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Getting HVAC Systems Ready for Summer – A Guide for Facilities Managers  

Getting HVAC Systems Ready for Summer – A Guide for Facilities Managers  
06 May 2022
 

With summer on its way, what are the most important steps facilities managers can take to ensure HVAC systems are optimised for effective performance in hot weather?

In this Opinion piece, Martin Sargeant, Development Director at ABM, outlines the process of getting heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems summer-ready.

Martin’s career in property and facilities management spans two decades. His experience covers all types of built environments from corporate to warehouse, both nationally and internationally. Martin joined ABM in 2020 to help the business utilise the rapidly expanding innovation within the facilities management industry and identify new solutions that will enable business growth across different sectors.

 

"Cooling – or heating - a large public building isn't as simple as setting the desired temperature and walking away. The unpredictable weather that the UK has to offer can make it quite a challenging brief at times."

 

Getting HVAC Systems Summer-Ready – What Facilities Managers Need to Know

 

The recent bank holiday saw the UK enjoy its hottest day of the year so far which was a timely reminder that summer is on its way and now is the time to get that heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system summer-ready.

Whatever the season, it is crucial to have a flow of good iindoor air quality (IAQ) circulating throughout a building to ensure a supply of fresh, healthy air. If the experience of the past couple of years has taught us anything, it’s the importance of indoor air quality and the impact it has on our health

A study by CBI Economics analysis, commissioned by the Clean Air Fund, found an improvement in air quality can significantly reduce work absences, which could see the UK gain close to £600 million through less workforce absenteeism.

So where does HVAC come in? These systems play a critical role in delivering healthy, safe indoor air quality and our role, as facilities solutions experts, is to minimise the risk of any air pollution and ensure HVAC equipment runs as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

As summer approaches and many workers return to the office, the focus for facilities management providers must be on optimising a building’s HVAC system to maximise its performance and deliver good indoor air quality.

Cooling – or heating - a large public building isn't as simple as setting the desired temperature and walking away. The unpredictable weather that the UK has to offer can make it quite a challenging brief at times.

 

Four Hot Weather FM Considerations for Summer

 

Here are four key considerations for facilities managers as we edge closer to summer:

 

1. Getting Shared Offices Summer-Ready

 

Shared office space has the greatest amount of heating and cooling issues, and commercial properties will have a higher impact from multiple occupiers having varied and high demands. In order to meet those demands in warm weather, it’s important to be prepped.

Don’t be caught by surprise by a sudden heatwave. Make sure the HVAC system is fully tested prior to the warmer months arriving. It’s also important to have sufficient spare parts available in case any faults occur.

Check air filters regularly, particularly before the summer months, and if they are clogged with dust and dirt make sure you clean or replace them. Failure to change the filters will restrict airflow when temperatures rise, reducing the efficiency of a building’s HVAC function when occupants need it most.

Another way to prepare for summer is to review a building's window coverings. Ensure all blinds are in good working order so the occupants won’t suffer from sunlight coming through and increasing the indoor temperature.

 

Image

Picture: a photograph of an engineer wearing a high-visibility jacket looking at a control panel. Image Credit: ABM

 

2. Sustainable HVAC

 

In today’s world, green initiatives are not just a nice thing to have to show a business is acting responsibly, they are now expected. They are essential to remaining competitive and HVAC has a role to play in the sustainable story.

Poor planning of a cooling strategy will lead to very high energy usage and speed up the need to replace equipment.

At ABM, we are experts in heating, ventilation, and cooling, and during the summer months, we recommend clients utilise free cooling at night to reduce energy usage. Free Cooling allows fresh, cool, outside air into the building to reject heat and perform cooling, rather than relying on the refrigeration cycle of the HVAC system.

Using cooler outside air to assist in cooling overnight means free cooling can take over fully from the HVAC system's compressors, providing an environmentally friendly and cost-effective approach to process and HVAC cooling.

An HVAC system’s compressor is the main power drain on any cooling system so even the slightest reduction in running time, operating capacity or operating conditions can have a significant impact on the energy consumption of the system.

 

3. Don't Forget About Your Heating System

 

It’s so easy to forget about your heating system during those warm summer months, however, summer is the best time to focus on your heating equipment.

Maintaining your heating system during those months, when it isn’t needed, ensures you can address any issues and get them fixed, before the cold sets in. Summer maintenance means you know the system will be working as efficiently as possible when it’s needed the most, which is great for energy costs because an efficient system means less energy is required to heat a building.

When a workforce feels the cold, they’ll reach for the desk heaters which can cause very dry, unhealthy air. If the heating system is prepped and working as it should be, there’ll be no need to dust off the indoor heater.

The HVAC system will also be more efficient when it is fitted with clean filters and clear air vents, a further advantage of ensuring better air quality in a building. If a heating system hasn’t been used for several months there is a risk that the components in the system, and the ducts, will have gathered dust and debris.

 

4. Technology for Healthy Buildings

 

When in any indoor environment, pathogens are more likely to spread...even during summer which is why it’s important to consider keeping your building healthy all year round.

Our EnhancedFacility™ programme offers IAQ sensors and Ultra-Violet C lighting, which is among the most recognised and effective technologies for air and surface disinfection. It also includes HVAC systems capable of supporting highly efficient particle filtration (HEPA) filters; these provide even greater protection to building occupants by capturing more types of airborne substances.  

Emerging technologies also in the EnhancedFacility™ portfolio include Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization; an exciting technology which uses electrically charged oxygen ions. When generated inside the HVAC system, these ions group fine particles into filterable clusters, break down harmful volatile organic compounds and inactivate microorganisms. This technique has demonstrated effectiveness on a broad range of airborne contaminants as well as unpleasant odours and is just one example of emerging technology we are using.  

Picture: a photograph of a person in a well-let office, standing up and gesticulating with their hands. Ceiling-mounted lampshades can also be seen. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Martin Sargeant | Published 06 May 2022

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