Modern, high-efficient rooftop HVAC units can mean substantial savings on annual energy costs for green facilities, but facility managers need to take an active role in managing the systems to get the most out of them.
One of the pitfalls of operating a rooftop HVAC system is that it is out of sight, out of mind. It is easier to neglect maintenance for a system you see only rarely and must make a trip up to the roof to inspect. But, if you don’t keep your rooftop system maintained properly, it lowers the system’s efficiency and shortens its lifespan. In fact, you could lose years of energy savings on a poorly maintained high-efficiency system.
If you are looking to get the most out of your rooftop HVAC investment—and see greatest possible benefit for the environment—here are some tips to keep your system running smoothly.
Utilize Advanced Monitoring
HVAC technology is getting smarter, and the best systems can provide facility managers useful real-time information that can be used to optimize their performance. Many modern commercial rooftop HVAC systems come with integrated controls and advanced monitoring systems that can take the mystery out of system performance. These controls systems have a variety of uses. For example, they can fine-tune system functions in response to changes in weather conditions, building occupancy and more, making the HVAC system run more efficiently with less wear and tear.
Advanced monitoring systems and integrated controls can also alert facility managers to abnormal functioning, giving them a chance to address the problem before it contributes to system inefficiency or causes a costly breakdown. Monitoring and control systems can be integrated with building management systems for greater control and insight, or they can be accessed through the controller’s built-in display.
Even better, advanced monitoring and controls mean facility managers can diagnose and troubleshoot the rooftop unit from indoors, without having to go on the roof.
You wouldn’t run your car for a year without changing the oil. Or if you did, you would probably find yourself stranded. Just like scheduling routine maintenance for your vehicle, your green lodging facility should schedule routine maintenance for your rooftop HVAC. This includes cleaning the condenser coils, changing air filters, checking refrigerant levels, tightening electrical connections, and more, according to the manufacturer’s specifications. System maintenance should be performed by a professional at least twice per year.
In addition, rooftop HVAC maintenance should be a dedicated line item that your facility budgets for. Budget time each month to go on the roof and visually inspect the unit, looking for any obvious signs of malfunction. Leaving maintenance out of the budget will make it easier to put off, leading to expensive breakdowns and higher overall energy costs.
Partner with a Pro
While there are standards in the commercial HVAC industry, each brand and each type of system within that brand has parts, configurations and functionality that is unique to that brand. When selecting a professional to install and perform maintenance on your high-efficiency rooftop HVAC system, look for a company that specializes in that brand.
Many HVAC manufacturers provide technical training and continuing education for the contractors who install and service their equipment. This means they are more likely to understand the individual needs of your rooftop HVAC system, along with industry best practices for keeping the system running as efficiently as possible.
Environmental stewardship doesn’t end when you install a high-efficiency HVAC system. On the contrary, ongoing system maintenance is required if a green lodging facility is going to keep its low-impact promise. Invest the time and funds required to maintain your system, keeping it from using excess energy and making the system last as long as possible. These are sustainable choices that will resonate with your environmentally conscious guests and generate significant cost savings along the way.
Peter Sumner is Controls/Electrical Engineering Section Manager for Modine in Racine, Wis.