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  • Shawn Anderson

10 Essential Steps for Commercial HVAC Inspection

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

If you own a commercial building, it's important to have regular HVAC inspections to ensure your equipment is running optimally. An HVAC inspection should be done at least once a year, and more frequently if the system is older or has any signs of wear and tear. In this blog post, we'll discuss 10 essential steps for commercial HVAC inspection to help ensure that your system is operating at its best. With the proper inspection and maintenance, you can save yourself time and money in the long run. Read on to find out what you should include in your commercial HVAC inspection checklist.


The Importance of Proactive HVAC Preventative Maintenance


When it comes to commercial HVAC systems, prevention is always better than cure. Proactive HVAC preventative maintenance can save you time, money, and headaches in the long run by identifying issues before they escalate into major problems. By taking the time to inspect your HVAC system regularly, you can keep your business running smoothly, and avoid costly repairs or even replacements. Regular preventative maintenance can also help you avoid energy waste and improve the efficiency of your system, ultimately leading to lower operating costs and a better return on investment. Neglecting your HVAC system can also lead to reduced indoor air quality, which can have negative impacts on the health and comfort of your employees and customers. Don't wait until it's too late to address HVAC issues – make proactive maintenance a priority for your business.


1) Inspecting the Exterior of the HVAC System


The first step in any commercial HVAC inspection should always be examining the exterior of the system. This includes inspecting the condenser unit, outdoor air intakes, and exhausts. Ensure that the condenser is free of debris such as leaves, dirt, or other material that could block the airflow. Check the grilles and intakes for obstructions as well. If the condenser or air intake is blocked, it could significantly reduce the efficiency of the system.


Next, take a close look at the housing of the unit and any pipes or ducts connected to it. Look for signs of rust, cracks, or other damage. If the unit is located in a particularly harsh environment, such as near a salty ocean or industrial area, it may need more frequent inspections and cleaning.


Overall, examining the exterior of the HVAC system is crucial for ensuring the proper functioning of the unit. Any damage or blockages should be addressed promptly to prevent more significant issues from occurring.


2) Checking Filters and Coils


One of the most important aspects of an HVAC inspection is checking the system's filters and coils. Dirty filters and coils can cause significant problems for the system's efficiency, leading to higher energy bills and even complete system failure. During an inspection, the technician should check for dirt, debris, and other build-ups on both the air filters and the coils.


The air filters should be cleaned or replaced if they are dirty, clogged, or damaged. Dirty filters can lead to poor indoor air quality and can even cause respiratory problems for building occupants. Coils should also be inspected and cleaned as needed to ensure maximum efficiency. Dirty coils can cause the system to work harder than necessary and can lead to higher energy costs.


Overall, checking filters and coils is a critical step in maintaining a healthy and efficient HVAC system. Building owners should be sure to schedule regular maintenance to ensure that these components are always in good condition. A professional technician can help identify potential issues and recommend the best course of action for maintaining optimal HVAC performance.


3) Inspecting Electrical Components


In addition to examining the exterior of your commercial HVAC system, it's essential to check the electrical components inside. Electrical problems are one of the most common causes of HVAC system failure. Here are some key components to inspect:


1. Capacitors: Capacitors store and release electrical energy to help power your HVAC system. They should be checked for signs of wear and tear, such as bulging or leaking.


2. Circuit boards: The circuit board is the "brain" of your HVAC system, controlling its functions. Check for any signs of damage or loose connections.


3. Wiring: Inspect all wiring connections and look for signs of fraying or damage. Loose or damaged wiring can lead to electrical shorts, which can cause the system to shut down.


4. Safety switches: Safety switches are installed to prevent electrical malfunctions. Test these switches to ensure they're working correctly.


Inspecting the electrical components of your HVAC system should only be performed by a trained and licensed technician. It's important to keep these components in good working order to ensure the safe and reliable operation of your system.


