COVID-19 Closures: Mitigating Damage to Unoccupied Buildings

Dealing with COVID-19 Closures

Many U.S. states are working to flatten the curve as businesses are impacted by COVID-19 closures. The “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders have limited human interaction in attempt to prevent spreading the virus. Additionally, many companies across the country opted to temporarily close facilities, preventing employees from contracting the disease. With shutdowns it’s become increasingly difficult to determine a facility’s condition, or to repair any issues developing while the facility is unoccupied.

COVID-19 closures of restaurants

Damage to Unoccupied Buildings

Consider these scenarios that could arise in an unoccupied facility…

Humidity

  • Buildings in coastal regions may experience high humidity that goes unnoticed, which can in turn lead to mold growth. Imagine if the facility is a retail store. The end-result might mean thousands of dollars of damaged, unsalvageable clothing merchandise.
  • Think about a restaurant or bar. There may be hundreds (or thousands) of dollars of alcohol in stock, going untouched through the COVID-19 crisis. Corked bottles of wine are not exempt from the effects of dry indoor air. Extremely low humidity levels can slowly chip away at a cork, leaving room for air in the bottle and ruining the flavor. The ideal humidity level for wine storage is 60%.
  • Another thought for restaurant facilities: A humid environment allows mold growth to fester. The COVID-19 shutdowns began suddenly for many facilities. Did kitchen staff have adequate time to scrub walk-ins, pots, and pans? Were grease traps thoroughly degreased? These are potential breeding grounds for mold during non-occupation.

Moisture

  • If indoor moisture levels drop too low — like cooler climates that are shifting from winter to spring temps — wood can begin warping. For instance, wooden window frames can shrink, making them difficult to open. This can potentially create gaps that let in cold, dry air.
  • Low indoor moisture can also lead to peeling or separated wallpaper and cracked paint on plaster walls. What if you returned to your facility, only to realize you’ll need professional painting or remodeling services?

Mulit-Purpose

  • Contemplate multi-purpose facilities, like an apartment complex with retail or dining space on the first floor. Completely shutting down HVAC airflow to unoccupied businesses could lead to uneven air flow and temperatures throughout the larger building.

The bottom line: Scenarios like these will go unnoticed and unrepaired until employees return to their facilities. Only then will they uncover the damage caused by an unoccupied month.

Preventing Facility Damage During COVID-19 Closures

While these issues seem frightful, many state governments have kept issues like this in mind when mandating shelter-in-place orders. Seeing value and necessity in essential services, many states are allowing skilled trades such as HVAC technicians to continue working. During quarantine, let technicians be the eyes and ears at your facilities to ensure critical issues didn’t develop, and further delay reopening.

In addition, this downtime can also be the ideal occasion to have technicians visit the facility to address any known issues or to perform preventive maintenance. Maybe there is a repair the facility manager has been putting off because its fix requires closing a typically busy corridor or lobby area. By addressing this work now while the facility is shut down, managers can limit future downtime, employee inconvenience, and lost profit.

And as a preventative measure for the duration of this closure or in preparation of future closures, consider installing sensors to remotely monitor a facility’s indoor air quality levels through relative humidity, temperature, building pressure, and CO2 checks. A system like Melink Corporation’s PositiV® building health monitor can remotely track and trend building health, plus send alerts to the facility owner or manager when the system detects measurements outside its set parameters. While a facility may not have this in place to combat the current COVID-19 closures, it can be installed now to prepare for future unplanned closures or even a vacation (Facility managers need a break at some point, right?!). 

R-22 Refrigerant (Freon) Is Obsolete: What Next?

The United States has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 refrigerant (or Freon), a Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant found in older commercial and residential HVAC equipment.

Commonly used in roof top units (RTUs) and split systems,  R-22 and other HCFC refrigerants are known to deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to harmful climate change.

