Read these 7 HVAC Repair and Troubleshooting Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about HVAC tips and hundreds of other topics.
Commercial HVAC systems have a big job. They do not just heat and cool buildings, they also filter and clean indoor air. Mold, radon, secondhand cigarette smoke, cleaning chemicals, pollen, even perfume can be indoor pollutants. Problems with indoor air quality can lead to health concerns, discomfort by employees and the public, and sickness and claims for workers' compensation. Here are some tips for troubleshooting air quality problems with commercial HVAC systems:
* First, gather facts and review the situation. Who is affected by the air quality problem? Where is the problem? When did it occur?
* Identify environmental factors that may be related to the problem. Search for moisture or water damage.
* Inspect air flow pathways, ventilation and heating and cooling systems.
* Interview the building's occupants about their concerns and observations. Encourage people who say they are experiencing medical problems to see a doctor.
* Inspect the area that is the source of complaints. Does it look dirty? Cleaning carpets, furniture and surfaces may get rid of dust and other irritants.
* Evaluate whether the outdoor air is a source of problems. Is the HVAC system's intake air flow near vehicle traffic?
* Check your HVAC system for dust, dirt or mold growth.
* Recognize when you need the help of a professional. Sometimes it is necessary to hire an outside professional to investigate indoor air quality problems that you and your maintenance staff cannot solve alone.
For repair and troubleshooting of air quality problems at construction sites, contact a qualified engineer or specialist. Businesses need an engineer who focuses on industrial ventilation problems to work in this highly specialized area.
Industrial ventilation involves protecting workers from gases and toxins by flushing bad air from work sites and adding clean air. Welding vapors, dust from a construction site and oil mists are types of pollutants that industrial ventilation systems remove.
Work sites need to use industrial ventilation systems when contaminants in the air exceed federal limits for exposure. Expect the industrial engineer to go over worker health and safety regulations for proper ventilation and air quality control. The engineer will evaluate work sites and troubleshoot problems.
Weekend handymen may not want to hear this, but it needs to be said: Average homeowners are not able to make most repairs on their own air-conditioning and heating systems. When there is a repair problem -- and not maintenance to be done -- call an HVAC service technician. You cannot expect to pull out the toolbox and owner's manual, and fix your system.
Heating and cooling systems are more sophisticated than in years past. Many repairs require special diagnostic equipment. If there is a problem with coolant levels, you not only need special equipment, but a license to handle the Freon. If you do try to troubleshoot problems on your own, turn off the power first to your heating and cooling system.
If your office building or retail store is too humid, the problem may be the commercial HVAC system. Identify potential causes of a poorly functioning air system:
* Is the system well-maintained? Clean dirty coils, which reduce cooling and dehumidification. Clogged pans may hold standing water. Leaks in the mechanical system let moisture enter the building.
* Is the indoor air quality system being operated properly? Make sure the cooling fans run at a moderate speed. Sometimes air velocity is set too high, because spaces are not adequately cooled. But this may cause higher humidity levels.
* Is the HVAC unit too large or too small for the building space? Poorly sized commercial HVAC systems will not dehumidify the environment well and may allow unhealthy mold to grow.
Contact a professional to make system upgrades or add dehumidification equipment.
HVAC contractors and technicians have a new generation of support and tools in computer software. There is software that helps diagnose and troubleshoot heating and cooling problems. Other computer tools assist in home energy audits with the latest diagnostic tools.
If you sell HVAC equipment, look for software that shows homeowners how much money they can save in energy costs by investing in new heating and cooling appliances and devices.
There also are computer tools that show homeowners their choices in air-conditioning and heating equipment without visiting a showroom. Just bring your laptop or printouts. Some programs calculate heating and cooling costs monthly and yearly for residential and commercial buildings. They also simulate working cooling and heating systems.
If your home is not heating well, or your energy costs are up, the problem may not be your HVAC system. The source may be your home. Homes that are not well-insulated or weatherized lose a lot of energy and raise power bills. Making home improvements can save energy costs, and help heating and cooling systems run efficiently. Here are some steps to take:
* Weatherize your home. Your home should be well-sealed and well-insulated.
* Don't be afraid to add more insulation. It probably will lower utility bills.
* Insulate your attic and under floors above unheated spaces.
* Weather-strip doors and windows.
* Close chimney flues and seal unused fireplaces.
* Buy double-pane windows when replacing your home's windows. They add extra protection against the cold and wind.
Avoid major repairs of your HVAC system by keeping up with routine building maintenance. Most systems have service lives that extend beyond 25 years, and will not require overhauls if they are managed properly.
It makes economic sense to do an energy audit on existing systems. You can review your building's HVAC load and make sure the unit is sized properly to handle it. Identify areas to reduce energy use. Measures may include reducing lighting levels, adjusting use of appliances that emit a lot of heat, and automating climate control to match building use.
Perform predictive maintenance that ensures all HVAC parts operate properly and identifies items that may need replacement in the future. Predictive maintenance identifies problems before they occur. It ensures your system runs smoothly without the disruption of unexpected breakdowns and repairs.
Consult with an HVAC specialist to learn how to improve and maintain your system without interrupting work flow or comfort in your building.