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The 5 Most Common Commercial HVAC Problems

Commercial heating and cooling systems are designed to provide reliable performance over an extended period of time. Eventually, as the equipment ages, the system will perform less reliably. Here is a brief description of five of the most common HVAC problems seen in commercial systems.

1. Lack of Cooling or Heating

Cooling systems require refrigerant, a liquid substance that is essential for the removal of heat and production of cool air. If the system loses refrigerant through leaks or theft, the equipment won't cool effectively. A recharge, or refill, of refrigerant is usually enough to restore the system's ability to cool. Insufficient refrigerant is among the most common HVAC problems.

The evaporator coils on an air conditioner can freeze over, developing a thick layer of frost that interferes with the equipment's ability to cool. Simply defrosting the coils and removing the build-up ice is usually enough to make the system cool again.

2. Loss of Efficiency

HVAC systems can lose efficiency and cause a significant increase in your monthly heating or cooling expenses. This happens because the system works harder to make up for the loss by running more often. If you've seen a sudden spike in your energy bills, that can't be explained by increased use or weather-related issues, you should have your HVAC system checked by a professional.

3. Reduced Indoor Air Quality

The air filters in your heating and cooling equipment work to remove particulates of dust, pollen, and other material from the air moving through the systems. By doing so, they keep those particulates from getting into your facility's indoor air. If it seems like the quality of your indoor air is going down, check the HVAC system's air filters and change them if they're dirty.

You can also expect cooling systems to provide a level of dehumidification for your indoor environment. If humidity is increasing, the equipment may need preventive maintenance.

4. Unexplained or Unusual noises

If your HVAC system develops strange noises you've never heard before, or if the noises it usually makes are louder than usual, that could be a sign of serious trouble. However, first make sure that the noises aren't due to loose components, unfastened doors or access panels, or other parts that produce rattling, banging, or clattering noises.

Squealing or screeching noises could mean that a fan or other moving part needs to be lubricated. They can also indicate that a fan belt needs to be changed.

If a gas furnace develops internal popping or banging sounds, it could mean that gas is building up and is burning off with a sound. This could eventually become a significant problem and should be checked out as soon as possible.

5. Unresponsiveness

If your HVAC system won't work at all, the problem can often be traced back to the thermostat. Many modern programmable thermostats run on batteries, and if the batteries run down, the thermostat will go off and the HVAC equipment will not run. Check the screen of the thermostat, and if it's blank, put in new batteries. This is one of the most common HVAC problems, and usually thermostat will come back on and the HVAC system will work like normal.

If battery replacement doesn't solve the problem, the thermostat itself may need to be replaced.

A tripped circuit breaker could also be the cause of a non-functioning HVAC system. Breakers can be tripped because of power surges in the electrical lines. An occasional breaker trip shouldn't be a cause for alarm, but constant issues with the breaker could indicate a significant problem. Reset the breaker and the system should work again.

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