To combat this, the U.S. has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 refrigerant, per the following phase-out schedule:

  • 1/1/2010: The U.S. government bans the use of R-22 in new HVAC equipment.
  • 1/1/2015: The U.S. government bans the production and import of all R-22.
  • 1/1/2020: The U.S. government bans the use of all R-22 (with a few exceptions).  Only expensive, reclaimed R-22 can be used for repair of older R-22 equipment.  Effectively, this is the end of the road for R-22 use in the U.S.

How does the 2020 R-22 refrigerant ban affect my facility? 

  • The cost to repair older R-22 units is now skyrocketing and is usually cost-prohibitive.
  • R-22 costs per pound have risen approximately 500% in the past five years — up to 12 times the cost of modern-day, more ozone-friendly refrigerants.
  • Older R-22 units have much lower Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) ratings and are as much as 50% less efficient than current-day, high-efficiency units. 
  • In most cases, older R-22 RTUs cannot be converted to R410A refrigerant. These older units will need to be replaced with RTUs that are more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. 
  • Emergency replacement, AKA “Fix-on-fail,” is the costliest way to repair older R-22 units. In fact, this philosophy is around 70% more expensive per unit than a proactive roof-sweep or planned equipment replacement program.

So what should I do now, and where should I start? 

First, to really understand how the R-22 ban affects your business, I recommend companies start with an HVAC inventory. Conduct a detailed survey of all facilities to verify the age and condition of all HVAC equipment, including newer and older HVAC units.

Secondly, I recommend involving a national or regional HVAC installation partner, as well as an independent national testing, balancing and commissioning partner such as Melink Corporation to provide the unit data and a complete assessment of the entire mechanical system. (Check out these tips for hiring a Test & Balance partner).

Ideally, the assessment should include the following:

  • Duct-work inspections
  • RTU and exhaust fan inspections
  • Airflow measurements to verify proper building airflows and to identify existing air-balance issues

If the entire HVAC system is not inspected, the building will often continue to have comfort problems and building balance issues, even after the new equipment is installed. Without a thorough inspection, the positive effects of the new, energy-efficient (and R-22 refrigerant ban-compliant) HVAC equipment will not be fully realized, resulting in a lower-than-expected ROI.

For further information on HVAC surveys and other custom scopes of work, please e-mail [email protected] or call at (513) 965.7300.

Sources:
Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs — On The Rise? (Fixd Repair)
What Is the #1 Way to Save Money on Your Rooftop Unit? (U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy)

Why Recommission?

Building commissioning is often viewed as a one-time procedure performed during a building’s initial construction, among hundreds of other tasks.  (That is, if commissioning was even performed at all… which is another topic in itself!)  An investment was made into ensuring that the newly constructed systems were indeed installed correctly and operating properly.  So then, if a building was already commissioned, why would you want to recommission it?

Before answering that, we should first define what recommissioning is.  Simply put, recommissioning is a process that helps get a building back to the operational performance that was intended from the initial design and construction.  It’s much like a tune-up for your car.  Commissioning occurs during the design and construction of a building.  Add the “re” to commissioning, and it implies that you are “commissioning again” an existing building that was previously commissioned.  In a similar way, when you add “retro” to commissioning, it implies that you are “going back and commissioning” an existing building that was never commissioned before.  According to the Building Efficiency Initiative, “it can often resolve problems that occurred during design or construction, or address problems that have developed throughout the building’s life as equipment has aged, or as building usage has changed.”

Recommissioning is often and best done on a planned, recurring basis.  This is because buildings change over time.  Just because a building’s systems were optimized when it was first commissioned, doesn’t mean they will stay that way forever.  As with most things, building systems wear and their performance degrades over time.  For example, a building may undergo a remodel or the way its space is used may change, pieces of equipment fail and are replaced, control setpoints are tampered with, and sensors fall out of calibration.  Recommissioning can help to diagnose the source of issues and identify building systems that have drifted, leading to higher energy costs and other negative side-effects.  Such issues include duct air leakage, HVAC and lighting left on while a space is unoccupied, airflow not balanced, dampers and economizers not working properly, improper setup or failure of controls, and much more.

