Commercial HVAC Systems – Basics You Need To Know

Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems are what we know. HVAC systems control the temperature, air quality, and humidity in buildings large and small. Yet, not all HVAC systems are the same, especially when it comes to commercial buildings. That is why we want to talk about the basics. Things you need to know to help you understand the complexity behind commercial HVAC systems. While it might seem as simple as keeping the indoors cool in the summer and warm in the winter, there is so much more to it. So, let’s talk about understanding commercial buildings’ HVAC systems.

What’s the Purpose of HVAC?

An HVAC system controls three main components: heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning. It heats a building or space using radiators or supply air systems. The ventilation portion aims to maintain clean air by extracting pollutants from the space. It can also help to remove excess moisture. Air-conditioning lowers the temperature and also helps with the humidity levels.

Generally, HVAC systems’ goal is to maintain between 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit, 40-60% humidity, and a ventilation standard of ASHRAE 62.1 or CO2 levels less than 1,000 PPM. It is also important to note energy consumption. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that HVAC systems account for about 40% of total energy usage in commercial buildings. That’s significant enough to want to make sure you have the right HVAC system for your space.

What Are the Different Types of Systems?

There are a lot of different components to an HVAC system. However, when designing HVAC systems for a commercial building, you need to consider the architectural design. That is because an HVAC system’s success (or failure) is directly related to the building’s comfort levels. Most commercial systems do take up quite a bit of space too. That is why, for the investment you are making, you need to know your options. The broadest categories you can group these systems to are as follows:

Packaged HVAC Systems

Often called rooftop systems, these are often used when space is limited. It is also easier for maintenance, as everything is in one place. Packaged systems have the air conditioning/heat pump together with the fan/evaporator coil. A thermostat is used to control the entire system. These do allow for additional components, such as air purifiers, ventilators, cleaners, etc.

Centralized HVAC System

These systems are consolidated units, a single system that provides all the entire building’s HVAC needs. Centralized units typically use water to cool and have extensive ductwork. They are expensive to install and more complicated to operate/maintain. However, they have better load-management potential and overall better control.

Individual HVAC Systems

Also called decentralized systems, these are seen in buildings with many units. This is more ideal with separate office spaces within a commercial building. They are also a cheaper investment to start. Still, maintenance for individual HVAC systems can become costly. It is a clear trade-off and truly depends on the commercial building you have for this to work.

How Long Does an HVAC System Last?

This is probably the most common yet hardest question to answer. As technology is ever-changing, it too impacts HVAC longevity. Usage demands, climate, quality, and efficiency of the system, installation, and maintenance all factor into a commercial HVAC system’s lifespan. However, most systems should last around 10-15 years.

If any single factor is more important than the rest, it would be regular maintenance. It is what we call preventative maintenance. This includes spring and fall checkups, cleanings, seasonal inspections, and more. A great HVAC company will not only maintain the system but give you a gauge on what improvements may be needed down the line. At The Severn Group, we pride ourselves on making sure our clients know exactly what to expect out of their systems. We also help with retrofits, new HVAC installations, and preventative maintenance. Give us a call today.