Want to know the one thing that can increase your energy savings by up to 40 percent, and decrease your overall equipment and system costs throughout the years? Simple preventative maintenance on your building’s HVAC system.
Studies consistently show that a good maintenance schedule can cut HVAC costs, while also extending equipment life, increasing the uptime of your equipment, and overall making your building’s occupants more comfortable (which means fewer complaints). In spite of all these studies, and a host of marketing strategies to get the word out about how cost effective it can be, most commercial business owners still operate in a reactive mode. Though owners and management teams will often say they understand it is by far more effective to utilize resources to keep things running smoothly all year long, they rarely take their own advice to heart.
In many cases, it comes down to budgeting. Most organizations underfund maintenance, making reactive maintenance the norm, not the exception. So maintenance is deferred. When budgets are formed and goals aren’t met, the budget is looked at and cutbacks are made. Its nearly impossible to cut back things that are of the utmost importance – a furnace that has stopped working altogether can’t be ignored. But when an executive needs money, and he sees a maintenance line as a part of the overhead costs of running the building, it’s the first place to look when chopping.
So the maintenance contract is cancelled. The equipment does its thing. And everybody is happy … for a while, until a major event occurs and brings the HVAC system to a grinding halt.
Yes, the round-robin process is one almost every building manager can relate to because he lives with it every day.
But how do you get that through to the executive management holding the budget over your head?
Start with a log
Logging costs can show repeat behavior and patterns of problems over time. When they are all lumped together with the monthly maintenance bills, its easy to overlook their true costs. Instead, keep a building log showcasing every problem and every maintenance issue that is handled throughout the year.
While you should track the entire HVAC system as a whole, also track areas individually that you know will give you problems more than others. For instance, a building’s chiller is typically one of the largest users of electricity in a building, and therefore a key target area for maintenance issues to impact the system. By tracking actually costs and maintenance required over a year, including new equipment and replacement charges, compared to the cost a regular maintenance plan would require to catch the same mistakes, it can quickly prove to management where potential savings may be in the long term.
As a building ages, the HVAC system is rarely replaced as an entire unit. Instead, pieces are repaired and parts are replaced on an as needed basis. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can be the motto of those who pay the bills, which can quickly turn into “if its working okay, wait until it doesn’t work before you do anything about it”.
When equipment begins to cause problems, it’s never a one time event. There are always warning signs along the way. A service call here, a repair there, and the maintenance continues time after time trying to keep the whole system working on a budget deemed affordable by the powers that be.
As the head of building maintenance, instead of being reactionary and approaching management with problems, collect all service receipts and show patterns instead. Management makes decisions based on facts. When you can show pieces are being repaired over and over again, and that problems often escalate quickly because maintenance isn’t being performed as a service provider suggests, its easier for them to see where the true problems lies. And to understand how a monthly maintenance plan can benefit them in the long term, protecting their investment from repeated problems, over and over again.
If you’re ready to talk about putting your own maintenance plan into place, we would be happy to provide you with more information on the benefits, and how it can quickly add up to savings overall.