Identifying and correcting these issues through a recommissioning process will lead to significant energy savings.  According to a report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, commissioning produced 16% median energy savings in existing buildings with a payback time of 1.1 years.  Furthermore, recommissioning results in a healthier and more comfortable environment for the building occupants, which is not as easy to quantify as energy savings but is even more impactful to an organization’s success.

National and Independent Test and Balance: We Go Where You Are!

National retailers, restaurant chains and commercial property groups all have similar HVAC needs all across the country.  When going to a Starbucks and asking for a “Grande Pike”, we have a set expectation of what we will experience when the barista delivers that 16 oz cup of perfection, right?  Why should commercial buildings be any different?  Don’t the brand managers and facilities teams want their building occupants to have the same, consistent comfortable, healthy experience when inside of their buildings?  Don’t they want their customers and employees to enjoy a safe, comfortable, energy efficient indoor environment at every location nation-wide?  We find the answer to be a resounding YES!

In 1987, founder Steve Melink saw the need for consistent, national, test, balance and commissioning services for national restaurant and retail chains.  While test and balance companies weren’t new, there was no one fulfilling the services in an unwavering manner across the entire nation. Companies either performed work in a small region, or they hired out whomever they could find across the country as jobs popped up. This not only left varying and unreliable reports, but also no standard across the nation for larger national accounts. What was done at one location, may have been measured differently at another, or not even checked at all! Steve understood the need for one company to be able to deliver reliable and consistent services and reports to all business, regardless of location.

13,000+ projects completed since 2014!!

Fast forward 32 years.  Today Melink Corporation is still known as the standard for national test, balance and commissioning services and serves many of the world’s largest and fastest growing restaurant and retail chains.  In the same vein as the Starbucks example, our customers expect consistency and quality no matter where they are building and remodeling.  We don’t leave our quality to chance or to the general contractor’s sub, we hire and train the best technicians and engineers.

With our 100% self-performing, independent, national team of Test, Balance and Commissioning professionals, Melink takes our quality on the road, each and every day.  Simply put “We Go Where You Are”!

Are you struggling to find someone that can service any of your locations? Contact our team by phone at 877-477-4190 (toll-free) or online at [email protected] or here…we look forward to helping find a solution for your business!

When Should My Building Be Balanced?

A proper air balance within a building is an important factor for providing a healthy and comfortable indoor environment for occupants.  Like many other critical building systems, the air balance must be maintained over time, and isn’t something that you can simply “set and forget”.  So then, when should a building be balanced?  Here are some common events that would trigger the need to perform an air balance.

New Construction:

Every building that has some form of HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) should be balanced when it is first constructed. By this, I mean that the HVAC systems should be inspected, tested, and adjusted to ensure that they are operating correctly, efficiently, and as intended by the design engineer and as expected by the building owner. A balanced building will provide a comfortable and healthy indoor environment for the occupants, delivered in an energy efficient manner, and will have a proper positive pressure. Select a TAB professional to perform the air balance who is objective, meaning that they are hired directly by the building owner and are independent of the installing contractors and equipment manufacturers, who is experienced in your particular type of building and HVAC systems, and who is certified by an industry-recognized accrediting agency, like NEBB or AABC.

Remodel:

The building should be rebalanced during any major remodel event, such as expanding the building or changing the functional use of a space within the building. This is important because the HVAC system was originally designed and balanced for specific use conditions, and when those conditions change, the system will need to be readjusted. Be sure to consult with your mechanical design engineer prior to the remodel to verify that the existing HVAC system can handle the new demands. The building should also be rebalanced anytime elements of the HVAC system are modified or replaced, such as when ductwork is rerouted or when aged equipment is upgraded. This is important for verifying that the new equipment is installed correctly, operates properly, and is adjusted for the design conditions. For a building that has cooking operations, it is important to also rebalance whenever the cooking appliances are relocated or replaced with equipment of different use or heat load, such as replacing an oven with a fryer. This is significant because a kitchen ventilation system is designed for a specific bank of appliances. When the appliances and cooking operations change, the ventilation system will need to be adjusted to ensure it correctly captures and contains the heat and effluent produced.

