Now that summer is here and the mercury has risen, the load we put on our commercial HVAC
systems in an effort to keep our buildings comfortable does as well. Regardless of your preventative maintenance due diligence, it is likely (especially if you manage multiple locations) the extra workload may result in an equipment malfunction of some capacity. When that time comes, so often does the necessity to make a commercial HVAC repair vs. replace decision. It’s a strategic determination that every Facility Manager has to make fairly frequently. Unfortunately, it’s not always an easy choice. There’s no secret sauce to tell you when the perfect time to pull the trigger on an HVAC replacement should be. Instead, it’s a calculated call that takes into account a number of variables. To make life a bit easier, here are some of the items you may want to take into consideration the next time you’re trying to make the correct commercial HVAC repair vs. replace decision for your company.
Repair Costs and Frequency Failures happen. It’s just a part of the wear and tear involved with running an HVAC unit. However, those repairs should only need to occur once every few years if you properly run a good PM program. As a piece of equipment nears the end of its life, repairs will need to happen more and more often. If you need to start repairing the same unit multiple times a year, it may be time to go ahead and replace the equipment. The cost of the repairs is a big factor as well. The general rule of thumb is that if the cost of the repair is 50%-60% of the replacement cost, it’s probably a good idea to just replace the unit. Of course, your budget and what makes sense for your company needs to be taken into consideration as well. Even though the replacement cost in this scenario is 40-50% higher than the repair, it will likely be recovered in the long-term spend (or lack thereof) on the unit.
Equipment Age According to ASHRAE commercial HVAC units have a lifespan of about 15 years depending on how well it’s maintained. That is just an average, and of course, there are a number of variables that could push those numbers one way or the other. For the most part, however, the life of your equipment shouldn’t vary more than a few years away from that number. Make sure you keep detailed records of the equipment’s service history. If the unit gets to be over 10 years old, and HVAC service needs to be done, consult with an HVAC contractor and share the service history. They will be able to help determine the pros and cons of a commercial HVAC repair vs replacement decision.
Efficiency and Energy Costs As systems age, it’s natural for the operating costs to steadily increase. Years of wear and tear cause a piece of equipment to become less efficient over time, which means it may have to run longer and harder to maintain the same level of comfort throughout your space. While some believe that a unit can be repaired endlessly as long as parts are available and preventative maintenance is regularly performed, energy costs need to be taken into consideration. New units will reinvigorate the energy efficiency of your system and will save you on utility costs. Those savings will add up over time and could help you recover the money spent on a replacement.
New Technologies New mechanical technologies and methods are being introduced every day. Stay up to date on your new options and take them into consideration when making a large repair vs. replace decision. For example, CMI Mechanical recently helped a large national retailer save tens of thousands of dollars per location by avoiding cooling tower replacements. The exterior of the equipment was rusting away and looked like it needed to be replaced. However, CMI Mechanical HVAC and Refrigeration found a new technology that coated the exterior of the cooling tower with polyurea and would extend the life of the unit 10-15 years. The cost of this process was drastically lower than yanking out the old system and replacing it with a new one. Making a commercial HVAC repair vs replace decision is very difficult, especially how cost prohibitive these HVAC units can be for one of your locations. But, reaching out to a trusted commercial HVAC contractor for guidance can be the best decision possible. It can really help to speak with someone with the necessary experience to assist with weighing your options.