High heat can age your HVAC system in a hurry, especially the most crucial part: The compressor.
Sweltering heat means higher demand throughout your entire HVAC system. Sometimes, relatively minor problems with a component worsen rapidly and degrade performance system-wide. The risk is especially high if the last maintenance check was more than three months ago.
Under average operating conditions and backed by regular maintenance, a commercial compressor can last 10-15 years. Preparations for its replacement should start around the 8-year mark, since performance loss is usually measurable by the time the unit is ten years old.
Unfortunately, failure can occur much earlier under intense demand.
Luckily, you will usually get warnings if demand is too great for your compressor. Sudden, catastrophic failure of a well-maintained compressor is exceedingly rare. More often, there are several signs that point to problems – either within the compressor or elsewhere in the system.
Many times, these become noticeable late in summer or right as seasons change.
If your commercial compressor shows any of these symptoms, it might need immediate service:
Sudden, Sharp Increase in HVAC Energy Consumption
Modern commercial HVAC systems are compatible with building management setups that help you track HVAC energy consumption. This is much easier than trying to compare energy bills over time and rule out reasons for consumption hikes. Still, it’s a wise idea to use last year’s figures for summer energy use as a starting point to see whether current consumption is unusually high.
Insufficient Cooling Throughout Your Property
Some causes of insufficient cooling are relatively easy to deal with. The first thing to look at is whether there is a sufficient amount of the correct refrigerant. Then, examine ductwork in affected areas and change out any clogged air filters to improve air flow. If neither of these explain the issue, odds are good you’re dealing with a fault that affects the compressor.
Dramatic Rise in Indoor Humidity
It’s sticky, hot, wet, and damp – humidity is one of the things that makes heat so uncomfortable.
What most people don’t realize is that outdoor temperature isn’t always the whole explanation for humidity. Coil and drainage issues can also contribute. Check your HVAC components early, as it’s easy to pinpoint these repairs compared to other humidity explanations, like building envelope problems.
Noticeable Inaccuracies in Thermostat Readings
Your thermostat serves as the brain of your HVAC system. Commercial thermostats rely on a variety of sensors that report external temperatures. Humidity can fool you into feeling like these readings aren’t quite accurate. When they’re clearly wrong, however, it may mean you need to replace the thermostat.
An aging thermostat can be responsible for the system running longer than it should or cycling on and off too frequently. If these issues are allowed to continue, they can impact the compressor and other parts.
Complaints from Your Building Personnel, Tenants, or Customers
No matter what kind of building you have, someone out there is relying on temperature management to make their day easier. One or two complaints could be a coincidence, but take notice when patterns start to develop. Have a smattering of complaints in a certain area of your facility? Start there first. Getting calls only at a particular time of day? Consider unusual pressures the system may be under at that time.
Uneven Temperatures – Warm Spots or Cool Spots
Uneven temperatures can point directly to a compressor that’s on the brink of failure. Check it out right away and perform any outstanding maintenance tasks. If the compressor seems sound, the next step is the thermostat. A modern eco-friendly thermostat has “smart” diagnostics you can run.
If neither of these options uncovers the problem, you may have a ductwork issue. Older commercial buildings are at elevated risk of clogged ductwork, since the ducts tend to be much narrower than in more recent buildings. Damaged ducts may leak air, preventing the HVAC from cooling some areas.
Noises, Liquid, and Other Visible Signs of Trouble
Unusual sounds anywhere in the system indicate some type of mechanical problem. You will usually hear about banging, whistling, and strange other noises from your building stakeholders. Luckily, you can often get to the root of these issues by tracking down the source of the sound.
Liquid leakage anywhere in your HVAC system should be seen as a priority one alert for your compressor. Flooding and slugging are major issues that can destroy a compressor in a matter of minutes. After the leak is identified and resolved, go forward with full emergency maintenance on key components.
If performance is compromised or failure is imminent, a remanufactured commercial compressor is the best way to keep your operations going. Remanufactured compressors provide performance comparable to an all-new model at a substantial discount and can often be delivered weeks sooner than an OEM unit.