Periodic Tune-up:

Even if a building has been balanced during the original construction, and it is not undergoing any remodels or equipment replacements, it should still be rebalanced periodically. This is because the performance of the HVAC system can change over time due to normal use and wear and also due to adjustments made by operations and maintenance personnel. Examples of this are when an operator switches the fan mode of the thermostats from ON to AUTO or when a service technician closes the outside air dampers in a rooftop unit in an attempt to fix a comfort complaint. For the complete building HVAC system, I would recommend a proactive rebalance frequency of every two to three years. This will ensure that the systems operate effectively and efficiently throughout their lifecycle and will help prevent the very costly issues created by having a building out of balance for a prolonged period of time.

Want to understand more about air balances? Read about air balance basics for existing facilities, watch our video on how an air balance works, or contact us to learn more!

Stay Ahead of HVAC Problems this Spring

While many are excited to emerge from a long and cold winter and enjoy the rising temperatures that come with spring, not everyone loves the shift in seasons. Facility managers around the country dread the season change as it always brings lingering HVAC problems to the forefront. Every year during the spring and fall as temperatures are changing, buildings around the country work hard to adjust to the change in seasons as well. The HVAC systems go from cold temps outside and constant heating of the building to cooling instead, or vice versa. This dramatic change takes a toll on the building envelope and interior and can make underlying HVAC problems that went unnoticed during one season, suddenly very noticeable. Employees and paying customers alike are feeling the discomfort of hot and cold spots, condensation dripping, A/C not kicking on correctly, doors blowing open, and other annoyances.

These types of issues not only affect the comfort for your customers in the facility, they can also lead to long term maintenance and higher energy costs should they not be fixed quickly. This is where having an independent 3rd party onsite to inspect the equipment can assist. Hiring an independent company can help in identifying the underlying cause of such problems and repair minor issues that may have gone undetected for years. By having the facility inspected by a truly independent company, facility managers can know that the information they are receiving provides a truly accurate snapshot of their facility and is not biased or swayed based on loyalties. You will get real results with accurate and actionable information.

If you are experiencing any of these issues with the upcoming season change, it is recommended to have these issues investigated immediately. Prices begin to rise just as the temperature does in the summer, as construction demand is at its peak during this time. Seeing some of these issues in your building? Contact us here to talk with our team about ways to get in front of problems before they get worse!

Buy Cheap, Buy Twice

I’ve been in my role, with Melink Corporation, as a Sales Engineer just over 1.5 years.  I want to ensure it’s understood that I am certainly no expert in the “Construction World” but I do have tangible experience.  This article’s content is based on my first-hand experiences, real-world applications I’ve dealt with and conversations I’ve had.  Thus, these opinions are largely subject to my own with some additional input from outside articles and research.  

My first week into this role was a mix of emotion, to say the last.  It was during this week that my manager (whom I see as an industry expert and mentor) expressed to me [something along the lines of], “Eric, you’re dealing with one of the toughest verticals Melink works within [New Construction].  I’ll be honest with you – you’re going to learn so much but you’re really going to have to learn to love frustration.”   Yes, you [reader] likely share my same sentiment – skepticism, surprise and curiosity; though, it didn’t take long to understand what he meant.  I was “christened” nearly the very first project I dealt with.  Long story short, despite our product being hard specified by the hired designing Mechanical Engineer, our product was ultimately “value engineered*” for a cheaper alternative.  Echoing my feelings earlier, I was surprised, curious and frustrated.  I became aware of the “Achilles heel” of the New Construction world – the bidding process (which is influenced by cost).  Cost is, and always has been, the deciding factor in mostly all aspects of a new build project.  It makes sense, until you dig deeper.