4) Testing the Thermostat and Controls


One critical component of a commercial HVAC inspection is testing the thermostat and controls. A faulty thermostat can cause a system to overheat or not provide enough cooling, which can lead to expensive repairs and even system failure. When testing the thermostat, start by ensuring it is in the correct mode (cooling or heating), and set it to the desired temperature. Next, check the reading on the thermostat against the temperature of the room to ensure they match. If they do not match, it could be a sign of a faulty thermostat or calibration issues.


Additionally, it's essential to test the HVAC controls. This includes ensuring that all switches and buttons are functioning correctly and that the system can switch between heating and cooling as needed. Verify that the controls are communicating with the HVAC system and that they are receiving and responding to temperature settings as they should be. Address any issues immediately, as these small problems can turn into costly repairs if left unresolved.


Overall, testing the thermostat and controls is an essential step in maintaining a commercial HVAC system's proper operation and energy efficiency. Always hire a professional HVAC technician to perform these tests and repairs to ensure the job is done safely and correctly.


5) Examining Air Ducts and Vents


When conducting a commercial HVAC inspection, it's essential to check the condition of the air ducts and vents. These components are responsible for delivering cooled or heated air to the building's different areas. Any blockage or damage in the ductwork can cause inefficient heating or cooling, poor air quality, and higher energy bills.

During the inspection, technicians should inspect the ducts for signs of leaks, blockages, or damage. They should also check for any buildup of dust, dirt, or debris that can impact the air quality. A thorough cleaning of the ducts may be necessary to eliminate any contaminants. Additionally, technicians should examine the condition of the vents, making sure they're not obstructed or damaged.


If any issues are identified, the technician should discuss the best course of action with the building owner or facility manager. Repairing or replacing damaged ducts or vents may be necessary, along with implementing preventive maintenance to ensure the system continues to function efficiently.


Overall, inspecting the air ducts and vents is crucial for maintaining optimal HVAC system performance, improving air quality, and keeping energy costs in check.


6) Verifying Refrigerant Levels


One of the most important aspects of HVAC maintenance is verifying refrigerant levels. Refrigerant is a crucial component of your HVAC system as it facilitates heat transfer. When refrigerant levels are low, the efficiency of the system is reduced, which leads to higher energy bills and potential system breakdowns.

To verify refrigerant levels, a licensed HVAC technician will use specialized equipment to measure the level of refrigerant in the system. If the refrigerant levels are low, the technician will typically add more refrigerant until the correct level is reached.

It's important to note that refrigerant should never be added to a system without first determining if a leak or other issue is causing the low levels. If a leak is detected, it must be repaired before adding more refrigerant to the system.


Verifying refrigerant levels is just one of the essential steps for a thorough commercial HVAC inspection. It's crucial to have these inspections done regularly to ensure that your HVAC system is operating at peak efficiency, minimizing energy costs, and reducing the likelihood of costly repairs and downtime.


7) Assessing Fan Motors and Belts


Fan motors and belts play a crucial role in the HVAC system. They ensure the proper circulation of air, which is essential for maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures and good air quality. A damaged fan motor or belt can result in decreased airflow, reduced efficiency, and increased energy costs. Therefore, it is essential to inspect and assess these components regularly.

During the HVAC inspection, the technician should examine the fan motors and belts for signs of wear and tear. This may include cracks, frayed edges, or excessive vibration. The technician should also check the tension and alignment of the belts to ensure proper operation.

If any issues are detected, the technician should repair or replace the damaged components immediately. Failure to do so could lead to more significant problems down the line, including costly breakdowns and safety hazards.

Regular maintenance and inspections of fan motors and belts can help extend the life of the HVAC system and prevent unexpected downtime. It is also important to follow manufacturer recommendations for lubrication and maintenance of these components to ensure they operate efficiently and effectively.


8) Evaluating the Combustion Process (for boilers and furnaces)


For commercial buildings that rely on boilers or furnaces for heating, it’s crucial to evaluate the combustion process during an HVAC inspection. This step is particularly important for facilities that operate in colder climates where the heating system runs constantly during winter months.


