The efficiency of a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system plays a key role in providing a productive commercial working environment while also having a direct impact on employee health and general well-being.
97% of office workers believe that good indoor air quality (IAQ) – which is a by-product of a working ventilation unit – contributes to greater productivity levels. While 99% credit IAQ for promoting at least one health-related benefit.
However, in the same survey, 74% expressed worry about their workplace’s current ventilation capabilities.
There’s also the issue of a HVAC system’s large energy consumption, particularly in poorly maintained units. Heating and cooling units are the biggest contributors to energy consumption in office buildings.
Data source: HVAC energy Breakdown, environment.gov.au
Essentially, it is the responsibility of the facility manager to provide a healthy working environment where employees can thrive. Having a properly maintained HVAC system, running at optimal capacity through regular proactive HVAC maintenance and energy tracking tools such as CAFM Software, is essential for achieving this.
Use Our Facilities Management Software Finder to Identify the Best Tool For Managing Your HVAC Maintenance Tasks
What Type of Facilities Do You Manage?
How Working HVAC Systems Affect the Workplace
Along with providing warmth in cold weather scenarios and cool air during heatwaves through air conditioning and cooling, HVAC systems are most effective in the workplace when centred around ventilation.
With regular HVAC maintenance, commercial buildings can provide proper ventilation, which leads to better indoor air quality. This has several benefits:
- Productivity: Improving air quality through ventilation improves productivity equivalent to $6,500 per person per year.
- Performance: Good IAQ boosts workplace performance by 10%.
- Health: Improved ventilation results in 35% fewer staff sick days, as well as better physical and mental health.
- Allergies: Office workers agreed to better IAQ reducing allergic reactions such as sneezing and coughing (51%) and less airborne contaminants.
With the average UK office worker being productive for just 3 hours a day, management teams are desperate to find a way to increase productivity in the workplace. Ensuring a working HVAC system is in place is one effective and easy way of doing so.
Common Issues That FMs Face With HVAC Systems
Commercial HVAC systems have several moving parts, which, without proper servicing and regular maintenance, increases the risk of breakdowns and failures. A lack of maintenance can reduce the lifespan of a HVAC unit by 8 to 15 years.
Proactive HVAC maintenance will cover inspecting parts such as thermostats, condenser fans, compressors, dampers, evaporators, air filters, and more. If any one or more of these parts fail, several issues can arise:
- Paying emergency call-out fees for qualified technicians
- Shutting down ventilation systems for reactive repairs
- Experiencing short cycling due to blocked filters or damaged thermostats
- Having refrigerant leaks in office spaces
- Loud and abnormal noises that distract workers
- A build-up of dirt on air filters and condenser coils
Legal Ventilation and HVAC Inspection Requirements In the UK
While regular upkeep is important for improving the working environment, there are several laws and requirements that commercial HVAC systems need to meet. Facility managers need to know that:
Air conditioning units containing F-Gases (refrigerants) must only be handled by a certified technician
HVAC systems with a capacity of over 12KW need to be checked by qualified technicians every 5 years
Buildings must have a valid TM44 inspection certificate after every HVAC check
When it comes to requirements for IAQ and ventilation, there are various recommendations for different air pollutants. For CO2, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends 5,000 ppm (parts per million) over 8 hours. Although, since the COVID-19 Pandemic, SAGE suggests this limit be at 1,500 ppm.
For commercial use, the recommended guidance and limits are:
HVAC Maintenance Checklist for Improving Performance and Efficiency
Once considering all lawful requirements, understanding common faults, and highlighting the positive impact a working HVAC unit has in the workplace, it’s best to initiate a preventive HVAC maintenance plan.
Whether opting to keep your HVAC maintenance in-house or to outsource it, a qualified technician will typically follow a checklist for carrying out work. A HVAC maintenance checklist will cover tasks such as:
|Change air filters
|Clean condensate drain
|Check outside unit
|Check/Test thermostat settings
|Examine refrigerate lines for leaks
|Inspect fans and motor
|Clean heat exchanger
|Every 6 months
|Check refrigerant levels
|Every 6 months
|Inspect belts and pulleys
|Every 6 months
|Every 6 months
|Schedule professional maintenance inspection
|Test ignition system
|Check gas connections
|Lubricate moving parts (bearings, motors, etc.)
Find the Best Facilities Management Software to Track Your HVAC Maintenance Tasks
What Type of Facilities Do You Manage?
The Energy-Efficient Benefits of Upgrading to a Smart HVAC System
The use of IoT technologies for the creation of smart buildings is a trending topic among facility managers and building owners. These smart upgrades range from automated space planning tools to smart thermostats – a market predicted to triple from $1.1 billion in 2021 to $3.2 billion in 2028 in the US.
One area considered for a smarter upgrade in commercial buildings is the HVAC system. With a typical office HVAC unit accounting for 40% of total building energy consumption, there is a high demand to improve efficiency through smarter systems.
By upgrading to smarter HVAC systems, buildings will benefit from:
- Reduced energy consumption and total output
- Fewer breakdowns through overuse
- Reduced energy costs used to run HVAC systems
- A more focused output of heating and cooling
A smart HVAC system works by installing sensors and collecting data on its usage. These devices are connected and information is displayed in systems such as Facilities Management Software. From here, HVAC systems are either automated or a precise schedule is built to better utilise units such as during working hours or when temperatures are above or below a certain threshold.
Since 2023, there has been a push for more efficient heating and cooling systems. These include the introduction of less-toxic refrigerants, such as R-454b, which has a lower global warming potential.
As well as the use of CO2-based demand-controlled ventilation (DCV), which can reduce HVAC energy output by as much as 70%.
Utilising CAFM and HVAC Maintenance Tools
Dedicated HVAC Software tools and CAFM systems provide facility managers with the right features and capabilities to improve the life expectancy and usage of HVAC systems. Typical features include:
- Work order assignment
- Job tracking
- Space planning, design, and management
- Building maintenance management
- Workforce/Contractor management
- Energy tracking and optimisation
One key capability of Facilities Management Software is the ability to track, plan, and manage building maintenance. With the right tools in place, building maintenance costs can be reduced by up to 40% when switching from reactive maintenance to a more defined planned preventative maintenance (PPM) plan.
Preventive maintenance approaches can be successfully applied to HVAC maintenance tasks. Using a CAFM tool, facility managers can:
- Track the usage of HVAC systems throughout each office, floor, and building
- Optimise the use of heating and cooling through smart systems
- Measure IAQ in real-time
- Access inspection certificates
- Assign skilled, qualified technicians to regularly inspect and update units
- Manage spare parts availability to reduce unplanned downtime
Without regular HVAC maintenance, there is a significant increase in unplanned downtime, which costs facilities between 5% – 20% of their productivity capacity. As well as costing businesses in the UK £38 million every year.
What Does HVAC Mean/Stand For?
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. HVAC systems combine all of these features into one unit that controls a building’s temperature and indoor air quality.
What’s the Difference Between HVAC and HVACR?
HVACR differs from HVAC in its capability of refrigeration; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration. The refrigeration capabilities are designed for cooling food and drink, preserving medical supplies, and generally maintaining specific temperatures.
Whereas HVAC units are predominantly used in commercial and residential buildings, HVACR systems are best placed in retail stores, warehouses, and large refrigeration trucks.