Everyone is guilty.  Even the product manufacturers should hold themselves accountable in this regard; they/we are just trying to play the ‘game’ and stay in business.  In his article, “People Are Cost-Driven with Kitchen Equipment but There’s an Adage of Buy Cheap, Buy Twice”, Andrew Seymour interviewed a chef by the name of Hayden Groves.  Mr. Groves is quoted as saying some buyers are too “Excel spreadsheet-driven” and end up trying to shave off costs when it might not be the right move for the business.  First hand, I’ve seen this happen, as explained earlier.  Our controls can often be eliminated for a cheaper alternative that cannot do the same thing, thus cannot produce the same results as our technology.  This decision is often made without any discussion or pragmatic decision process.  Who makes this decision?  Ultimately, it should be the owner or whomever holds the checkbook and it often is; in this case, I understand.  The owner can do what he/she wants to do.  Unfortunately, often it’s a ‘bidder’ who is trying to win the project by competing solely on cost.  Again, I want to reiterate that this doesn’t happen every time, but it does happen way more than it should.  Yes, I am saying that if a trusted designer hypothetically specifies a Rolls-Royces then you’ll likely see most bidders price out a Toyota Camry (Toyota’s are great vehicles – I own one!).  Yes, they both have engines and four wheels, but they are uniquely different and have glaringly different features, components and thus, different values.  Without going down this rabbit hole, I’ll just say it’s the principle of the matter…that matters.   Attending an industry conference this past week, I had the chance to sit down with consultants and manufacturers.  This exact discussion was brought to the table as a point of frustration for the consultants.  They share my frustration!  This is a broken process and research support this argument.  Consulting-Specifying Engineers recent publication (www.csemag.com), provided the top 10 HVAC systems and BAS challenges.  The top challenge, comprising 79% of respondents, is the inadequate budget for a good design. Conversely, this same research shows that 96% of specifying engineers can agree that product quality is paramount when comparing products, above all else; these are the engineers that are hired for their expertise to ultimately design and specify products to accompany the design, to meet an owner’s and/or architects’ goals.  Yet, here we are.  A battle between the desire to specify based on quality but ultimately being sold on what is cheapest.

So, how does a whole industry change?  Perhaps by “eating the elephant, one bite at a time” as they say.  One often overlooked and unquestioned factor is that of aftermarket and post install support.  It’s imperative that we all make sure to mention our product’s warranties and service/support on the front end of the process, as the lack of either could potentially be a major headache on the backend.  If I never mentioned Melink’s warranties/service in my discussions, they would never get asked about; this is shocking.  A 2016 McKinsey study proves that service and support reign most important in terms of purchasing factors


  2016 McKinsey Study – “How to Unlock Growth in the Largest Account.” 

Hayden Groves, also harps on warranties/support.  He said, “You should look for manufacturers’ warranty too. If a manufacturer gives you a minimum standard of a year but somebody else gives you five years, that’s a huge belief in that piece of equipment”, says Hayden.  Speaking of Rolls Royce…

“The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.” – Sir Henry Royce of Rolls Royce

*Value Engineering = “Cost Cutting”

CITATIONS

  1. Pelliccione, Amanda. “2019 HVAC & Building Automation Systems Study.” Www.csemag.com , Equal Opportunity Publications, Inc, 16 Jan. 2019, bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/publication/?i=559857.

We are less than 12 months from the R-22 refrigerant phase-out: How can companies prepare?

What is R-22?

R-22 is an HCFC (Hydrochlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant found in older commercial and residential HVAC equipment, such as RTUs (roof top units), split systems and other equipment.  R-22 and other HCFC refrigerants are known to deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to harmful climate change.

The US has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 per the following phase-out schedule:

  • 1/1/2010: The US government banned the use of R-22 in new HVAC equipment.
  • 1/1/2015: The US government bans the production and import of all R-22
  • 1/1/2020: The US government will ban the use of all R-22 (with a few exceptions).  This will be the end of the road for R-22 use in the US.

NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) estimates 40 million commercial RTUs (roof top units) were installed in the US, in the decade prior to 2010.  The US Department of Energy also estimates that are at least 1.6 million old, low-efficiency RTUs in operation in the US.  This means there is a huge tidal wave of R-22 equipment in operation that will need to be replaced in the very near future.

