As a facility manager, your days are pretty stacked as it is, so worrying about whether or not your facility’s air conditioning (A/C) is working properly and efficiently each day is not at the top of your to-do list. But when that cool air stops blowing in one of your facilities on a hot summer day, it can impact almost every aspect of your operations, including the productivity of your team.
Air conditioning systems can last anywhere between ten and fifteen years, which is why it is important for you, and your team, to understand a few A/C basics that will help keep your system running smoothly, longer.
Here are 5 common air conditioning basics to keep that cool air blowing all summer long.
1. Air Flow
Proper air flow is key for air conditioning to work efficiently and effectively. If your A/C system has poor air flow, there are several issues that could arise, such as inconsistent temperatures, frozen coils, or even system failure. Poor air flow can be caused by a number of issues:
- clogged air filters
- obstructed condensing units
- closed registers or blocked vents
- leaky ductwork
If your facility is experiencing poor air flow, check to see if any of the four issues above are the culprit. Moving forward, a great way to avoid these issues from arising is to implement preventive maintenance software. Then, you can create tasks such as replacing air filters or performing routine duct cleaning, on a recurring basis.
The EPA estimates that indoor air is often 2 to 5 times dirtier than outdoor air, with some buildings suffering significantly higher numbers. And if that isn’t issue enough, a dirty air conditioning unit is one of the most common reasons for system failure. So, in order to make sure your air conditioning units are in tip-top shape in terms of cleanliness, check the following on a recurring basis:
Drains and Lines – these can easily get clogged over time, causing water leaks and many other issues. In order to prevent this, make sure to thoroughly check your lines and drains, and remove any debris that may impede proper water flow.
Coils – dirty coils prevent heat from being released from your system, causing it to run more frequently, and for longer periods of time, as it tries to compensate to keep your space cool. Over time, this can easily cause the system to overheat and eventually lead to a failed compressor—the most expensive part of your A/C system, costing up to $5,000 to fully replace.
Air Filters – not only do clogged and dirty air filters prevent proper air flow through your system; but they also allow for dust to spread through your equipment, damaging your system over time. As mentioned before, make sure to always change your air filters on a consistent basis in order to prevent any long term damage to your A/C system.
Remember, a clean air conditioning system is more efficient and reliable!
3. Electrical Issues
Some of the most serious issues arising in commercial air conditioning units are actually rooted in the electrical systems. Whether it’s wires, capacitors, or thermostats, all can cause complete system shut down and tripped circuit breakers. These issues can occur for numerous reasons—poor air flow, bad wiring, an outdated system, environmental factors, etc.—making it difficult for you to stay ahead of it 100% of the time. But implementing routine maintenance, addressing budding issues as quickly as possible, and performing frequent checks of your air conditioning unit(s), will help you keep your head above water and your A/C system operating at optimal conditions.
4. Refrigerant Charge
Refrigerant is a chemical that produces a cooling effect within your air conditioning unit, and, just like a battery, when your refrigerant is not fully charged, your air conditioning system will not perform at its optimal efficiency. Air conditioning systems with a low refrigerant charge won’t be able to reach your desired temperature, making it nearly impossible for you to cool your facilities properly. As a rule of thumb, always perform routine checks on your A/C system, and reach out to an HVAC professional to schedule an inspection if you think your refrigerant charge is low.
5. Control Settings
When it comes to running your everyday workflow operations, don’t let faulty thermostats or incorrect settings lead to unnecessary headaches. Some solutions to consider include:
- Installing high-efficiency A/C equipment – these use less energy to keep your facilities cool, and are available in commercial models that can provide indoor comfort for large commercial buildings (and can save you substantial amounts of money).
- Putting in variable-speed fan controls – these ensure that air conditioning systems respond more precisely to indoor temperature needs, reducing overcooling that can waste energy and money.
- Using temperature setbacks for low-demand times – when a commercial building is unoccupied, less cooling will be needed. With these controls in place, you will be able to set back indoor temperature settings to a higher temperature at night or when a facility is closed, reducing overall costs. For example, your thermostat can be set to 72 degrees during business hours, and 76 degrees during non business hours, all programmed through your control settings.
- Performing regular preventive maintenance – as mentioned before, A/C systems require regular preventive maintenance to keep them working properly and efficiently.
Other than having your air conditioning systems professionally inspected and tuned-up by an HVAC professional at least once a year—in the spring for cooling systems and in the fall for heating systems—all of the ways to address these common air conditioning challenges are consistent: monitor them closely and perform routine preventive maintenance.
As a facility manager, you know that these tasks require long-term planning, budgeting, and high levels of organization, all requiring a lot of your most precious resource—time. To get the most out of your limited time you can use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and its preventive maintenance capabilities to streamline your A/C operations and manage maintenance in once central hub.