Once a building system has been designed and installed, the main expenses involved are operation and maintenance. Operation costs include inputs like energy and water, and there are also associated wages when equipment needs an operator. On the other hand, maintenance costs include part replacements, maintenance staff wages, and often the services of engineering consultants and contractors.
Based on how maintenance is managed, the costs assumed by building owners can vary drastically:
- The traditional maintenance approach is being responsive, where problems are solved as they happen, but this is not the most efficient way to use time and resources.
- A smarter approach is monitoring the condition of building systems at regular intervals, and solving issues before there is an equipment breakdown.
The consequences of equipment failure depend on the specific building system affected. For example, if a steam-based sterilization system in a hospital fails, many healthcare operations are disrupted and the consequences can be severe. On the other hand, there is no disruption in an outdoor lighting circuit fails, but safety may be compromised at night. In both cases, the best solution is not allowing the issue to materialize in the first place.
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How Proactive Maintenance Improves the Reliability of HVAC
HVAC equipment is very important because it sustains adequate indoor conditions for occupancy, but its role is critical during extreme temperatures. A building interior without air conditioning quickly becomes unsuitable for occupancy on a hot summer day, and the same applies if a space heating boiler fails on a winter day with freezing temperatures.
Equipment breakdowns that affect heating and cooling systems can be very disruptive, and building owners cannot guarantee suitable conditions for occupants unless these installations are serviced regularly. Space heating systems should have already been serviced when when winter arrives, and air conditioning should be checked before the hottest months of summer.
Allowing HVAC breakdowns not only brings the direct cost of a reparation.
- When businesses are affected, there is also a loss or productivity.
- On the other hand, occupants in residential buildings may be forced to spend a night in a hotel if heating systems fail on a cold winter day.
Routine inspections of HVAC equipment not only prevent breakdowns - they also provide an opportunity to enhance the installation with energy efficiency measures. The best time to upgrade equipment is when the building is not using it, which is why maintenance and upgrades are often performed together.
Potable water pumping systems also have a fundamental role, and a pump failure can be just as disruptive as a chiller or boiler failure. Proactive maintenance can also avoid disruption and expensive reparations in this case.
Proactive Maintenance for Fire Protection Systems
Maintenance issues can be disruptive when they affect HVAC or pumping systems, but the consequences can be devastating if fire protection systems do not operate correctly. Fire can cause massive property damage and loss of human life, and the automatic measures that detect and prevent fire must always be ready to respond.
Consider fire sprinkler systems, which contain pressurized water that is released immediately in response to heat. If an automatic sprinkler system has low pressure due to poor maintenance, its capacity to extinguish fire is reduced or eliminated.
The Cost Advantage of Proactive Maintenance
In addition to the reasons described above, proactive maintenance is recommended simply because it’s the best business decision:
- When a building system fails, the resulting damage often affects many components beyond the one that caused the breakdown.
- On the other hand, if the issue is detected and resolved in advance, only the specific component causing the problem must be fixed.
For example, if a compressor shows signs that it could eventually lock up, it should be inspected by professionals to conduct the corresponding reparations. If the compressor failure is allowed, the damage may extend to the electric motor and other associated components. In a few words, prevention has a lower cost than reparation.
Another advantage of proactive maintenance is that activities can be scheduled when they cause minimal disruption. On the other hand, when an equipment breakdown occurs, building owners rarely have time to spare - the issue must be fixed as soon as possible to restore building operation.