How does the 2020 ban affect me?  R-22 costs have skyrocketed and are already more than 4X the cost/lb. of R410A. Older R-22 units have much lower EER ratings and are as much as 50% less efficient than current-day high-efficiency units.  In most cases, older R-22 RTUs cannot be converted to R410A refrigerant, and the older units will need to be replaced with a new, more energy efficient, more environmentally friendly RTUs.  It is already cost prohibitive to repair older R22 units, and the “fix-on-fail”, emergency replacement philosophy will be MUCH more expensive than a pro-active roof-sweep or planned equipment replacement program.

How can I best prepare for the phase-out, and where should I start?  I recommend companies start with an HVAC inventory of their older equipment, in addition to a detailed survey of all their facilities to verify the age and condition of all HVAC equipment, including newer and older HVAC equipment.  I also recommend involving a national or regional HVAC installation partner, and an independent, national testing, balancing and commissioning partner such as Melink Corporation to provide the unit data and a complete assessment of the entire mechanical system.  The survey should include duct-work inspections, inspection of the RTUs and exhaust fans.  Additionally, air-flow measurements should be recorded to verify proper building airflows and identify existing air-balance issues.  If the entire HVAC system is not inspected, the building will often continue to have comfort problems and building balance issues, even after the new equipment is installed.  The positive effects of the new, energy efficient HVAC equipment will not be fully realized, resulting in a lower-than-expected ROI.

  • For further information on HVAC surveys and other custom scopes of work, please e-mail [email protected] or call us at 513.965.7300.

Considerations for a Successful HVAC Equipment Upgrade Program

Have you ever replaced old HVAC equipment just to find that, after spending a lot of money, the comfort issues you were experiencing previously are still there?  Or you now have new problems that weren’t there before?  Your HVAC operates as a complete system, and the new equipment is only as good as its installation quality and the existing system it is connected with.  Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your HVAC equipment upgrade program.

  1. First, be proactive.  Get ahead of HVAC issues before they get worse or before they occur at all.  The more proactive you are, the lesser the negative impacts to your facilities operating budget, revenue, customer relations, and human resources.  On the flip side, with a fix-on-fail approach, you deal with costly emergency repairs, you have high energy costs from inefficient equipment, your revenue and customer relations suffer as uncomfortable customers take their business elsewhere, and your human resources incur lost productivity and even turnover of employees due to uncomfortable/unhealthy working conditions.  Not to mention the effect on your stress level when you have to deal with HVAC breakdowns!
  2. Start with a site survey.  You need an accurate inventory of your existing HVAC equipment, so you can make decisions on what to do with it.  Be clear about what information you need to have collected from the field, information that will enable you to make a thorough evaluation and meaningful recommendations.  Examples include equipment age, condition, features, operating measures, and so on.  Remember that your HVAC is a system, made up of many components all working together.  The focus can tend to be limited to the heating/cooling equipment, but there are also other pieces of the system that are very important, such as exhaust fans, ductwork, air grilles, and controls, to name a few.  Issues with these other components could limit the effectiveness of any new heating/cooling equipment.  The system is only as good as its weakest member.
  3. Assess the data.  Review the data returned from the site surveys to assess the overall scale and scope of your upgrade program.  Determine your trigger points for repair versus replacement, such as equipment age, condition, and efficiency.  This is the methodology that will help you to objectively decide whether you will continue to invest in a piece of equipment or replace it altogether.  In grading the equipment, this could be a simple, Green – Yellow – Red system of classification.  Green meaning ‘do nothing’, the equipment is good as-is.  Yellow meaning ‘repair’, the equipment has some issues that can be corrected at relatively low cost.  Red meaning ‘replace’, the equipment has completely failed or is no longer worth investing in.
  4. Prepare a scope of work.  Apply the previously prepared methodology to your entire equipment inventory.  This then becomes your scope of work for each site.  Put the scope in writing and be clear about your expectations.  Your equipment suppliers and installation contractors will need this scope in order to provide you with accurate estimates of cost and lead time.  This advanced planning, budgeting, and coordination will help to ensure the subsequent execution of the work goes smoothly.
  5. Consider the timing.  Equipment suppliers and installation contractors tend to be busiest in the summer and early fall months when construction activity peaks.  Avoiding these times helps to ensure you have the support you need, and your costs may be lower.  Plus, upgrading before summer helps to prepare your facilities to handle the hot/humid weather ahead.  Any temporary outages of heating/cooling that may occur while equipment is being repaired or replaced is less impactful on the facility operations during times of milder weather.
  6. Vet your partners.  Working with the right people makes a world of difference.  Partner with suppliers and contractors who are trustworthy and reputable.  Make sure they have experience with your type of facility and HVAC system, and are qualified for the services to be performed.  With the right team, you can accomplish most anything.
  7. Inspect the work.  After the equipment is repaired or replaced, it is imperative that it be inspected, tested, balanced, and commissioned in order to receive the full benefit of your capital investment.  This is your final assurance that you get the quality and performance expected out of your HVAC system.  When issues are uncovered during this process, be sure to have them corrected by the suppliers and contractors while they are still under warranty.  If left unaddressed, those issues will become headaches and costs to your facilities and operations teams later.

