Technician performing maintenance on an HVAC system.

Your HVAC system is a key component of your commercial building’s operations. It keeps your employees and customers comfortable, and it keeps the air quality in your building or facility healthy by maintaining good airflow. 

A commercial HVAC system is not simply a larger version of a residential system – commercial HVAC systems are much more complex and also have to satisfy the unique requirements of different kinds of commercial buildings.

Any machine, even with regular maintenance, will begin to malfunction as it ages. If you’ve noticed your energy bills going up, strange noises coming from HVAC units or ductwork, or uneven heating or cooling in your building, it’s time to look into your HVAC system’s performance. Here are some of the most common commercial HVAC problems.

1. Clogged or Dirty Filters

The job of the air filters in your HVAC system is to remove dust, pollen, and other unwanted particulate matter from the air. Eventually, air filters get dirty and will clog because of the buildup of material and need to be replaced as part of routine maintenance.

If you haven’t had HVAC maintenance in a while, you probably have clogged filters. Not only are they not filtering out foreign particles, but they are also making your system work harder to push air through the clogged filter. This increases the wear and tear on your commercial heating system, leading to the possibility of overheating and reduction of its lifespan.

2. Lack of Efficiency

Modern commercial HVAC equipment is built to be highly energy efficient, even more so than HVAC equipment from just a couple of decades ago. If your energy costs have risen dramatically over the last couple of months, it’s time to consider HVAC service.

If the heating and cooling in your building is uneven, this could mean problems with your air ducts. Have an HVAC service technician check and see if dampers are installed and if they are properly balanced. Dampers are used to reduce airflow in one line and increase flow in others to achieve equal heating and cooling.

If your air conditioning or heating systems seem to be running nonstop, it could be due to the age of the equipment or a lack of maintenance. Dirty condenser coils are an issue that can restrict air flow. Luckily, an HVAC professional can detect this problem visually and simply clean your system to restore proper function.

3. Noises in the HVAC System

Not all noises that come from your commercial HVAC units are cause for alarm. Many noises are normal, and ductwork can create popping sounds as the metal ducts expand and contract with hot and cold air.

When your system starts making strange or unusual noises that you’ve never heard before, or the heating or cooling units operate louder than they normally do, there may be something wrong with your system. Sometimes the fix is simple: A piece might have broken off of a larger part and is causing a rattling noise. Or maybe a bolt has come loose and two parts are no longer joined together. It could even be a fan belt that has worn out and needs to be replaced. The only way to know is to have an HVAC technician inspect your system and determine what the problem is.

4. Unresponsiveness

If your HVAC system won’t turn on, it could be for a number of reasons. The thermostat is the most likely cause, and is most often the first thing an HVAC technician will check. Most modern thermostats are programmable and operate with the use of batteries, and dead batteries are the most common cause for a thermostat not functioning. If new batteries don’t help, then you may need a new thermostat.

A tripped circuit breaker will also cause your HVAC system to stop functioning. Reset the breaker and your system should restart. If breaker issues are becoming more frequent, it could be a sign of serious problems with your electrical systems.

5. Drain Line Issues

A drain line’s function is to carry moisture away from the HVAC unit. Condensation forms as the HVAC unit runs and the moisture is collected and carried to a nearby drain. But as time goes by, the drain line can get clogged with algae or debris, which can cause water to back up in the HVAC unit’s drain pan, eventually leading to overflow and damage to the unit. Overflowing water can also collect around the unit and cause damage to the roofing material. Periodic checks and cleaning of the drain line will ensure that water is draining properly from your HVAC units.

6. Refrigerant Leaks

Refrigerant is the liquid chemical agent that enables your air conditioner to produce cool air. If your air conditioner is running in hot weather but your building isn’t cooling down, the issue might be as simple as a lack of refrigerant in your air conditioning unit. It’s important to get this checked quickly, because when an air conditioner isn’t cooling down the environment, it will keep running. This is hard on the unit’s condenser and can lead to more problems in your unit.

Avoid Common Commercial HVAC Problems

The majority of commercial HVAC problems can be avoided with preventative maintenance. You should have your HVAC system inspected in late summer or early fall (before the heat is turned on) and in the early spring (before you turn on the air conditioning).

Establishing a maintenance program for your HVAC system whill help to ensure that this regular attention/inspection is followed. Another important step is to contact a company that has experience in both commercial roofing and commercial HVAC systems, like TEMA Roofing Services. When you partner with TEMA, we can make sure that your HVAC systems and your roof are in optimal condition. Contact TEMA Roofing today to learn more about our range of services!