Commercial HVAC systems make up a large portion of a building’s energy demands and need regular maintenance to operate at peak efficiency. Even with the best care, your HVAC system can develop problems that impact air and temperature quality, increase energy consumption, or damage system components. Common concerns with commercial HVAC systems include:

Inadequate Heating or Cooling

If an HVAC system cannot maintain a comfortable temperature in your building, it’s not fulfilling its primary function. Problems with heating and cooling may have easy fixes, such as clogged air filters or loose ductwork, but can also be a sign of potential component damage. Low levels of refrigerant, for instance, not only result in insufficient cooling—it also causes the condenser to work harder, consuming more power and potentially leading to mechanical malfunctions.

Thermostat Malfunctions

Problems with heating and cooling may have nothing to do with your HVAC system. Sometimes the problem lies with your thermostats. Check thermostat batteries, ensure thermostats are compatible with your HVAC system, check for accumulations of dust and debris in the thermostat, and inspect the thermostat’s electrical resistor device.

Bad Smells

Unpleasant smells are some of the most common concerns with commercial HVAC systems. Burning smells or “hot metal” odors suggest HVAC parts are overheating.

Clogged air filters can produce a moldy, musty smell. Debris pulled into the system may melt or “cook” on the heat exchanger, while clogged drains can lead to stagnant water smells from condenser pans. Decaying, rotting smells may indicate a small animal or bird has died in your ductwork, necessitating a hunt for the corpse.

Strange Noises

Like odd smells, strange noises are common concerns with commercial HVAC systems. When everything is operating normally, an HVAC system should produce relatively little noise. Noise may indicate loose ductwork, broken fans, or

A problem with the system’s compressor.

Airflow Issues

Reduced airflow throughout the building can indicate clogged air filters, which should be the first component checked when airflow capacity drops.

If some areas of the building receive more airflow than others, the problem probably lies in your ductwork. The U.S. Department of Energy reports 25 to 40 percent of an HVAC’s heating or cooling capacity is lost, on average, through ductwork issues.


Potential problems include leaks, cracks, separations, and sagging ductwork. Locating such problems can be challenging. Locations where airflow or temperature imbalances occur are good places to start looking for the cause of airflow problems.

Clogged Drain Lines

If dirt and algae block up condenser drain lines, water can back up into the drain plan where it may overflow and damage surrounding system components. Signs of blocked drain lines include water leakage, higher than normal building humidity, musty, stagnant smells, and mold growth.

Overheating

Blown fuses suggest electrical components in your HVAC system are overheating. If your system regularly shuts down due to blown fuses check your circuit breaker to see where the overload is occurring. Overheating can damage your system and increases the risk of electrical fires.

Lack of Preventative Maintenance

One of the most common causes of commercial HVAC problems is a lack of proper maintenance. Preventative maintenance helps you identify and rectify small problems before they become more serious (and require more expensive solutions). A properly trained and certified HVAC technician is needed to regularly service and inspect your system for problems.

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