How to Control Your Warehouse HVAC Costs

In a warehouse setting, the functions of an HVAC system are critical to the comfort of company personnel and the condition of supplies and machinery. If the HVAC fails to keep temperatures at an ideal level, the warehouse could fail to function efficiently. The HVAC must also work efficiently, otherwise, energy costs could spiral out of hand. Here’s how to control commercial HVAC costs.

General Efficiency Ideas

If you are wondering how to lower HVAC costs on a monthly and yearly basis, the answers generally come down to system efficiency. Simply put, if your HVAC system is well-maintained, up-to-date, and suitably sized for the facility in question, the system should perform well. If one of those factors is missing, you will likely run into problems relating to an inefficient HVAC system that puts a drain on your energy resources.

To ensure proper efficiency from your HVAC system, you must determine whether the parts that comprise the system are up-to-date and in sound working condition. If there is any strain in system performance, your system will fail to warm and cool your facility properly. At the same time, the system itself will struggle and drain power in its attempt to perform its regular function.

To keep these problems under control, a warehouse HVAC must undergo routine maintenance and regular inspections. Check the air ducts every now and then to verify that the air flow is proportional to the settings of the thermostat. If the airflow is insufficient, there are likely issues with the ductwork or motor.

When issues do emerge, report the matter to an HVAC service professional immediately. The relatively small price for service maintenance is well worth the savings that you could ultimately get in the long run. Maintenance generally leads to a more efficient system and the prevention of costlier issues.

Common Issues Found and Solutions for Those Issues

One problem that can degrade the quality of air in a working facility is humidity, which can make the air seem warmer than the outside temperature readings indicate. Humidity also causes perspiration and condensation. In an HVAC system, condensation can also lead to the development of mold and mildew, which cause rank smells and can ultimately send pathogens through the air.

Conversely, an excessively dry environment can feel cold and uncomfortable. When problems such as sore throats and itchy skin afflict many workers at a given facility, the air inside that environment is more than likely on the drier side. To prevent the effects of humidity on your HVAC system, install humidity-control products at your warehouse.

Other problems that emerge from time to time with HVAC units are mechanical issues such as broken fans, leaky drains, and strained motors. If the fan motor wears down, the HVAC will gradually overheat. As this happens, other parts will inevitably wear down. One of the biggest signs of an ailing fan is when the system produces squealing noises, which would indicate a worn fan belt. If so, shut off the system and contact your trusted nearby HVAC service specialist immediately.

Further problems can stem from leaky drains. If water extracted from the air leaks back into the system, mold and mildew can form within the system and degrade the sanitation of the air. Therefore, drains need to be periodically checked for leaks and replaced if necessary.

Inspect the Ductwork and Sealing

The steps involved with maintaining commercial HVAC systems often center on the components involved, such as the ductwork. In fact, faulty ductwork is usually at the root of most problems with warehouse HVAC systems. If you have noticed irregularities with the heating and cooling throughout your facilities, chances are that air has been leaking from the ductwork.

There are numerous signs of faulty ductwork. For starters, if the working areas are insufficiently warmed or cooled, air is likely leaking through the seals of the ductwork. Consequently, the air escapes before it disperses through the vents and into the working quarters.

Another sign of faulty ductwork is when the HVAC system cycles on and off more frequently, but without sufficient temperature adjustments. For example, if the system cycles off but then abruptly starts back up again, the system is probably working harder just to compensate for the reduced amount of airflow.

If air movement seems to be non-existent from particular vents when the system is active, this is likely due to a collapsed air duct. Alternately, the issue could be down to failed sealing tape or worn insulation. In any case, the issue should be inspected by an HVAC maintenance professional.

Further signs of troubled ductwork include the rank odors of rodents and mold. If a horrid stench permeates your facilities each time the warehouse HVAC kicks on, the smell is likely due to the presence of rodent remains within the ductwork. It is a simple fact that rodents are drawn to the warm temperatures of HVAC systems. As such, this could be symptomatic of a larger infestation or rodent-access problem.

The smell of mold would indicate condensation within the ductwork. As the water evaporates, mold and mildew are liable to form along the inner lining of the ducts. Condensation can also wear down the insulation and lead to further problems with the system’s performance.

Reduce Building Load

Anyone who wonders about how to control commercial HVAC costs must take the issue of building load into account. Building load is defined as the amount of heating or cooling required to maintain the desired temperature within an interior space. If you successfully reduce the load, you could see a significant drop in your energy expenses.

Various methods can help you achieve a favorable warehouse climate with reduced load. For starters, the newer systems in production today are more compact and use less energy but offer superior performance and efficiency compared to their larger counterparts from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. When the time comes to replace your system, choose an HVAC sufficient for the conditioned spaces of your warehouse but do not overestimate on the sizing issue.

Another way to reduce load is to tighten the building envelope of your warehouse. The envelope is defined as the dividing line between the conditioned and unconditioned spaces within your building interior. For example, areas in which workers operate and machines are situated will be conditioned, yet the basement and dark spaces may remain unconditioned.

To tighten the envelope, test for air leaks on a periodic basis and hire a maintenance inspector if necessary. With less air passing in and out of your warehouse envelope, your building load will be lighter and your HVAC system will most likely be more efficient.

