Deferred HVAC maintenance is a new term for that old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” On the surface it makes sense—if the HVAC system is running, why expend the resources associated with preventative maintenance?
The answer is clear to any experienced HVAC technician. Just because an HVAC system runs, doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with the system. In fact, the longer you defer maintenance, the greater the risk a minor problem will fester in the system, eventually resulting in catastrophic failure.
"The cost of deferred maintenance could potentially be 30 times that of the early intervention cost."
Without preventative maintenance, wear and tear reduces system efficiency by 5 percent every year, putting a strain on energy bills as well as equipment.
In addition to causing illnesses and allergies, deferred maintenance holds the possibility of very real HVAC dangers. If an unmaintained system includes cooling towers, a facility puts its employees or residents at risk of Legionnaire’s disease—and itself at risk of fines and legal action. And yes, the risk of electrical fires and injuries due to failing parts also rises with deferred maintenance.
Why do some facility owners decide not to get regular system maintenance? HVAC Maintenance myths.
- Maintenance is a necessary evil.
- Building Engineer does not have time to do preventive maintenance.
- Deferring maintenance saves money.
- A reactive strategy is the best method to complete maintenance work.
- We don’t need a maintenance training program.
This trend in deferred maintenance is concerning. According the US Energy Information Administration’s 2012 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, roughly half of all commercial buildings were constructed before 1980. With a median age of 32 years, commercial building stock in the United States is fairly old. U.S. schools are even older, averaging over 40 years in age. But while deferring maintenance may seem like a viable cost saving measure, the reality for many of these buildings is often years of neglect that can result in significantly greater expenses in the long run.
Stanford University recently published a report titled "Guidelines for Life Cycle Cost Analysis” which explains how as a building or campus ages, the cumulative cost of operating and maintaining facilities significantly impacts the overall budget — not just the maintenance budget. Even when funds are set aside to construct new buildings, they rarely extend to the ongoing operational costs vital to maintaining the facility and slowing the decline of building utility and performance.
Deferring maintenance, especially in mechanical and electrical systems, frequently turns minor problems into major system failures. As the number of system failures increases, the need to replace those systems becomes self-evident.
It’s incumbent upon the HVACR contractors, like CES, to educate building owners about the importance and benefit of a comprehensive HVAC Preventative Maintenance program.
Scroll through the slides below to see the results of deferring HVAC maintenance practices and consider the impact of this neglect on occupant comfort and health as Indoor Air Quality is diminished.