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HVAC Operations and Maintenance

HVAC operations and maintenance (“O&M”) are the practices that keep mechanical systems working at peak performance during the lifetime of the system.

 Top-quality operations and maintenance practices such as continuous commissioning can improve energy performance 20% and improve occupant comfort at the same time.

Good HVAC O&M is measured by system performance. The system should continue providing thermal comfort at the energy use specified in the HVAC design for the building.

Filter Cleaning & Replacement

Keeping filters clean is an important factor in keeping their energy performance and indoor air quality high.  This is the most frequently neglected aspect of HVAC operations, because HVAC machines do not break down often but filters do require regular attention.

Some filters are designed to be cleaned by spraying with water or vacuuming.  Others should simply be replaced.  These include not only filters in ducts, but filters in furnaces, heat pumps, and other devices.

Cleaning Components

Other components require periodic cleaning as well.  Ducts must be kept clean of dust, mold, and other contaminants for good indoor air quality.  They should also be periodically inspected for leaks, as this can cause surprisingly large energy losses.

Dirt and dust that settles on coils acts as an insulator.  Crooked or crushed fins restrict air flow, reducing the effectiveness of convective cooling.  As a result, air conditioners and heat pumps periodically require their coils cleaned  so that they can continue conducting heat to and from the air efficiently.

Dehumidifiers and air conditioners that dehumidify should have their condensate drains checked.  Blocked drains will cause condensed water to pool up and possibly leak into the building envelope or occupied areas, causing mold and mildew.

Operation of Control Systems

HVAC control systems are often run by programmable thermostats that schedule heating and cooling for different times of day and days of the week.  Such schedules should be set to match the occupancy and activity schedules of different spaces.

 Sensors for HVAC controls, such as temperature and humidity sensors, or occupancy sensors, should be regularly checked for proper operation.  Sensors that start shutting off or turning on heating or cooling at the wrong times make people too hot or too cold, and can waste energy.