How to Avoid Commercial HVAC Problems

Commercial HVAC systems suffer from the same problems as residential systems, just on a grander scale. If you own a commercial building, your renters are counting on you to address problems quickly and effectively—and since their businesses count on comfort, making sure your heating and cooling systems are in check should be a big part of your business.

Poor maintenance is the biggest culprit contributing to HVAC system breakdowns. HVAC systems typically last between 15 and 25 years, a range that largely depends on maintenance.


The easiest DIY maintenance is to change your system’s filters once every month, or at the very least every three months (depending on the system at hand, the frequency of use, and the nature of the building). Air filters trap the dirt and dust in the air that’s pushed through them, emitting clarified air through the vents in your building. However, it’s recommended that a licensed HVAC specialist perform this task as it is a safety hazard. Anytime a commercial space is occupied, the fans are required to be running. So very frequent filter changes are needed and be aware of moving parts and fans that may need to be powered off before attempting to change the filter. The role of a well-working HVAC system becomes more important in enclosed structures like malls, shops,  home theater setups, etc where malfunctioning of HVAC system can prove to be catastrophic.

Filters that are not routinely checked can become blocked, meaning your commercial HVAC system will run at full capacity without producing the expected results.

In extreme cases, clogged filters can result in a system freezing. Cooled air gets trapped in the system, cooling it instead of leaving the system through ductwork. Like filter changes, Annual duct cleanings keep allergens out of your air and harmful dirt out of your system. Dust off duct exteriors monthly to avoid accumulated dust getting into the system and creating clogs. Duct sealing will also increase efficiency, reduce dust and utility costs.

Drainage line clogs are also common. Over time, dirt and dust are expected to build up in lines. Bigger issues can arise if algae, mold, or mildew are a present. If a blockage is preventing water to drain from your system, it will collect in the drain pan. An overflowing drain pan can cause water damage and a clogged drainage line can cause issues elsewhere in the system.

Rust, Moisture, and Cracks

Though the acidic nature of the combustion gases HVAC systems use to heat and cool should be expected to cause corrosion, any sign of rust should be evaluated by a specialist. Current codes require all gas lines to be painted. Failing HVAC systems may show signs of moisture buildup, especially if the furnace is not operating at a high enough temperature.

Though it’s rare, cracks in a furnace’s heat exchanger can leak carbon monoxide, an odorless yet deadly gas. Biannual system checkups are your biggest weapon against issues related to rust, moisture, and cracks. Evaluate your system between checks to catch signs early before they have a chance to cause big problems.

Electrical Malfunctions

HVAC systems are both mechanical and electrical. Fuses in the evaporator coil prevent a system’s motor and condenser from overheating and fans and blowers are powered by electricity. Frequently turning HVAC systems on and off puts wear on the electrical systems.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, it’s best to keep systems running constantly and to set the thermostat at a temperature that’s consistently comfortable throughout the day. Keep in mind that body heat creates extra warmth inside buildings. Consider the number of people typically in the building and factor that into your thermostat setting.

Wire corrosion is often at fault when a system experiences failing compressors, condensers, and fans or blower motors, though an inefficient amount of electricity reaching the components could also be the culprit.

An HVAC specialist will check electrical connections and wires during a biannual visit. Also, have your commercial HVAC service check the building’s thermostats for electrical errors. Thermostats are the brain of the system and if they aren’t working correctly, your entire system likely isn’t either.

Low Refrigerant Levels

Ever had to recharge your car’s AC by spraying refrigerant into its vents? Your buildings AC occasionally needs to be recharged, too, but definitely, call HVAC service for this repair. The refrigerant can only be purchased by licensed specialists and in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began strictly regulating refrigerant classifying it as an Ozone-depleting substance.

If your HVAC AC system is expelling uncooled air, there’s a good chance your refrigerant levels are low and you have a leak. If your older system has a refrigerant leak that cannot be repaired or has additional issues beyond low refrigerant levels, you may need to replace it with an upgrade.

Sensor Glitches

Thermostat sensors can easily wiggle out of place causing an HVAC system to malfunction. Having a routine commercial maintenance plan in place allows certified technicians to check for any parts that are loose or beginning to fail before they cause problems.

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