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January 10, 2010


The Importance of HVAC Maintenance

By Pete Szmurlo, President



Recently, I have heard people say that we, as mechanical contractors, are in a virtual recession-proof industry. This allowed me to invest in many deep thoughts regarding this familiar topic that can never be discussed enough.


It is true that this past year we have seen the percentage of new equipment installations drop significantly. It appears that our current economy has swayed many budgets and the end result is equipment owners are holding on to what normally would be considered planned replacements.  With that stated, we are noticing a greater percentage of older, tired and heavily used mechanical equipment that is failing to meet the comfort and product demands of today’s various types of businesses.  In addition, many equipment owners have even diminished their scheduled maintenance programs in a desperate effort to decrease operating costs. In actuality, nothing can be further from the truth.  Regular equipment maintenance is a value-added service designed to not only provide reliable mechanical performance, but to also assist with the increased profit plan as well!


I have always used the analogy of operating an automobile to correlate the idea of dealing with older HVAC equipment. When we drive 20-year old cars, we can expect to pay for automobile repairs more frequently than those of us that drive cars that are only a few years old (although, as my friend tells me quite often, one can never tell about these things).  This seems like a simple thought process, but yet more challenging to grasp from non- technical business owners viewpoint.  Industry standards, along with documented history, inform us that we can expect to replace certain HVAC components such as condenser fan motors, contactors, induced draft motors, hot surface igniters, etc. after an average of five years.  So why is it so often perceived that these parts are failing during the times we need them most? The answer is simple- it’s true… the breakdowns occur during the times of need.  I have often stated that the heating portion of the mechanical HVAC equipment typically will not fail in July. Therefore it is so important to utilize a maintenance program to address these needs. A reaction is needed to address a negative situation, whereas a proactive approach minimizes these scenarios. In addition, preferred customers will always have priority in scheduling along with discounted rates. When you find yourself on the side of the needy, you can expect to have challenges while attempting to contact a service company to schedule a technician within the hour. To further pour salt on the wound at a time of need, the hourly rate will almost surely be higher due to lack of maintenance agreement pricing. Ah, and the best benefit of having these older "dinosaurs" maintained is the energy savings! You can expect a 25% to 35% energy cost savings with the use of clean, efficiently operating HVAC equipment.


Based on these facts, the decision to implement or continue with a scheduled maintenance program is as easy as 1, 2, 3.  It simply does not make sense to ignore the benefits of maintenance and energy savings, especially in today’s economy when HVAC equipment replacement is not part of the operating budget. Preventive scheduled maintenance is a sure way to saving money, keeping operating costs to a minimum and being environmentally responsible.


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