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Commercial Air Conditioning, Commercial HVAC, Preventive Maintenance Agreements

How Much Does HVAC Maintenance Cost?

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When you’re trying to run a business, you don’t have much time to think about things like HVAC maintenance. When you’re that busy, you may tend to lose track of tasks that seem less than critical in the moment. However, “out of sight and out of mind” is a philosophy that can come back to haunt you when it comes to your HVAC equipment. If you’ve ever had to replace a heating and/or air conditioning system due to problems that could have been prevented with regular maintenance, you may begin to think differently and begin researching HVAC maintenance plans. Your first question is probably, “how much does HVAC maintenance cost?”

That’s not a simple question to answer, in spite of what you may have seen in articles that try to provide “average” HVAC maintenance cost. Those numbers are nationwide averages, and labor costs can vary greatly from one region to another. Also, they typically represent costs to maintain a single residential split system, which may be very different than commercial systems. What’s more, the averages don’t take into account the different type of service plans that you can purchase for your business (covering repair labor & parts).

In this article, we’ll explain the types of HVAC maintenance plans and what’s included, so you can determine the value you’re getting for your money. That’s a much more useful way to evaluate and compare commercial HVAC maintenance cost and make the best decision for your business.

HVAC maintenance cost: the secret to comparing service contract prices

Before we get into the types of contracts and what they cover, here’s something important you should know. Ultimately, your HVAC maintenance cost is based primarily on the time it takes to do the work. So, if you get a price that looks too good to be true, we always recommend doing the math to see what you’re really getting:

  1. Take the contract price and divide that by the vendor’s hourly labor rate. That tells you how many hours of service you’ll get.
  2. Divide that number by the number of planned service visits.
  3. Divide again by the number of pieces of equipment you have.
    That tells you how much time this vendor plans to spend on servicing each equipment item. You might be very surprised to learn that they are figuring on 4 minutes per equipment item! At that point it’s pretty obvious if you’ll really get the service you’re paying for.

Preventative maintenance plan

WHAT IT COVERS
This is your basic contract that includes a specific number of scheduled visits each year to thoroughly inspect, test, tune up and clean the components of your heating and air conditioning systems. This is the least expensive type of HVAC maintenance contract. It may or may not cover the cost of minor replacement parts such as belts and filters.

WHY DOES HVAC MAINTENANCE COST VARY?
The number of scheduled visits will depend on the age and condition of your equipment, as well as your usage conditions.

For example, older equipment may need more frequent monitoring to catch failing parts before they cause breakdowns and additional damage to the system. And, commercial AC systems that run 24/7 year round (and in some cases in harsh conditions such as a restaurant kitchen) will need more care than a small residential system that’s only used for a few months in the summer. Obviously, this impacts the cost of the plan.

Also, the size of your system (and number of equipment items requiring service) is a factor that impacts the HVAC maintenance cost.

For example, if you have a 50-ton AC system, that may require changing 20 filters, servicing several compressors, and checking numerous electrical connections and belts. That’s much more labor-intensive than servicing a 2-ton rooftop unit for a small store or office.

Another factor is the type of system you have. For example, a complex VRF system is a great choice due to efficiency, quiet operation and zoning capability, but they may cost somewhat more to maintain than a traditional split system.

To learn more about getting a contract that’s tailored to the specific needs of your business, read this helpful guide: HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.

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HOW TO COMPARE PRICES
Here’s an important thing to know: not all basic maintenance plans cover the same tasks. When you’re shopping and comparing HVAC maintenance cost for preventative plans, ask for a list. Here’s a resource that can help you compare:
The Ultimate Commercial HVAC Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Full labor plan

WHAT IT COVERS
In addition to basic HVAC maintenance visits, a full labor plan also covers all the labor that’s needed for any repairs you may need. Labor for system replacement may also be included. This plan does not include the parts needed to make repairs.

WHY DOES HVAC MAINTENANCE COST VARY?
It’s the same story as a preventative maintenance plan: the system size and complexity and the number of items requiring maintenance will all drive up the price. However in this case where additional labor is factored in for repairs, there are a couple of additional issues that may impact your HVAC maintenance cost:

  • Is your equipment easily accessible? If it’s tough to get to the components requiring maintenance and repair, it takes more time and therefore costs more. We frequently deal with this problem in New York City, where space is at a premium and HVAC equipment is often jammed into tight spaces.
  • Is the vendor located nearby, or do they frequently service your area? If the vendor always has trucks in the area, they don’t need to factor travel time into your contract price. If they have to travel a distance to you, you will pay for that.

Full coverage plan

WHAT IT COVERS
A full coverage contract may be a good choice for you if you don’t want any surprises. This is the most expensive type of HVAC maintenance contract, because it covers not only basic maintenance and labor for repairs, but also includes the parts. However, it can save you a great deal of money if you need expensive repairs. A full coverage plan is like an insurance policy, and is a great way for you to budget for HVAC expenses since they are predictable.

WHY DOES HVAC MAINTENANCE COST VARY?
In this type of contract, important factors impacting your price include the age and condition of your system, and its life expectancy. While these factors may impact the number of maintenance visit you need, they also increase the likelihood of expensive parts failing. Since this contract covers everything, you’ll pay more for coverage of an older system that’s more likely to need major work.

Is HVAC maintenance cost worth the money?

When you are comparing prices for HVAC maintenance plans, this is probably the question that’s in the back of your mind. What is the benefit you’ll be getting for your money?

Here’s the short answer:

  • Fewer expensive equipment breakdowns that disrupt your business
  • Longer equipment life
  • Lower energy expenses
  • Better predictability for maintenance expenses and ability to plan for equipment replacement

Read this related article to learn more: Air Conditioning Maintenance Doesn’t Cost. It Pays.