Going, Going…Gone?: HVAC Replacement 101

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In less than a second, you get over 83 Million returns. That is what happens when you type in “How do I know when I should change out my HVAC” into a search engine.

You can get some interesting results as you head past the first, second and third pages…but who does that? Results past the third page in a search engine are like the third verse in a hymn…it may be there, but no one ever looks at it.

Regarding your facility, there are some basic things you need to know about your HVAC before you can really make an informed decision regarding replacement.

To begin, what type of systems do you have?

Expected service life will vary based on the size and type of the system you are looking at. A 5-ton unit that you are accustomed to seeing in your home is vastly different (from a mechanical perspective) than a facility that has a cooling tower and chilled water pumped throughout.

Knowing what you have is the first step in being able to determine when you need to change it. It is easiest to identify the components in a life cycle calculator, CMMS, or a spreadsheet.

The next foundational element is to understand how your HVAC systems work and how the components go together.

Having a clear understanding of how the engineers originally designed the system to function is necessary when evaluating effectiveness. The mechanical engineering field is like any other field out there. There will always be certain designs and installations that are somewhat “tried and true” that you will see under specific conditions.

There are also, however, systems that get deployed that are considered cutting edge that do not make the cut long-term. Usually they do not make the cut because they are not the easiest to maintain, which means from a commercial standpoint they are not as profitable.

For churches there is a benefit for staying with more tried and true technology. If you have “cutting-edge” systems or special features that are not maintained correctly, or your service tech does not know all the components that need maintenance, you are not able to effectively evaluate everything.

Consider what subjective data you are going to use as part of the evaluation process.

As you are aware, church members are not slow to provide their opinion on how the system performs. While it is always beneficial to hear folks out and how they feel, it does not mean that it should carry the most weight in your decision. There will always be folks who think it is too hot, too cold, too windy, too loud, etc. Perceived comfort does not always match engineering specifications. A unit can be performing as designed and still not meeting current occupant needs.

Finally, know if there have been any changes to the layouts in the spaces you are evaluating the HVAC.

Many times, churches will open a wall here, close in a space there, make offices out of this large room, etc. Unfortunately, not all changes in room layout are combined with a mechanical engineering review. Your systems were designed to operate with a specific layout. Anytime you change it you can fundamentally change the effectiveness of a unit. It may be operating perfectly, but it is trying to condition a space layout that no longer exists.


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