A study published by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) indicated that over 90% of facility service requests to are related to a space being too hot or cold, with indoor air quality issues ranking a near second.[i] There are three common factors that contribute to these frequent complaints: the weather, a facility’s HVAC system and yes, the occupants. While we can’t necessarily change the habits of your occupants, there is a solution that can prevent a substantial amount of these common complaints; preparation. In fact, the solution is much more practical; a well-planned approach for seasonal maintenance is the answer.
Many building professionals refer to the spring and fall as the “shoulder seasons,” as they are the periods of time between peak usage of heating and cooling. It is during these times, when it is most efficient to handle seasonal changeover. Recognizing the functional difference that exists across typical HVAC systems allows you to focus on the right next steps for seasonal changeover.
What does a well-planned approach to seasonal maintenance look like?
As is the case with most aspects of your building’s lifecycle, planning is key. Give your facility team, occupants or contractors as much early notice as possible when you will be performing maintenance or changeover. If possible, about a month’s notice will go a long way in helping your stakeholders arrange schedules, plan and communicate to their teams. Also, do not hesitate to benchmark within your local facility management association. Many other FMs face the same challenges and will also be picking the “ideal” time to perform a changeover.
Once you have established your ideal time to perform maintenance and changeover, here are the critical steps to consider:
- Allow your systems to stabilize to ambient temperature. If you don’t, you run the risk of shocking your HVAC equipment with temperatures that are too cold or hot (especially when it comes to your boilers and chillers). Thermal shock occurs when rapid temperature change causes elements of your HVAC equipment to expand or contract at varying rates and can cause leaks, cracks or long-term damage.
- Next perform your piping changeover. Depending on the type of system in your facility, your service needs may differ. If it’s a two-pipe system, the changeover will most likely require physical attention, whereas a 4-pipe system utilizes a building management system (BMS) that can call for heating or cooling automatically.
- Lastly, ensure that all other maintenance items are covered such as lubricating and inspecting pumps, cleaning strainers, changing filters and taking oil samples to ensure the systems are running clean and efficient.
By following these simple steps, your facilities team will be equipped with an approach to seasonal changeover that is well planned, communicated and performed. Most importantly, your facility and its occupants will remain comfortable and have fewer complaints.
While some facilities have teams that can perform these importance steps internally, please consider an experienced HVAC contractor to assist in this service, leaving you with more time to focus on other priorities.
Glenn Gould, FMP, MBA
Service Sales Manager
Glenn has more than 10 years of HVAC, engineering and construction experience, working for a wide range of facilities including UMass Memorial Hospital and Partners Healthcare. Glenn is also an active member of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) where he earned his FMP certification.
[i] I. (2009). Temperature Wars. IFMA, 1-7. doi:10.7554/elife.24578.022