the cost of installation can be higher.
- VRF (variable refrigerant flow) or VRV (variable refrigerant volume) Systems – These systems are best for larger mixed-use type buildings, such as larger office buildings or hotels.
Heat Recovery VRF systems can provide heating and cooling to different spaces at once, using warm air “waste heat” from areas of the building and delivering it to where heat is required, especially great for buildings with lots of smaller rooms. Heat pump VRF systems deliver either heat or cooling, and are best for larger open areas.
How Long Do HVAC Systems Last?
In a world of constantly changing technology, as well as changing environmental conditions both indoors and out, HVAC systems require different kinds of care – and you may be tempted to upgrade more frequently. The current commercial HVAC units should last 10-15 years. Some of the factors that impact the longevity of your HVAC include:
- Usage demand over the years; climate of your area
- Quality and efficiency of the system
- Proper installation and maintenance
What Kind Of Maintenance Do Commercial HVAC Systems Require?
Regular maintenance can keep your HVAC system working at its most efficient, keeping it humming along for its full life expectancy – or beyond. Along with maximizing the lifespan of your HVAC system, proper regular maintenance can lower energy costs, reduce the need for costly repairs and downtime, and guarantee constant comfort for your clients and employees. Preventative maintenance includes tasks such as:
- Spring and Fall system checkups that include:
- Cleaning and inspecting all outdoor components
- Refrigerant levels measured and recharged as needed
- Blower, belts, evaporator coil, and other indoor cooling system components are inspected and cleaned
- Burner assemblies, ignition systems, and other indoor heating system components are inspected and cleaned
- Control systems are tested
- Air Filters checked and changed regularly, according to manufacturer’s recommendations
- Thermostat programming checked and reset seasonally
- Monthly visual inspection of thermostats, drip pans, and drain lines
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