The Pros and Cons of Rooftop Units

Due to their size, commercial buildings require a more extensive HVAC system than residential homes. Some commercial structures have their HVAC systems on the side or back of the building. Others take advantage of large rooftop spaces by using rooftop units, commonly referred to as RTUs. This can give property owners more valuable ground-level real estate for parking or landscaping features.

What Are Commercial HVAC Rooftop Units?

Commercial HVAC rooftop units are simple, compact, and space-efficient. The entire heating and air conditioning system is often placed in one unit instead of two separate systems. RTUs are common on smaller commercial buildings, retail stores, and restaurants and provide warm and cool air into the building via ductwork.

The main difference between rooftop HVAC units and other types is that the heating and cooling components are packaged together, not installed separately. They’re weatherproof and withstand extreme temperatures, with robust exteriors to prevent damage. Because they are self-contained, they don’t connect to boilers for heat or external chillers for cold air. This makes maintenance more manageable, as there aren’t separate components that require service and repair.

The Pros of HVAC Rooftop Systems

  1. They are out of the way. Rooftop units are situated away from the general public, including customers and employees. Unlike side or back HVAC units, RTUs are usually more protected from safety hazards or vandalism. You also don’t have to create more space for these units.
  2. Noise is usually away from occupants. While in operation, the noise of the rooftop units is also usually unnoticeable since RTUs are positioned away from employee workspaces or customer areas.
  3. Won’t get ground dirt near it. While RTUs still need regular cleaning and maintenance, placing them on the roof often results in less dirt and debris affecting the system. This means less dirt clogs the parts resulting in less wear and tear on the appliance.
  4. Less disruptive access. When you need to schedule maintenance, repairs, or cleaning, the services are less disruptive to business operations. For example, maintenance crews have plenty of room to move around and place their equipment. This also keeps them and their tools out of the way of any occupants, reducing the likelihood of an accident.
  5. They can save you money. Many RTUs are more energy-efficient than other types of HVAC systems. Over time this can give you more cost savings overall.

The Cons to HVAC Rooftop Systems

  1. They are heavy. Although the systems are smaller and compact, they still weigh a lot. You need to make sure you have the structural support for RTUs. If your commercial building’s roof isn’t strong enough, it’s possible to get water leaks, leading to more significant problems.
  2. Location matters. Just like the weight, location on the roof can make a big difference. Unfortunately, this mostly comes back to poor installation. For example, if an RTU is installed in a low spot, water might pool and damage the unit or roof.
  3. Out of sight can be out of mind. Many like this but this can also mean business owners may forget about maintenance and upkeep. Make sure to schedule biannual maintenance of the unit, or consider booking regular service to ensure that the unit doesn’t deteriorate faster than it should.
  4. Weather and birds can be an issue. While it might be protected from the ground dirt, it is still out in the elements. There is the potential for lightning damage. And depending on the height of your building, birds can also cause problems. Talk to your HVAC company on how to avoid the latter.

Schedule Service for Commercial Rooftop Units

So, is a rooftop unit best for your building? Ultimately, this is something your HVAC company should be advising you on. But, despite the drawbacks, it might be the best way to go depending on your HVAC system needs. Contact us today if you need commercial HVAC installation, rooftop unit repair, or maintenance. The experienced team at The Severn Group is trained to work on all types of commercial rooftop units.