On the surface an HVAC system seems simple enough: turn the thermometer up and the building temperature rises, turn it down, and temperatures drop. In practice, of course, HVAC systems are highly complicated systems, but building owners and operators sometimes forget this. As a result, a number of popular misconceptions have arisen about HVAC systems and their maintenance—myths that can lead to wasted energy, time, and money.
HVAC Filters Rarely Need Replacing
A common myth suggests HVAC air filters need changing only once a year or so, rather than on the schedule recommended by the manufacturer. The motivation behind this belief may be that extending the air filter’s usage also extends the building’s maintenance budget, as replacements are required less often.Unfortunately, the reverse is true. Air filters trap allergens, dust, and air pollutants, all of which build up in the filter. Dirty filters force the HVAC to work harder to push air through the system, resulting in energy costs higher than any savings accrued by not buying new filters.
If it Ain’t Broke . . . .
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitudes are the bane of preventative maintenance, but the old cliché still has its adherents. As long as the HVAC is working, just leave it alone, right?Well no. Preventative maintenance maximizes unit efficiency, reduces energy consumption, extends the HVAC’s life, and resolves small problems before they balloon into major issues.
Maintenance Contracts Are Unnecessary
The idea HVAC maintenance schedules are a waste of money is a dangerous misconception, as you leave yourself open to potentially serious problems. With no maintenance contract, small issues can quickly grow into catastrophic unit failures.Depending on your building’s function, a lack of HVAC can completely shut down your operations and even cause safety issues. Faced with such a calamity, the lack of an existing contract means extending unit down time as you rush to find a service company willing to fit you into their schedule, followed by the inevitably high price of emergency repair work.
Service Techs Only Change the Air Filter
This myth may have arisen in tandem with the misconception service contracts aren’t necessary. After all, if that’s all the service technician does, why bother with a contract?
The truth is regular service maintenance covers much more that changing out air filters. Preventative maintenance covers a wide range of services, including:
- Calibrating control systems
- Checking and adjusting thermostat programming
- Checking oil
- Checking refrigerant levels
- Cleaning and lubing parts
- Inspecting unit sensors
- Repairing and replacing parts as needed.
Lowest Bidder Takes the Prize
Given the many variables involved in building maintenance and management, it’s understandable operators want to conserve costs whenever possible. Choosing the lowest bid to install and maintain your HVAC system, however, often costs more in the long run.
Suspiciously low bids suggest a company that is unlicensed, uninsured, or both. In either case, you risk low quality service. Will your HVAC system be properly installed? Will the company be there should the system fail? With low bids you have to consider the possibility they won’t. Perform due diligence on any bidder, asking to see proof of licensing, insurance, and references. You may pay more for the contract, but you’ll save in the long run.