HVAC

Whitepaper: How to Implement an Effective HVAC Preventative Maintenance Program

Abstract

HVAC and refrigeration systems need regular preventative maintenance to operate at peak performance. Fewer than 50% of companies have HVAC preventative maintenance (PM) programs in place, but the ones that do benefit from reduced energy consumption, extended equipment lifetime and fewer emergency repairs. If you don’t currently have an HVAC PM program in place, let us show you why PMs are critical and how to put a program in place at your company.

Introduction

Many businesses rarely think about heating, cooling and refrigeration systems until something goes wrong. And that’s a problem. Heating and cooling systems (HVAC) are some of the most important pieces of equipment a facility manager must maintain, yet less than 50% of companies have preventative maintenance (PM) programs in place. This is largely due to the fact that PM programs are often viewed as an unnecessary expense. However, studies show that effective preventative maintenance reduces energy consumption, cuts down on costly emergency maintenance, extends the life of equipment and helps plan for future capital expenditures. Implementing a corporate PM program does not have to be complicated. By understanding the benefits and best practices for preventative maintenance, you will be ready to jumpstart your own program and start reaping the rewards.

Myths of HVAC Preventative Maintenance Programs

As consumers, we typically do not drive our cars without changing the oil or making sure there is air in the tires. The same idea holds true for expensive heating and cooling systems. Without check-ups, tests and cleaning, HVAC systems can malfunction quickly, waste energy and cost more down the road in unplanned repairs and emergency service calls. However, many of these problems are avoidable with preventative maintenance. So, what keeps many companies from implementing these programs? Here are a few of the most common myths we hear:

  1. It will cost more to do PMs.
    Trying to save money by not investing in PMs can lead to long-term catastrophes. Avoiding service and regular check-ups can cause critical systems to become inefficient and fail. Effective PMs can actually save money by extending asset life, improving energy performance and reducing emergency service calls.
  2. PMs are difficult to manage.
    With proper planning and processes, PM programs are easy to manage. Do your research before starting and make sure you have the right tools, technology, and partners in place. You will maximize the ROI of your program – without spending extensive time and effort coordinating all the components.
  3. Scheduled PM work never gets done.
    Using a good CMMS and asset assessment tools can help verify that scheduled work was completed. Since these tools facilitate data collection, technicians can record equipment conditions during each trip, eliminating guesswork and uncertainty.

Top Benefits of HVAC Preventative Maintenance Programs

Now that we have examined why many companies do not invest in PMs, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of preventative maintenance programs and why they make sense.

  1. Equipment kept in good condition consumes less energy, providing an overall cost savings.
    For every segment of retail, HVAC components are the major drivers of energy usage. Studies show that performing preventative maintenance on HVAC systems saves money by reducing energy consumption. According to the National Center for Energy Management and Building Technologies, effective preventative maintenance can decrease energy bills by 15% – 20%.
  2. Regular service checks reduce emergency repairs, decreasing reactive maintenance expenses.
    While preventative maintenance is often viewed as an unnecessary expense, reactive maintenance tends to deal a harsher blow to your bottom line.  A time-sensitive, emergency service trip for equipment that has already failed typically requires more investment to fix or replace.  When one of our retail clients cut their preventative maintenance program, their reactive maintenance – and total spend – skyrocketed.  They discovered that while they had had fewer work orders, their actual spend increased by 21% because of all the reactive repairs they had to do as a result of eliminating their PM program.
  3. Maintaining equipment extends system lifespan, reducing replacement frequency.
    If filters are not replaced on schedule or evaporators are not cleaned regularly, you are shortening the life of your equipment. When filters are dirty or evaporators are clogged, this can cause a floodback in your compressor, which will ultimately cause it to fail. In some cases, compressor manufacturers will void the warranty if a compressor failed due to floodback. Clogged condensers will cause your system to run at higher pressure, consuming more energy and causing the compressor to run longer and hotter, shorting the compressor life. With regularly scheduled preventative maintenance, these scenarios are completely preventable. We have found that conducting HVAC preventative maintenance can increase the life expectancy of equipment by 20% – 30%, which results in reduced capital expenditures.
  4. PM data provides visibility into the condition of assets, which simplifies budgeting.
    If you manage a large number of locations and are tasked with budgeting and forecasting capital spend, you need to know the condition of your assets. Effective PMs can provide a clear picture of equipment conditions because every time service is performed, you get valuable data to help you monitor, plan and forecast more effectively for repairs and replacements.

Get Started

Armed with this information, it’s time to start an HVAC preventative maintenance program. Our experts have compiled a list of best practices to help you kick off a PM program for your organization.

  • Conduct a pilot.
    We recommend that you start by selecting 10% of your locations that represent the average building type and asset condition in your facility portfolio. Doing so will help you set benchmarks and apply learnings when you rollout the program.
  • Survey your locations.
    Before starting the pilot, document the current performance of your equipment. Conduct an asset analysis to serve as a baseline so you can project what your savings will be (maintenance cost, energy consumption, extended equipment lifetime) when you rollout the program. Make sure to document the condition of buildings too, as maintenance needs can vary by location.
  • Have the right technology.
    Consider using a tool like fmSurvey to digitize your site assessments. Checklists are helpful to knowing the condition of assets, but when you have hundreds of locations, it becomes difficult to track down and aggregate all that data. An electronic tool that centralizes site information and simplifies the reporting process will make it easier for you to manage the process and report your results.
  • Work with an expert.
    Find a reputable service provider who can perform the work and adhere to your SOWs. Make sure the work is done by certified HVAC technicians. Enlist the help of a partner who can manage all of your service providers, eliminating the need for you to secure, vet and monitor them and the service they perform at each location.
  • Ensure visibility.
    Require that providers check in and out when they service your locations so you know the work was completed and request that technicians capture information on the services they performed, including before and after pictures to illustrate equipment conditions. You should require that they use the same CMMS tool that you use to make the entire process easy to manage. If you don’t have a CMMS, ours is called fmPilot and is easy to use and integrate with your existing systems and processes.
  • Be patient with ROI.
    When implementing a PM program across your organization, there could be an early uptick in spend as a result of existing unit conditions. Be sure to document these and compare them to your benchmarks. Over time, the ROI will begin to show within a few months.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that HVAC PMs are often viewed as an unnecessary expense, unbiased research and real world scenarios have shown that the benefits of preventative maintenance far outweigh the drawbacks. Do your research, build a plan, put the right tools in place, and pick a partner to help implement an HVAC preventative maintenance program for your company today. If you choose the right partner, having an effective preventative maintenance program is almost as easy as getting your oil changed. For more information about FacilitySource’s HVAC preventative maintenance programs, please call us at 1-800-896-9000, email us at marketing@facilitysource.com or contact our sales team.