Managing an HVAC equipment upgrade program can be a daunting job.  When it is handled in a proactive and organized fashion, and includes the right partners, the results can be extraordinary.

The 3 Most Common HVAC Problems During Winter

To quote a critically acclaimed HBO television series, “winter is coming, and we know what’s coming with it.” While it may not be as bad as the army of the dead, we can expect winter to bring about a variety of HVAC issues that can cost more pennies than shivers. Here are the top three most preventable winter mishaps, and how they can be avoided with a little DIY maintenance.

  1. Frozen Pipes

Besides fire, a building’s biggest enemy is water. Only this time of year, unwelcomed water doesn’t come in the form of humidity or a leaky roof, rather, in the form of solid icy pipes. Many building owners will try to cut costs by not heating their buildings at all times while completely unaware that above ceiling and sub-floor spaces can fall below zero in extreme cold weather. These spaces are home to water pipes that can freeze and burst causing un-flushable toilets, compromised showers, inaccessible tap water, and not mention, outrageous repair costs. The residual heat from the livable spaces above or below these pipes help to keep temperatures above freezing, so setting the thermostat to at least 65 °F throughout the day and night should keep the water flowing. In addition, be particularly aware of areas that are unheated or are constantly exposed to the elements like garages, loading docks, and basement storage rooms. Insulated pipes and walls will help to seal the deal.

  1. Uneven Airflow and Temperatures

Depending on the season, air is circulated throughout a building in different ways. Cold air falls which is why in the summer months, closing floor vents to allow more air to diffuse from ceiling vents is most effective in cooling a space. The opposite is true in the winter months where rising warm air is best circulated from floor diffusers and baseboard radiators. Knowing these trivial properties about air temperature can best optimize how your building is heated or cooled, so let the cool air fall and the warm air rise!

  1. Dirty Furnace Filters

While problems that arise from dirty or clogged filters are not unique to the winter, it’s still one of the most common culprits for defective air conditioning. A unit’s air filter removes particulates from the pre-conditioned air and allows the clean air to be conditioned and distributed. If a filter is clogged, airflow is reduced, and the terminal units will have to run longer to achieve desirable space temperatures. In the colder months, the air becomes dry which can dehydrate a person’s skin as a result. With dead skin cells making up 70 to 80 percent of dust content, it’s no wonder that the winter sees some pretty dirty filters. Changing an air filter is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to ensure maximum heating outputs which is why new filters should be installed before every season.

These winter mishaps are snow laughing matter, but just like bad puns, they’re easy to spot. Keeping these three common maintenance issues in mind will allow you to brave the cold and keep cozy all winter long.