It may seem a little odd to begin a blog post titled “Preparing for the Heating Season” by talking about air conditioning. Yet commercial buildings place constant demands on the systems that run them, and air conditioning is no exception. Equally notable, you can learn a lot by evaluating the performance and condition of your air conditioning unit or units at the conclusion of the cooling season – and then use that knowledge to make smart decisions moving forward.
Essentially, when the “panic,” or high-use air conditioning season is over, make sure a qualified technician performs a thorough inspection of each piece of HVAC equipment in your property or properties—and then provides you with a detailed report. This report will give you the necessary information to make informed budget decisions for next year. It also gives you time to prioritize repair and replacement in an orderly manner, thus reducing your start-up cost in the spring.
Because your air conditioning units are only partly loaded at the end of the cooling season, it is conceivable that you have lost capacity and aren’t aware that you have a problem. Performing preventive maintenance (PM) throughout the year – and particularly at the end of the cooling season – can red-flag real or potential problems and enable you to take appropriate action.
Types of Heating
Rooftop blower belts tend to break in the winter when they are cold and less flexible. If a unit has been turned off for some time – perhaps on night setback – and then the motor is turned on, that motor will attempt go from 0 to 1,750 RPM instantly. This puts considerable torque on belts and the blower system. After the belt makes a few revolutions, it warms up as it goes around the pulleys. This usually is when cracked belts break.
Most PM programs include a belt replacement at least once per year. The belt’s condition should be checked and adjusted on each visit. You may have more than one stage of heating, and more than one compressor in cooling, but rooftop units (RTUs) have only one blower system. If that blower system will not operate, your RTU is non-operational, and it is highly likely that you will be unable to heat or cool your space.
To reduce heating breakdowns, we at CLS Mechanical Services developed the following basic PM program. We recommend that you use refer to this as a guide, and employ the specific PM program provided by the manufacturer of your equipment, if available.
Heating Start-Up Checklist for a Natural Gas RTU
A Word About Economizers and “Free Cooling”
An economizer is an RTU accessory that allows you to vary the amount of outside or fresh air that you bring into the space you are controlling. In the spring and fall, there are many opportunities to use the outside air to cool a commercial space.
When economizers operate correctly, they provide several notable benefits:
Conversely, an economizer that does not operate correctly poses several disadvantages:
As the heating season looms, now is the time to take advantage of the economizer operation with all of the benefits. In the fall and beginning of winter, you may be heating at night and cooling in the day. Therefore, it’s wise to take advantage of the “free cooling” available with economizers.
In our next post on preparing for the heating season, we’ll use the checklist we provided above as a baseline for electric, oil, propane and heat pump heating sources and provide specific add-on tips for each one.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about CLS Mechanical Services’ heating and cooling services, call us at 800-548-3542 or fill out the form below.
Emergency? Call us at 800-548-3542 or fill out our form and receive a response within eight business hours.