Conduct Routine Maintenance

On a periodic basis, the basic components of the HVAC system should be inspected and cleaned if necessary. Basic tasks include filter change outs, equipment testing, and worn parts replacement. Some of these steps can be performed by anyone on hand with a working knowledge of HVAC components but many others are best left to an HVAC service professional. Along the Northeast coastal area, Shipley Energy is the trusted source for HVAC service work.

The filters in an HVAC system can become clogged and dusty over time. As the impurities from the air are filtered out through the process of the HVAC, remnants of dirt and gunk inevitably attach to the filters. Gradually, the filters lose their ability to do their job properly and the time comes to change them out for new ones. Inspect the filters every couple of months to see whether they need to be replaced.

At the start of warm and cold seasons, your HVAC system should be inspected by a professional. The best times for inspection are at the outset of spring, just as rising temperatures prompt an increased reliance on the system’s cooling capabilities, and during the early weeks of fall, just before cold temperatures lead to turning on the heater.

At both times of the year, the system will begin enacting a different set of functions, and you will want to make sure that everything works well. Schedule to have the parts inspected to ensure that everything is in proper working condition. If you skip one of these inspections, an undetected system issue could lead to the sudden failure of your HVAC right in the middle of a heat wave or subzero spell.

Employ Automation, Programmable Thermostats and Zone Controls

At many warehouse facilities, each section undergoes the same temperature adjustments day and night, even if this is unnecessary. For example, a facility might have the working areas and storage areas equally cooled or warmed 24/7, regardless of whether the storable items even require these adjustments.

One of the most effective ways to reduce HVAC energy costs is to keep your warehouse heating/cooling system set to different levels during the daytime and overnight hours. While temperature adjustments are usually necessary during working hours, the same might not be true during hours and days when a facility is closed.

If you shut down your operations for a select amount of hours each night, you could save huge amounts of money by simply shutting off the warehouse HVAC during these hours. Alternately, you could use programmable thermostats, which can be set to adjust the temperature of your warehouse during select hours.

Another one of the key steps to reducing commercial HVAC costs is to use selective temperature control, where different areas are set to different temperatures. For example, the warehouse climate in your work areas is liable to be a more sensitive topic because the temperatures must be adjusted for human comforts.

During the warmer months, changes in ambient temperature mean a greater reliance on air conditioning from the warehouse HVAC system. In the colder months, the reverse is generally true. However, many machines or stored items in areas employees don’t frequent might be perfectly fine with such ambient temperature changes.

The easiest way to establish different temperature zones within a facility is with the use of different thermostats. You could have one thermostat to set the temperature in the working quarters and another thermostat for more moderate adjustments in the storage areas.

Replace Outdated Equipment

The task of maintaining commercial HVAC equipment becomes a lot more cumbersome if old equipment is used long past its sell-by date. Older warehouse HVAC systems are often beset with performance issues due to problems like broken ductwork, worn insulation, and various mechanical issues. As the equipment slowly fails, it strains itself to perform basic functions and over-consumes energy in the process.

If you have noticed your energy bills gradually rise over the past year, despite no changes in local climate patterns, the spike is likely due to performance issues with the HVAC system. For example, if motor parts are strained due to bearing friction, the motor will struggle to deliver proper airflow and possibly overheat in the process. As such, the timely replacement of key components in your system is key to reducing commercial HVAC costs.

Thankfully, today’s newer HVAC systems are far more energy efficient than their older counterparts. Compared to the systems produced 30 or 40 years ago, newer HVAC units consume only about half as much energy. After you purchase a new HVAC system for your warehouse, you could ultimately witness drastic savings on your energy bills. This, in turn, could allow you to better allocate resources to upgrades in other areas.

Prepare for Problems So They Don’t Catch You off Guard

HVAC problems come with the territory when you operate a warehouse or facility. If you fail to prepare for these problems in advance, issues with the heating and cooling system could catch you unprepared. While some operators choose to skimp on maintenance in an effort to save money, the costs associated with HVAC failure dwarf the more moderate costs of routine system maintenance. Fortunately, you can avoid the sudden, unexpected failure of your HVAC system with some simple, routine care.

HVAC issues will happen with even the most responsibly maintained systems. Often times, the problems are due to the age of the system, as no machine is built to last forever. In some cases, external factors come into play, such as condensation, infestation, and parts wear. Even if you inspect your system on a regular basis, the need for major repairs or an all-out unit replacement may arise in the coming year or two.

That said, you can weather the news of HVAC failure by simply expecting and preparing for such an event at any given point in time. To prevent being caught off guard, allocate a portion of your operating budget for HVAC system repairs. For an accurate figure of the probable costs, tally up the costs of your system components and have this money in reserve at all times, just in case the time comes where your system breaks down and requires a major overhaul.

Schedule Service and Preventative Maintenance From Shipley Energy

Knowing how to control your warehouse HVAC costs is a critical aspect of management, but your system will also need to undergo periodic service inspections and maintenance work. For over 90 years, Shipley Energy has offered service work and maintenance on HVAC systems at residential and commercial properties in the Northeast.

Whether you need to have an HVAC unit inspected, serviced or installed, our team of skilled professionals can perform that work on your system. Contact us for more information on what Shipley Energy can do for your warehouse HVAC system.

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