NYC Metro Area’s HVACR Blog

Preventive Maintenance Agreements

Rooftop HVAC Units: Out of Sight Shouldn’t Mean Out of Mind

Last Updated on 

Last Updated on April 30, 2019


You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the roof of your building. Why should you? It’s just there to keep you sheltered, safe and comfortable. As long as it’s not leaking, there’s not much to think about, right? Wrong. There’s something up there that desperately needs your attention: your HVAC rooftop unit.

An HVAC rooftop unit (known as an RTU) provides the heating, cooling and most of the ventilation for light commercial spaces, such as office buildings, stores and shopping centers, restaurants and schools. An RTU is a single assembled unit that includes a condenser and an evaporator coil for cooling, a heat source and a fan for forced air heating, and an opening for the intake of outside air.

Your RTU keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter, and breathing easily all year long. It’s in your best interest to take good care of your RTU, so it can take good care of you and your building.

It’s rough up there for your rooftop unit.

Like your car that needs oil changes and new tires, all air conditioning and heating systems need regular maintenance to function efficiently and prevent breakdowns. Rooftop units, however, endure extreme conditions up there on your building’s roof, so they need even more scheduled inspections and specialized care.

Unlike other types of heating and air conditioning systems that are either inside the building or outside on the ground, the RTU is exposed to much more extreme temperatures and more pollutants. Ambient temperatures on the roof of a building can reach 120 degrees on hot summer days. Warm air rises, and the pollutants rise with it, so the air quality on the roof of your building is worse than on the ground. Pollutants collect on the components of the unit causing it to lose efficiency and even degrade. Excessive heat causes the unit to work harder to produce comfortable conditions in your building.

To combat the effects of the harsh environment and keep it running smoothly, your RTU needs regular inspections, cleaning and tune-ups.

Why should you care?

Do you want to save money on your utility bills? Avoid expensive and inconvenient breakdowns that cause business interruptions? How about adding years to the life of your HVAC system? If you do care about these things, then it’s time to give your rooftop unit the attention it needs.

Here’s just one example. If your RTU’s cabinet has a crack or a faulty gasket, high pressure fans in the unit can expel a large quantity of expensive, cooled air through that small space. A leak of 200 cubic feet per minute can raise your energy bill by about $100 per year.

When your RTU is properly maintained by a qualified HVAC professional, it runs more efficiently, so you save money on utility bills. Regular inspections uncover issues so they can be fixed before they cause expensive breakdowns. Preventative maintenance has also been proven to greatly lengthen the lifespan of HVAC equipment, which degrades much more quickly without regular service.

What your RTU needs.

HVAC experts recommend performing inspections at least quarterly and servicing your rooftop unit at least once a year. These are some of the many tasks that are part of a good preventative maintenance plan:

  • Changing filters to keep dirt and debris out of the ductwork and the system components
  • Checking blowers for proper airflow
  • Checking the electrical system, fuses, thermostats, and contactors
  • Checking belts and replacing if necessary
  • Cleaning dirt, soot and mold from the condenser coil, including measuring before and after temperatures to verify effectiveness
  • Inspecting evaporator coils and clean as needed
  • Checking refrigerant charge and fix any leaks
  • Checking cabinet integrity for air leaks caused by cracks, missing screws, loose latches and faulty gaskets

The special challenges of RTU maintenance.

The tricky and often expensive part about maintaining an RTU is getting the necessary equipment up to the roof. Sometimes there are additional problems due to lack of availability of water and power outlets. For example, condenser coils are often cleaned with power washers, which can be difficult if there is no hose bib on the roof. This is why it can cost more to maintain and to fix an RTU than a unit on the ground. You save money by having a yearly contract with an experienced contractor that takes care of the whole unit at once, rather than just dealing with problems as they arise.

Get the experts up on your roof.

If the pigeons are the only visitors your RTU has seen in years, you’re risking a costly breakdown, shortening the life of your system, and definitely paying higher energy bills. The best way to keep your rooftop unit working properly is by partnering with an expert HVAC service company like Arista.

For more information about choosing the right preventative maintenance contract for your building and your business, download our white paper: HVAC Preventative Maintenance Contracts: How to Choose The Best One for Your Infrastructure.


New Call-to-action