During the combustion process, fuel is burned to create heat for the building. If the process is not working efficiently, it can lead to wasted energy, increased emissions, and potential safety hazards such as carbon monoxide leaks. An HVAC technician will evaluate the flame quality and temperature, the combustion air supply, and the fuel-to-air ratio. They will also check for any signs of corrosion or damage to the heat exchanger.


If any issues are found during the combustion process evaluation, it’s essential to address them promptly to avoid further problems and potential safety risks. This step of the HVAC inspection is critical to ensuring the heating system operates efficiently and safely for the building and its occupants.


9) Checking for Water Leaks or Drainage Issues


Water leaks or drainage issues can cause significant damage to a commercial HVAC system, leading to expensive repairs or even a full replacement. During a commercial HVAC inspection, it's crucial to check for any water leaks or drainage issues that may be affecting the system's performance.

Checking for water leaks involves examining all pipes and fittings for signs of damage or corrosion. Leaks can cause water to accumulate in areas where it shouldn't be, leading to rust, mold growth, and other issues that can compromise the integrity of the system.

Checking for drainage issues involves assessing the drainage system for any blockages or clogs that could be preventing water from flowing properly. A blocked drainage system can lead to water accumulation, which can cause water damage to the HVAC system, and surrounding areas, and even create an environment for mold and bacteria to grow.

Addressing water leaks or drainage issues promptly is crucial for maintaining the health and performance of a commercial HVAC system. Once any issues are identified, it's important to create an action plan that outlines how to fix them. Regular preventative maintenance can also help prevent these issues from occurring in the future.


10) Documenting Findings and Creating an Action Plan


Once the HVAC inspection is complete, it's essential to document the findings and create an action plan for any necessary repairs or maintenance. This step is critical because it allows you to prioritize and address issues quickly before they escalate into larger, more costly problems.


During the inspection, note any potential issues or areas that require attention, including worn parts, leaks, or damaged components. This information will help you identify areas that need repair or replacement.


Once you have compiled a list of findings, prioritize them based on their severity and potential impact on the system's performance. Create a plan that outlines what repairs are needed, the timeline for completing them, and the estimated cost of the work.


Be sure to communicate your findings and action plan to the building owner or manager. This way, they can plan for any downtime required for repairs and budget for the work.


Overall, documenting findings and creating an action plan is essential to keep your commercial HVAC system running smoothly and efficiently. By proactively addressing issues, you can prevent costly breakdowns, increase system longevity, and ensure a comfortable and safe working environment for building occupants.


HVAC Preventative Maintenance


Once the inspection is complete and any necessary repairs are made, it's essential to establish a preventative maintenance plan for your commercial HVAC system. This plan will help keep your system running efficiently and extend its lifespan, ultimately saving you money in the long run.

HVAC preventative maintenance typically involves regularly scheduled tune-ups and cleaning to ensure that the system is operating at peak performance. These services may include changing filters, cleaning coils, lubricating moving parts, and checking electrical connections. Additionally, a preventative maintenance plan can help detect and address potential issues before they become major problems that could cause downtime and costly repairs.

Most commercial HVAC systems require maintenance every six months or annually, depending on usage and the specific components. However, it's crucial to consult with a professional to determine the ideal maintenance schedule for your system and business needs. With preventative maintenance, you can maximize the efficiency and longevity of your commercial HVAC system and keep your building comfortable year-round.


A Quick Wrap


Taking a proactive approach to HVAC preventative maintenance is crucial to ensure your commercial system is running smoothly and efficiently. Following a comprehensive inspection checklist like the one provided in this article can help identify any potential issues before they become major problems.


By inspecting the exterior of the system, checking filters and coils, examining electrical components, testing thermostats and controls, evaluating air ducts and vents, verifying refrigerant levels, assessing fan motors and belts, and evaluating the combustion process, you can ensure that your HVAC system is operating at peak performance.


Documenting your findings and creating an action plan is essential for staying on top of maintenance and avoiding costly repairs down the road. Regular maintenance is key to the longevity of your system and should be done at least twice a year.

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